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The constable and the cub


February 7, 2014
By Dannette Dooley

by Danette Dooley

RCMP Const. Suzanne Bourque was shocked that a photo of her in uniform, standing next to a tiny bear cub on its hind legs, garnered so much attention when released to the media nearly three years ago.

She was shocked again recently after learning that an 18-year-old Mexican girl used the photo as the basis for comic drawings which the young artist is now turning into a cartoon.

The story begins in Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland in June 2011.

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“A lady reported to us that some visitors were feeding a bear cub. They’d told them to stop but they didn’t believe they understood what they were saying,” Bourque says in a recent interview.

Bourque went to investigate, found the cub and scared it off with the police siren. She then approached the complainant, who told her the cub wouldn’t be gone for long. She wasn’t far off the mark.

“I was telling her if it came back I would do what I could to scare it off again but he’d developed some habits to be human friendly. Then, as I’m getting the information from her, she says, ‘Oh my, there he is.’ I ask her where and as I’m saying it I see him brushing up against my leg.”

Bourque’s partner arrived just in time to snap the now-famous photo of the constable and the cub.

Helen Cleary-Escott of the RCMP’s media relations office was quick to see how the photo could give her division (B) some great, light-hearted publicity.

“Cst. Bourque had a stern talk with the little cub and discussed the dangers of taking food from strangers and explained how it could make him stomach sick,” read a news release with the photo attached.

It looks as if the bear is listening to what the officer is saying “while she lectures him on the dangers of talking to humans,” the release adds.

The news release and photo were circulated to media in Newfoundland and Labrador and, thanks to social media, reached many parts of the world. Follow-up interviews gave the RCMP an opportunity to educate the public on the dangers of feeding wild animals.

The story doesn’t stop there. Bourque says the teen in Mexico has created a comic entitled Miss Officer and Mr. Truffles.

The young girl, who goes by the name Lemonteaflower online, shared her artwork on a social networking site called Tumblr.

The web site knowyourmeme.com notes that Lemonteaflower had expanded on her initial concept of Miss Officer and Mr. Truffles, posting several other drawings of the duo. One introduces the constable and the cub.

There is also an image of the officer and the cub against a brick wall. The officer is telling the cub “We’re screwed, Mr. Truffles.”

No one is more impressed with the young artist’s work than the officer featured in the drawings. “I couldn’t believe them. I was shocked and amazed,” said Bourque.

The young artist’s work has also led to another creation. Someone posted a short video clip on YouTube featuring the constable and cub rocking out to the lyrics of the Spice Girls song Wannabe.

Bourque laughs as she talks about the clip. Whoever created the video had no idea she was a huge fan of the band during her younger years, she says.

Originally from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Bourque joined the RCMP in 2006 and has spent her entire policing career in Newfoundland and Labrador. She was stationed in Glovertown, Newfoundland when the photo was taken and is currently in Whitbourne, Newfoundland.

Bourque says when she learned about the Mexican teen she set up a Tumblr account to try to contact the girl.
“I wanted to tell her that I thought her work was awesome. She couldn’t get over it when I contacted her. She couldn’t believe that she was speaking with the officer whose picture was the start of her little art comic strips.”

The girl is now intent on turning her drawings into a cartoon.

“She’s told me all her ideas and I’ve spoken with her and her manager, so things are starting to roll – but I’ve been sworn to secrecy,” Bourque says when asked for details about the project.

Bourque says she’s still shocked that the photo has taken on a life of its own. There are t-shirts, sculptures, jingles – all based on the constable and the cub, she says.

Bourque says she will keep in touch with the teen and her manager, who is doing the writing for the cartoon.

It’s great positive publicity for the RCMP, she says, and she’s delighted that such a young girl has taken a keen interest in the photo.

“Her manager told me that she just can’t believe she’s been talking to me and I’m really flattered. It’s just great. She’s made a tribute to me in this and I think that’s really sweet.”

dooley@blueline.ca