Tony and Eileen Congi are often called upon for their barbecue and catering service, but on the evening of Saturday July 19, one hungry area resident took things a bit too far.
At approximately 11:45 p.m., Tony awoke from his chair where he had fallen asleep watching TV to the sound of his golden retriever Cody barking. Since Cody doesn’t usually bark at anything, Tony got up to investigate. What happened next was something not for the faint of heart.
“A 400 pound bear came up my driveway. I watched the bear go into the laundry room we have attached to our garage, somehow he pushed the door closed, and it locked on him. The room is about six feet by ten feet. The bear wasn’t happy.”
The Congis live about three blocks from Dunsmuir’s downtown historic district, in a busy, well-lit part of town. Not only had they been asleep when the bear paid his visit, but they had left the doors to their house wide open.
“He came up from Branstetter Street. You get so lackadaisical about leaving the doors open when it gets hot, trying to get some air in the rooms. He could have walked right into the house if he had wanted to.”
Tony watched the bear pass by the open back door of the house from only 15 feet away. “He took up the whole doorway. It was unbelievable what a good size he was. I was shaking. I was scared to death.”
But things were only beginning, because by this time the bear had trapped itself in the laundry room.
“It sounded like a claw hammer was going off in there. It sounded like somebody was doing demolition. He ripped down a shelf, knocked over boxes, tore out boards. My wife called the sheriff.”
Soon, three sheriff’s deputies were on the scene, watching with the Congis from the kitchen as the bear struggled to free itself.
“The deputies said, ‘If we don’t have to shoot the bear, we aren’t going to.’ Nobody wanted to shoot the bear,” Eileen Congi said.
While the deputies made a plan, the Congis’ garage door began to open and close as the bear clawed at wires in the walls. The bear also switched on the patio lights.
According to Tony, Sergeant Moser of the Sheriff’s Department decided to try and open the laundry room door. That’s when the bear broke the door inside the laundry room that leads to the garage out of its frame, leaving a splintered wreck in its wake.
“He got into the garage and must have run straight out the driveway,”  Tony described of the bear’s escape. “It happened so fast, none of us saw him get out.”
This isn’t the first time the Congis have been visited by a bear. Last year at this time, a bear knocked their garbage can over. But that incident, like this one, left nobody worse for the wear. Including the bear.
“If it wasn’t for Cody,” Tony said Sunday evening and petted his dog’s head, “the door was open and the bear could have come in.”