Norfolk 911 calls for 'baby lion' turn up a coiffed dog

Posted to: News Norfolk ODU Football


The first caller was fairly calm.

“I’d like to report a lion sighting,” he said.

“Say that again?” a dispatcher responded.

And thus began the drama over baby lion sightings in Norfolk on Tuesday. Police said Wednesday that they actually got three 911 calls about the “lion.”

The first came at 10:19 a.m.

The animal was running on Granby Street, a male voice said.

Then a woman took the phone. She sounded anxious as she described the proximity to the zoo.

“There was a lion that ran across the street. A baby lion. It was about the size of a Labrador retriever.”

It was near Granby and 38th, she said. “It’s roaming loose in the neighborhood.”

A second call came five minutes later.

“I just saw an animal that looked like a small lion.” It had “the mange and everything,” a man said. He had seen it on Delaware Avenue near Llewellyn Avenue.

“I don’t know if it got away from the zoo, or what,” he said.

The dispatcher said they already had received a report. “I’m not sure if it actually is a lion or not, but I’ll update the information.”

A third call came at 1:19 p.m.

“I just saw a baby lion at Colley Avenue and 50th Street,” a man reported.

“What kind of animal?” the dispatcher later asked him.

“A lion. A baby lion, maybe.”

The lion was going to nearby houses. “I don’t think it has caused any problem so far,” said the caller.

“OK. You think it’s looking for food?” the dispatcher asked.

“I don’t know.”

By now, most folks know that the “baby lion” was actually Charles the Monarch, a Labrador-poodle mix owned by Daniel Painter, who lives in Riveriew and has a garden center on Colley Avenue. He has the dog groomed to look like the Old Dominion University mascot.

Many people say they see Charles out a lot, especially on Colley. But to someone who hasn’t seen him, he sure doesn’t look like a dog at first.

Coverage of the lion sightings went national on Wednesday. Charles was featured on NBC’s “Today,” where even Al Roker agreed: The dog looks like a lion.

Patrick Wilson, 757-222-3893, patrick.wilson@pilotonline.com


Listen to the 911 calls

Call 1

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Call 2

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Call 3

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Wednesday's original story


The 911 caller reported that the baby lion was walking down Colley Avenue, possibly looking for food, near 50th Street. So police called the Virginia Zoo around 10:15 a.m. to make sure the lions were all accounted for, said Winfield Danielson, a zoo spokesman.

Mramba, the male lion, and Zola, the female, were in their habitats.

As it turns out, it was Charles the Monarch that was out and about.

Neighborhood regulars know Charles, who hangs out with his owner at Daniel Painter's business, Daniel's Lawn & Garden Center, on Colley Avenue.

Charles is a cross of Labrador retriever and poodle shaved to look like the mascot of Old Dominion University.

He likes to dine at University Pizza.

"He has a thousand-and-200-some friends on Facebook," Painter said Tuesday.

By evening, with the media attention, his fan base was growing.

Police spokesman Chris Amos said he did a double-take when he first saw Charles at an ODU game. On Tuesday, a Talbot Park Civic League official emailed people to tell them the "lion" was just a dog.

It wasn't the first time Charles had generated a police call.

Painter said police have told him several times that his dog has been mistaken for a lion. He said he's taken his dog from his Riverview home to Lafayette Park near the zoo and seen people run to their cars in shock.

"I tell people he's a Lab-a-lion, and half the people believe that."

But really, Painter said, Charles the Monarch loves people, children and tailgating at ODU with the official school mascot, Big Blue.

Patrick Wilson, 757-222-3893, patrick.wilson@pilotonline.com


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I Believe...

That some of the 911 operators (#3) need a class in consentration, or enhanced listening techniques.


Some people actually believe that this small/medium dog is actually a lion? Just look at the size compared to the people standing around and it is plainly obvious that this just ain't an example of a king of the jungle. Maybe a scottish deerhound-a-doodle might be more scarey but please. What is more scarey is these same people that can't tell the difference between a lion and a small/medium dog actually vote.

