While shovelling snow from his driveway earlier this month, Schell could hear the usually timid Bam barking up a storm.
At first he thought Bam was playing with the other family dog, but soon realized it was something much more sinister.
"I came walking up and it looked at me and I could see the round head and ears," Schell recalled, standing in the driveway where the close encounter occurred. "I'm taking in the tail and I stopped dead, the spike of fear went right up my spine."
The adult cougar was just metres away from where Schell was standing.
Sightings of the animals in the rural areas just west of Prince George, B.C., aren't unheard of, but are rare.
Schell immediately knew the danger the feline posed, but since the cougar was standing between him and his house he retreated back to his car.
Shortly after Schell's wife, Toni, returned home and the car spooked the cougar, which leapt up on to a ridge and ran away.
"It was intense for a few minutes until I was sure it wasn't around," he said.
Schell credits Bam not only for alerting him to the cougar's presence, but also distracting the cat enough to allow him to get to safety.
He said he suspected the cat may have been after the dog in the first place, but he wasn't taking any chances.
The family has had three pit bulls in the past, so was familiar with the breed and its reputation for being aggressive.
But Schell said Bam's desire to protect his owners is an undervalued breed characteristic.
"I think if people really understood these breeds, they'd understand it's in their nature, it's in their breed, to be very protective of their companions," he said.
Bam had only come into the Schell family in October when they agreed to foster him from the SPCA.
Schell worked with the shy dog to improve his social skills and coached him for some meetings with prospective adoptive families.
When no one was willing to take Bam in permanently and the decree came down that Bam was to be destroyed, Schell and his family quickly decided that they would welcome Bam into their home for good.
"In the first three or four days that we had him, I had to sit on the floor for him to come near me," he said. "Once he realized he was OK and he was safe, he tried to crawl up on my lap and we started snuggling a little bit more."
As time has gone on Bam has warmed up more and more to the family and Schell said he's grateful to have the dog.
But dog or not at his side, Schell said he's going to be a bit more wary about clearing the driveway after dusk knowing that the cougar could still be lurking.
(Prince George Citizen)
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