By Danny Baggott @Dan_Baggie
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Videographer / director: Ryan Barbosa
Producer: Danny Baggott, Ruby Coote
Editor: Dan Cousins
Truck driver Bonnie Hart, from Texas, interacts with her unusual pets for hours every day – cuddling up to them and feeding them treats like cookies, marshmallows and ice cream.
With a combined weight of over 600 pounds, her two bears – Pebbles and Bam-Bam – have lived with Bonnie since they were cubs.
And if that hasn’t been enough to occupy her time, six-year-old white tiger Anushka lives in the enclosure next door.
Bonnie said: “Let’s put it this way, they are exotics, they are dangerous animals.
“These bears have been around a lot of people. They don’t know the tricks; they don’t know sit, lie down on the box or whatever, but you can get in there and you can love on them and you can pat them. I’ve socialised them a lot.
“Me and Anushka, I’m momma and she’s baby and I can hand feed her and I can pat her. I can do whatever I want with her.”
Bonnie bought her white tiger four years ago from a close friend, but it was an entirely different story with her bears.
“The bears came up my yard one day with my dog. They had followed my dog home, these little cubs,” she said.
“I thought they were dogs and as they got closer, I was like, ‘Holy moly, they are bears!”
It costs Bonnie $1,000 to $1,500 a month to feed her animals – although she does treat them with an extraordinary amount of candy.
She said: “These bears, I have tried fish, I have tried salmon, they don’t want it.
“They want berries, watermelons or cantaloupes and candy. They love cookies, marshmallows – they love anything that is sweet and they almost mug you for honey.
“I feed Anushka probably 14 to 20 pounds of meat a day. She eats beef, pork, chicken and stuff like that.”
Even though Bonnie can interact with her animals on an intimate level for hours, she is more than aware of the threat they pose and does not like to take any chances.
She explained: “I have tranquilizer guns so we can tranquilize them if we have to. Nobody is going to get hurt unless you just climb into the pen and be stupid.
“Pebbles can get a little cantankerous at times, and she has slapped me with her claws and bit at me a couple of times but nothing like attacked me.
“I have a taser. I only have that if I’m out here by myself and I can’t get help.”
Bonnie has four grandchildren who are allowed to interact with the bears and tiger whenever they visit.
Clara Herrman, 10, said: “I feel safe here but inside the pen, no I do not feel safe. I think it’s a little bit crazy that she likes having tigers and bears.”
And Raeanne Herrman, 15, agreed that she has to be careful when she is around her grandmother’s animals.
“I don’t go in the tiger pen because, you know, it’s a tiger,” she said.
“But if the bears got out, I wouldn’t be very concerned because I’ve been with the bears before and they are just like dogs.
“I do think it’s really cool, it’s definitely a different experience.”
Bonnie adores the summertime when neighbours and friends visit her garden to interact with her pets – but if anyone ever tried to take her animals away, it would be a completely different story.
“I would shoot them. Point blank,” she says.
“Come to my property and you try to take my animals - I don’t care if it’s tigers or bears, horses or dogs – someone’s going to get shot.”
Bonnie, whose husband passed away some years ago, claims that Pebbles, Bam-Bam and Anushka have helped her through her hardships in life and she is very grateful to keep them as pets.
She said: “I always wanted to keep them in my back yard but they could leave if they wanted to, there is nothing keeping them here.
“They are here until I die or they die, one or the other.”
But she claims that keeping her unusual pets has changed her as a person.
“It has changed me,” she explained. “I’ve been doing this since I was a little girl and it makes you have responsibility.
“It makes you realise that life is precious and you should enjoy every moment of it.”