“Lion dog” gives confused onlookers a scare

Look over there! Is it a miniature lion? Is it some sort of a strange dog-lion hybrid?

Charles the Monarch looks like a lion, but he’s actually a Labradoodle. (Photo credit: Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot)

Thankfully for the terrified residents of Norfolk, Va., the odd animal with the distinctive mane was indeed a hybrid, but not the kind they’d feared. A Labrador RetrieverPoodle hybrid, or a Labradoodle for short, 3-year-old dog Charles the Monarch is used to turning heads with his unusual leonine hairdo.

But he’d never been confused for an actual “King of the Jungle” — until now.

The first call came in at 10:19 a.m. Tuesday, but soon a flurry of concerned Norfolk residents picked up their phones at the sight of the strange Labrador-sized lion.

“I’d like to report a lion sighting,” a Virginia man said in a call made to local 9-1-1 responders.

“Say that again?” replied the dispatcher.

Operators at the 9-1-1 center could hardly believe what they were hearing, but the man insisted. A lion — small, but a lion nonetheless — was taking off down Granby Street. Then a woman took the phone.

“There was a lion that ran across the street. A baby lion,” the woman said, according to PilotOnline.com. “It was about the size of a Labrador Retriever,” she continued in a panic.

“I just saw an animal that looked like a small lion,” another caller reported. “Had the mane and everything. I don’t know if it got away from the zoo, or what.”

Police personnel were baffled. Could a lion be on the lam in Norfolk?

“I thought to myself, ‘Well, this is going to be a very interesting day,” Norfolk Police Department Spokesperson Karen Parker-Chesson told Good Morning America.

“Obviously, we were on alert, and we wanted to be sure that there was no wild animal or no animal on the streets,” Parker-Chesson stressed.

Norfolk police put in a call to the local zoo to inquire about the status of their lions. When zoo officials reported that all of their lions were accounted for, the department knew they needed to get to the bottom of who or what was causing such a stir among the townspeople.

And as it turned out, Charles the Monarch — the dog who looks like a lion — was behind all the fuss.

Owner Daniel Painter says that Charles first became a lion-dog thanks to some good old fashioned school spirit.

“My daughter was going to school at Old Dominion University, and their mascot is a lion,” Painter explained in a GMA interview. “And so when he grew as a puppy, his hair was just really full, and so without telling nobody I took him to the dog hair place and told them I wanted him shaved like a lion.”

Charles’s coiffure has remained more or less the same since, and his popularity at Old Dominion football tailgating parties has become legendary as a result, Painter says.

“We tell everybody he’s a ‘Lab-a-lion,” Painter jokes.

Charles is even the star of his own Facebook page. With his page receiving over 20,000 “likes,” you can be sure that Charles will continue to cause quite a roar.

“Can I give you my pawtograph?” the lion-Labradoodle asks on his now vastly popular Twitter feed.

Sources: CNN.com, PilotOnline.com, ABCNews.go.com, HuffingtonPost.com