They vote... lol

Yes, they do! Scary isn't it!


they breed.

Baby Lion??? Hahahahahahahaha

What's even funnier is that a male lion doesn't have the mane and such until it's fully grown/matured and pushing hundreds of pounds in weight. Still laughing at the voting comment........ :-)

I hope they had poor eyesight

It's hard to fathom that anyone over the age of 3 believed this dog to be a lion. The owner has no business letting him run at large, no matter how popular he may be. He could get hit by a car, stolen, or even shot by a trigger happy cop (or maybe this only happens to short-haired breeds with muscle tone that they could say was a "charging" Pit Bull)... Anyway, a lion? Seriously? I'm reminded of song lyrics: everybody knows that the world is full of stupid people!

What's worse...

...that they probably voted for Obama!

Colley Avenue/ Riverview Section of Norfolk

Nope, they probably voted for Romney.

Great Story

This story is too funny. Had me laughing for days. "There is a lion on the loose in Norfolk."


....Patrick. That's a hoot.

Menace to CPRV and Highland Park

That dog is a menace and so is it's owner. It is NEVER on a leash and lunges at unsuspecting dogs and people. When confronted that there is a leash law in Norfolk and that his dog clearly should be on a leash, Mr. Painter indignantly states that he's got an off-leash permit because his dog 'took a class'. The dog is ALWAYS running all over the place and is entirely out of its owner's control. It's going to get run over one day and possibly cause a pedestrian, cyclist or motorist great harm. People think it's cute because they've never had a run-in with it or its owner. This dog must be on a leash when outdoors at all times. No exceptions.

A menace?

Are you kidding? That's the friendliest dog on the planet. He is adored by scores of Monarch fans who pet him and give him kisses. I've encountered him at University Pizza and found him to be gentle and curious. While I agree that it's generally a good idea to leash a dog (many people are afraid of them), I can't see him being a threat to anybody.


I have seen an encountered this dog on multiple occasions on campus at ODU, and it was often on a leash. I admit that it isn't always kept on a leash, but I have also never seen where it "lunges at unsuspecting dogs and people." What I have ween is a very well trained and behaved dog with a lot of energy. I only wish that my labradoodle (same breed as this one) was as easy to control around others. They are very high energy dogs.

Unfortunately agree

Charles seems to be a nice, friendly animal. But city streets are not the place for a loose dog -- especially when its owner is on a bicycle and unable to intercede if it encounters trouble.

I've never had a run-in with Charles (nor with Mr. Painter). But several of my neighbors have. And I do worry for them, and for others, every time that I see them out for a run/ride.

party pooper

Perhaps you need a class to overcome your fear of dogs.

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Comment removed for rules violation. Reason: Off topic

A class?

I believe you need to go to class and get educated. Fear of dogs is not something you can go to class and cure. People seem to think that everyone loves their dog. Not at all true. Keep your dogs at home. They are definitely not this mans best friend!

poor choice of words

but the intent is correct. I am OK with well trained dogs being off leash as long as they are in the owners control but this dog is not as it is often blocks away from his garden center/owner. No one cleans up after this dog and he often digs in our yards. The owner and many readers incorrectly assume that all interactions with this dog will be positive but that is not the case. Nice dog for the most part but irresponsible owner.

While this might be the first call about a 'lion' it is not the first call to Animal Control. THe story also leaves out the fact that this owners previous dog was hit by a car in the neighborhood while running free.

The Rule of Law

Not to be a buzzkill as I am fond of dogs in general, but I'm pretty sure that the City of Norfolk has a city ordiance that requires dog owners to leash their animals in public. Lovable dog or not, the law is the law.

And while you are at it...

Yeah, and lock up all of those pesky loudmouth kids, too. They probably are carrying the flu virus.

cat's got my tongue

I think he was manely showing off his pride or Elsa he was seeking a lion's share of affection.

Laws are for everyone

Regardless of the opinions expressed in this article laws are passed for a reason and this guy and his dog (no matter how friendly) need to obey the law.


