Little Bear, performer extraordinaire

Published 10:12 am Thursday, February 14, 2013

Little Bear performs at Orchard Rehabilitation and Healthcare with his master Shannon Stabler Linden, formerly of Greenville.

Little Bear performs at Orchard Rehabilitation and Healthcare with his master Shannon Stabler Linden, formerly of Greenville.

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

His name is Little Bear. He’s a 10-year-old half Poodle, half Shih Tzu dog, who can perform 44 different tricks and entertains hospice and nursing home patients with his master Shannon Stabler Linden of Selma.

Little Bear performed to rave reviews at Orchard Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Hayneville last Friday.

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“He’s one of my favorites. I love when he plays the piano and does his little tricks and everything. He’s awesome,” said Orchard Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center Administrator Jacquelyn Burrell Greene.

But perhaps his highest praise came from resident Rosa Webb.

“Yes, sir. He’s a [heck] of a dog. I enjoyed it,” Webb said.

Orchard Rehabilitation and HealthCare, formerly Orchard HealthCare Center, opened in 2000 and is owned by Ball Healthcare of Mobile. It is a 72-bed skilled nursing facility, which offers occupational, speech and physical therapy.

Linden, Little Bear’s owner, grew up in Greenville. Her father was Dr. Vernon Stabler Sr., her grandfather was L.V. Stabler for whom for whom L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital is named, and her brother Vernon Stabler Jr. still lives in Greenville.

Little Bear’s list of tricks includes the traditional sit, shake, speak, down, stay, and roll over.

His repertoire also includes jumping over a stick or through a hoop, finding the correct items by name on command and retrieving them, like shoes, a check, a newspaper and a blanket, picking up a balloon by finding the tied end and retrieving it without popping it, and “playing” the piano.

Little Bear can also ignore a tasty treat that is placed on his paws until Linden says it’s okay to have it.

“Oh, I think it is wonderful. The residents really enjoyed it,” Ida Ingram of Orchard Rehabilitation and Healthcare Social Services said.

“Every time he comes the residents enjoy it,” Orchard Rehabilitation and Healthcare Activities Director Cocoa Barganier chimed in.

“He’s real a good performer, entertainment wise. He’s really sharp, I’m telling you. I liked it a lot,” resident Andrew Martin said.

Resident Vicky Peters also said she liked Little Bear’s act.

In addition to nursing homes, Little Bear has performed in a wide variety of places from public schools in Greenville to Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Ga.

“He is just so smart. Some of the tricks he learned on his own,” Linden said of her prized pet. “I started out with sit and beg. And of course I trained him with treats.”

Linden said a neighbor brought her a check one day and asked if Little Bear could bring it to her. She said she placed the check on a staircase and said, “Little Bear go get my check. And he went and got it.”

Bonnie Hobbs, volunteer coordinator for AseraCare Hospice in Selma said she saw Little Bear had done an activity at the Cedar Hill Assisted Living in Selma and called Linden.

Now, she said Little Bear visits patients in their homes as well as nursing homes.

Hobbs said Linden and Little Bear began volunteering for AseraCare in 2010 and they visit hospice patients in nursing homes, homes or wherever they consider home. Also they do activities in nursing homes whether AseraCare has patients there or not.

For information on volunteering, call 334-872-1104.