Grin and bear it 

Ranger Rich

The mist hung on the mountains above Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and down below, inside an enclosure, a woman suddenly reached out with her left hand and grabbed hold of a grizzly bear's testicles. The bear's name is Emmett, and in all likelihood this was a brand-new experience for him.

And while you'd think the 840-pound grizzly would have given the woman quite a beating, he did not. In fact, he didn't move a muscle, even when the woman gave a vigorous yank on the great bear's package. She was in complete control.

Here you're probably saying, "Geez, I didn't even know Sarah Palin was in town," and "I bet the hyenas laughed at her."

But this is not about Palin, whom I will not mention again, except to point out that the only testicles she'd like to yank would be those of, well, let's just say I bet the band would stop playing "Hail to the Chief" pretty darn quickly.

The woman was Dr. Liza Dadone, the zoo's veterinarian. And Emmett, a 5-year-old grizzly, had been sedated and was about to lose his testicles. Just like Todd Palin.

Seriously, as Emmett matured and his testosterone levels rose, he and his grizzly buddy, Digger, had begun fighting. The bears had wounds on their necks. Losing their testicles would hopefully reduce their aggressiveness. And it would make them want to watch the musical-comedy-drama blockbuster Glee and the series Brothers & Sisters, neither of which I have ever seen.

Emmett had been tranquilized in a process that involved three injections and the reading of Mayor Lionel Rivera's last State of the City speech. By 10 a.m., Emmett was unconscious, lying on a floor that had a few muddy bear paw prints and some straw scattered around — just like the operating room Memorial Hospital uses for patients without health insurance.

A team that included director of conservation and animal health Dr. Della Garelle, vet tech Harley Thompson and other assistants knelt alongside Dadone, monitoring Emmett's vital signs. Oh, and in a corner of the room stood a big guy holding a shotgun. This was just in case the great bear awoke and found a half-dozen people poking around at his testicles, at which point, as I understand it, the man would shoot himself.

At 10:15 a.m., the vet got to work with heavy-duty electric barber shears in a part of the procedure known in Latin as shavum bearus nutus (literally, "shaving the bear's things"). Great piles of crotch fur fell to the floor and were set aside to make another toupee for movie star Burt Reynolds.

A moment later, the scalpel was in Dr. Dadone's right hand. (I already mentioned what was in her left hand.) As the first cut was made, the room fell silent as everyone had the same thought: Too bad this wasn't Tiger Woods.

Quickly, the vet had removed the bear's left, uh, thing. (That's the one many male Denver Broncos fans say they'd give to see their team win another Super Bowl.) Here you're no doubt wondering — as I was — about the size of a grizzly's testicles. I'd say this: They are larger than golf balls but smaller than Sarah Palin's eyes when you surprise her with a geography question.

(Footnote: When the first testicle was removed, a woman from the zoo staff actually said this: "Hmmmm, I thought they'd be bigger." I was quickly overcome by a sense of déjà vu. But enough about my junior prom night.)

Anyway, a while later Dr. Dadone grabbed onto Emmett's other testicle and pulled it out of the scrotum. When I finally stopped hollering and got back onto my feet, the operation was over. The great bear, now completely without testicles, was officially "neutered" or "castrated" or "married." (See photos of me with the bear by finding this column at csindy.com.)

Emmett was eased back to consciousness about 45 minutes later. By the afternoon he was once again roaming, although gingerly, inside the zoo's terrific Rocky Mountain Wild exhibit.

His grizzly pal, Digger, had the same operation a week earlier and in the chill twilight of an autumn day, the two bears were reunited. They nuzzled and grunted, asking, it seemed, about each other's health.

And whether they'd get some warm pants until the fur grows back.



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