Learn how to be a better Good Samaritan for pets at the Sunbear Squad web site.

Day 31... or is it night?

You are completely alone in a dark little room and have been forever it seems. The person you love most in the world has been gone for many days, and you miss him so much. You feel very sick and weak because you haven't had any food or water for the longest time. It's hopeless, and you are just waiting for the end. There is nothing to do but wait. So you wait endlessly, and you listen to the world outside, lawn mowers and doors slamming and people calling to each other. You chew on your bed stuffing—it helps pass the time. Sometimes when noises seem near, you stand up and stare at the lighted crack between the door, waiting, with a little feeling of hope. Then the noises stop.

You can smell things, too, like some food right outside the door, and grilling steaks sometimes. You can smell the rain once in a while. So you dream about rain and steaks, and when wakeful, you listen for his footsteps, his voice. Sleeping is good, because you don't feel so sick when you sleep. You've been sleeping a lot lately. And it's too hard to stand up now anyway.

About Sunbear

Sunbear was a young male chocolate Labrador Retriever in a West Virginia town. One summer day in 2002, his owner locked him into a dark townhouse laundry room, and walked away forever. Incredibly, he was alone in the dark without food and water for 6 endless weeks before he was discovered.

How Did it Happen?

Sunbear's owner intended to give him to a farm family, but communication broke down somehow. Nobody picked up poor Sunbear. Sunbear's owner did not call the family to check on how he was adapting to his new home, a simple act taking 5 minutes that would have uncovered the miscommunication and saved his life. No, Sunbear's owner forgot all about him.

Couldn't Anyone Hear Him?

Did Sunbear bark and whine desperately for help, as he waited in the dark? Did his excellent hearing tell him that people were nearby in adjoining townhouses? Did he smell the 20 lb. bag of dog food that sat right outside the laundry room door? Did he dream about his beloved owner opening the door and rescuing him?

If only one person had heard Sunbear whining and barking during those endless days of starvation, he would be alive today.

One Day, the Door Opened

Sunbear was discovered 6 weeks later, on Saturday, August 11, 2002, by his owner's former girlfriend, just barely alive. He was a pathetic fur-covered skeleton. Released at last from his laundry room prison, he stumbled and staggered to the creek than ran in the back yard and fell down in the cool water.

Gene Fields, the local Animal Control Officer on call, rushed to the townhouse, gently lifted Sunbear out of the creek, and put him in the van. As Gene lay Sunbear in the crate, Sunbear tried to lift himself up to lick Gene in the face, but he couldn't quite find the strength. Sunbear was grateful. Gene drove Sunbear as fast as he could to the Kanawah Valley Animal Emergency Clinic in the quiet dusk of that peaceful Saturday evening.

It is incredible that he survived almost 6 weeks without food and water. What a strong, loving spirit Sunbear had.

But It Was Too Late

Tragically, Sunbear died 3 days later on August 14, 2002, despite valiant efforts by the veterinary staff. Starvation and dehydration had destroyed his organs and circulation. But he weakly licked the hand of a kind neighbor who came to visit him at the clinic, true to his loving nature.

His Owner was Found and Punished

Sunbear's owner was hunted for months by the grimly determined Humane Officer Gene Fields. Gene worked nights and weekends to track him down. The Humane Society of the United States offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and capture of his owner. His owner was arrested in Indiana thanks to an alert employer, and he was extradited to West Virginia for trial. Over 400 people from all over the world wrote letters to the court, asking for justice for Sunbear. He was brought to justice and convicted by jury trial after just 5 minutes of deliberation. Sunbear's owner was then sentenced to the fullest extent of the law.

Sunbear's Story Influenced the Enaction of Stronger Humane Laws

Sunbear didn't die in vain. His story and the story of another starved West Virginia dog, Hercules, inspired the legislature of West Virginia to enact much stricter laws on animal neglect and abuse. Today the state continues to improve animal cruelty legislation according to Fields, in part because of the momentum built by Sunbear's supporters.

Sunbear's Web Site Helps Raise Awareness

Now, Sunbear is the inspiration behind Sunbear Squad efforts. Take his story into your heart, and resolve to make a difference for neglected and abused pets.


This is a portrait of Beau, a beautiful Chocolate Lab who probably looks a lot like Sunbear would look, if he were alive today.

Read more about Sunbear's case:

Read a synopsis of Sunbear's case on PetAbuse.com

Read about the initial start to Sunbear's case

Read about the arrest of Sunbear's abuser, which may be the nation's first time a suspect was extradited to another state for animal abuse charges

Read about the sentencing of Sunbear's abuser

Read more about Sunbear:

Read the true story of Sunbear's surprise visit to the author of this web site. The afterlife is very real.

By having a reverence for life, we enter into a spiritual relation with the world.
Albert Schweitzer