Two-Wheel Sendoff: Bear’s Final Ride

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ALLIANCE, Ohio - For the past nine years, Bear has ruled the hallways at Alliance Community Hospital.

The little chihuahua started working as a therapy dog 12 years ago.

His owner, Ruth DeFranco, dressed the dog in a little Harley-Davidson leather jacket with a bandana and when her son would come home from the Navy he would ask when she was going to teach him to ride a motorcycle.

After DeFranco's son, Ryan, died while serving in the Navy, she decided to try and fulfill his vision, so she found a remote-controlled bike, taught Bear to ride it; then she and her father, Dean Baker, took him to the hospital for his debut, with FOX 8 there to capture the event.

The story soon gained national attention.

Bear's feat was featured on a network talk show in New York. He has been across the country and into Canada showing off his unusual ability while at the same time bringing smiles to the faces of patients and employees at the Alliance hospital.

DeFranco said Bear was not only bringing smiles to the faces of others, he was also helping her cope with the loss of her only child.

"When you go into a hospital room and they see a little dog riding, it's just like they forget about everything and it's a nice diversion and that's all they can think about is the little dog," said DeFranco.

"I've been up here since Bear first started coming around with Ruth and her dad and when I first met bear I thought it was pretty amazing he could ride that motorcycle but the thing about bear it's, he's so sweet his personality just takes you over," said Tonia Martin, a nurse at the hospital.

Now 12 years old, and not as energetic as he used to be, DeFranco felt it was time for Bear to make his final ride.

She chose Monday, a date that would have been her father's 95th birthday, for the little dog to rule the hallways of the hospital one last time.

"He's getting up in years and he is going to be 13 in January and he doesn't mind riding the bike but I can see he doesn't ride as long," said DeFranco.

"It's pretty sad; it's probably pretty sad for him. I don't know if he realizes that this will be the last one today," said Jacci Peterman, a nurse at the Alliance hospital.

Some found Bear's final ride to be emotional.

"I'm really going to miss Bear; you have no idea how much. I don't even think I can talk without crying because I'm going to miss him so much," said Martin.

With a crowd of people shooting photographs like paparazzi, Bear rode through the hallways and out of the hospital's discharge doors like a celebrity riding off into the horizon.

He will remain a therapy dog, but is now turning the 'keys' of the motorcycle over to another chihuahua, an energetic 'great nephew' named Riley, who DeFranco says was "born to ride."

"It took Bear five months to learn to ride. Riley got on the motorcycle and just took off," said DeFranco.

"All these dogs make us smile. The therapy dogs are amazing but bear is special in and of himself he's just a special little guy so we really love him and wish him and his successor well," said nurse, Marianne Sevcik.