"I thought that was my last day" - Dawson Creek women grateful to be alive after bear attack
DAWSON CREEK, BC -- Leosette “Cheng” Canoy is still haunted by nightmares of being attacked by a bear in early October.
“It’s hard to think, when you close your eyes, that you remember everything,” she said. “I wake up again, and say, ‘Lord, take away this dream.’”
She was walking on the trails at Bear Mountain with her friend Analyn Bartolome, her niece, and Analyn’s son. Cheng loves the outdoors, and they wanted to get pictures of the fall colours in the evening.
“I think it’s beautiful there, and I wouldn’t think about bears,” she said.
But to their astonishment, a large black bear had spotted them. Analyn’s son saw it first, and alerted the group. They all ran, but Analyn tripped. The bear then grabbed Analyn’s head with its teeth, and began to drag her into the bushes.
“I thought, ‘I love you my son, tell your sister I love her, tell our families in the Philippines I love them’, because I thought that was my last day,” said Analyn.
“I could not take [hearing] those words,” said Cheng. “I couldn’t leave Ana and run.”
So Cheng turned back.
She grabbed a stick, and tried to shove it in the bear’s mouth to get it to let go of Analyn. At one point, Analyn’s son also punched the bear to try to help his mother.
For her trouble, Cheng was badly bitten on her arms, scalp, hips and neck.
“The bear is chewing on my hips, and all I say is, ‘In Jesus’ name, please help me,” said Cheng.
She describes curling up, trying to protect her internal organs.
“The last thing that the bear did to me, is he bit on my neck, and it was kind of like the bear is playing with me, squishing me back and forth like this,” said Cheng, shaking her head.
Analyn’s son and Cheng’s niece had run to call for help. The bear sat on Analyn and guarded the two women for over an hour. It was pitch dark out when they finally heard police officers arrive. The two women shook the bushes so police could find them, and they whispered for help.
“I heard a faint voice whisper, ‘help, bear,’ off to my left,” said Staff Sergent Damon Werrell. “We shone our flashlight, and I saw two victims in the thick brush, seriously injured and covered in blood.
Werrell shot the bear, but couldn’t tell if it was still alive in the thick brush. Officers moved in anyway, and rushed the two victims to waiting paramedics. Analyn was airlifted to Vancouver, Cheng to Edmonton.
That’s when the community stepped up.
“It was just something that I had to do,” said Edward Mah, owner of Bing’s Furniture in Dawson Creek. “Two people in our community needed help, and that’s all it took.”
Edward didn’t even know the women before the attack, but immediately started organizing a benefit dinner and silent auction, which was held and the George Dawson Inn. Tickets sold out within two days. Over three hundred people attended, raising $60,000 to help the women with their medical bills.
Meanwhile, Cara Funk organized the local Kids’ Café to do a hot dog and hot chocolate fundraiser. Thirteen kids took part in selling the food and drink from The Butcher Block, and hundreds of people turned up. They ended up raising $3,452.
“As soon as they heard, [the kids] said, ‘that could have happened to us,’” said Cara.
Both Cara and Edward presented the funds they raised at an emotional ceremony at Bing’s on Thursday evening, with over two dozen people in attendance.
Analyn and Cheng were both feeling better. Analyn has a severed radial nerve in her shoulder, and could have lost her arm. She will go back to Vancouver next month to have a consultation to see if it can be repaired. She also still has injuries to her thigh.
When she was rescued, first responders thought Cheng had a 50/50 chance of surviving at all. She still has stitches in her arms and scalp, and pins in her hands. Both women have a long recovery ahead, but feel lucky to be alive – and profoundly grateful to everyone who helped out and donated to the fundraisers.
“We are proud,” said Analyn. “Even though we have these injuries, we know that people still love us.”
“These two ladies are warriors,” said Edward.
And both women now say they are not just friends – they’re family.
“I’m grateful to Cheng for saving my life,” said Analyn, tearfully. “She really is my hero. I don’t know how to thank her for all of my life.”