Mike and Carolyn Roach, of Townsend, are used to seeing wild animals near their home. But they never worried about it until Sunday when a black bear came to their driveway and injured their dog.
"Swartz made a beeline for the beast as soon as he saw it. He ran towards the bear," Carolyn said. "The bear didn't attack him, didn't come down the driveway. He ran towards the bear."
In her nightshirt and fuzzy slipper, she ran after her dog. But "She reared up and came down with her mouth on him. And she hit him with her paw...hit the ground and took off across the road into the woods."
Swartz is still wagging his tail Wednesday, despite his obvious wounds and two broken ribs.
Other creatures, including humans, haven't been so lucky. In 2000, a woman was killed in the national park by two bears.
And in 2003, park officials say reports of bears attacking fawns was documented, making the seriousness of the situation more apparent to the Roaches. "The bear gods were looking after him and my God was looking after me," Carolyn said.
The couple says even after this incident, they don't have second thoughts about living close to nature. "He probably thought it was another big dog and it was in his territory. At least in his mind, it was in his territory. So he just went after what's in his territory. I'm sure he thought was protecting my wife," Mike said.
They do plan to be more careful and keep Swartz on a tighter leash. That way the only bears he'll be able to attack are stuffed ones. "The story is that it was two mother bears taking care of their cubs. My wife with Swartz and the bear with her cub. Thankfully, everybody came out okay," Mike said.
A spokesperson for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park says now's the time of the year when bears are particularly hungry. They start looking for acorns so they can fatten up for the winter.
However, the Roachs are quick to remind residents not to throw food off their back decks to attract the animals. Bears love to eat food humans throw out.