GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – If you live near the Smokies, seeing a bear in the area isn't unusual, but seeing a bear in your home certainly is.
For a Gatlinburg family, that's when their family dog, Cocoa, kicked into action.
Priscilla Epperson and her children say Cocoa has become more than just a pet. She is now being hailed as a life saver.
It happened two weeks ago. Priscilla says her children were downstairs asleep, and she had gone upstairs when she heard Cocoa frantically barking.
She immediately rushed downstairs to see what was happening.
"When I came down the stairs the door was opened like that and I saw black fur which I knew it was a bear and I saw my dog, her tail end was wagging and she was going crazy, and both of them had gone out the door," Epperson said.
At that point, Priscilla says she checked to make sure her kids were OK. When she found them safe, she checked outside to see what Cocoa was doing.
"I was afraid she might get mauled by the bear but she's really fast, kept running circles around the bear and the bear was doing this and finally the bear shot up the driveway, and I called her to come back," Epperson said of the experience.
Priscilla says this isn't the first time they've seen bears in the neighborhood. She says they average eight to 10 bears a year, but it's first time one has come so close. She says they're lucky Cocoa was there to protect them.
Cocoa turned one year old just a few weeks ago.
She's been with the family for the past four months. Not a long time, but the family says it's been long enough to create a very stong protective bond.