What law? Get real!

Lion Dog

My wife and I saw the dog strutting down Colley at a fast trot between 48/49th street around 10AM. We tried to call him but he looked like he was going somewhere with a purpose. Cool dog. I can see why some may have thought it was a lion.


Perhaps his hurried purposeful trot with the the toy poodle shaved to look like an antelope hanging from his mouth was the giveaway.

ohhhh..vicious...ain't we???

come on people...I deliver to the area...and Charles is friendlier than some of the folks bantering about in spandex and running shoes...I've never seen him 'lunge' at anything...never hear him bark. I deliver food items up and down colley and true...he is not on his leash...between his owners place...and university pizza...a space of about 2 blocks. In the past 2 years of 3 times a week I have seen him once...ONCE on the other side of the street...and then I saw his owner...delivering mulch to a business owner...a block away.

This is what's wrong with nambie pambies....you'll strip away the neighborliness of a place until all you have are chain stores and neon....Charles is a real treat...and always has somewhat of a smile for friends...

Director of the Norfolk Zoo

Director of the Norfolk Zoo posing with a dog that the owner won't keep on a leash. There's some irony in there somewhere.

dog as a lion

Too funny. Saw the dog 2 weeks ago and had to second look just to make sure. What a trip!!!!!

I've met Charles...

I've met Charles, on several occasions, in the tailgating area outside Foreman Field.

He is very well behaved, even in a crowd & his haircut is very cool & appropriate, for a Monarch fan. He's really reached 'Unofficial Mascot' status, in the Silver Lot!

Although his haircut gives the suggestion of looking "lion-ish", I can't believe anyone is gullible enough to believe he's a real lion!

As far as the leash issue... I'm more worried for Charles' safety!

It would be a damned SHAME to lose Charles to any kind of traffic incident. He means a lot to a lot of people!


...and eligible to vote. how's that for sobering?

It would explain

It woudl explain the last election!

The dog appears to be more

The dog appears to be more of a ham than a lion.

Maybe some day...

...when the "lion" gets loose and becomes roadkill, one can feast on "leg of lion".

If you believe it's a

If you believe it's a Lab-a-lion, I have a jackalope I'd like to sell you.

Play the tape

I want the Pilot to press the Norfolk Police for a copy of the 911 call, this would be something I have just GOT to hear!

911 tapes

Ask and you shall receive, it's here.


... in a related story, a St. Bernard was shaved to look like an arena. However it was promptly put to sleep.

people are dumbbbbbbbb

And gullible.

So far removed from reality that they dont know the difference between a dog with a bad haircut and a lion.


Quick, guess what city.

I didn't even have to scroll up to know that these people running to their cars and pannicking are in Norfolk.

no guesswork needed

Yes, and please go on to tell us how this story would never have had even a remote chance of playing itself out your fair city.

No guesswork needed as to which city that would be.

And, Just How Did You Make Your Case Prosecutor?

How would have people reacted in say the North end of Va Beach? Any different than say the Beachy South end?

We see your cryptic message. You should be disbarred for racism and stupidity for saying that!

If you're not a Lawyer and you're faking it, I apoligise.


Loved the story, loved the pics and would LOVE to pet Charles. I love animals - better than most people.


This just made the Today Show news desk. LOL

Should have been on a leash

Doesn't Norfolk have a leash law. The owners are lucky this time. Normally the police in Norfolk would have shot it and then asked the questions.


Wrong city, you're thinking of Portsmouth.


Pantherum Style


next we'll be hearing from those PETA people saying that it's cruel and mean etc.etc. There's one post down below that would have Charles locked in a cage for life! But I guess that poster has a dog phobia.

Always a favorite on Gameday

Charles is probably the best fed ODU tailgater! everyone is always happy to see him!

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Comment removed for rules violation. Reason: Post continued, repeated


You people who complain that this dog is violating leash laws, is a menace to society, or that people who thought he was a real lion are gullible, are your lives really so miserable and full of bitterness that you can't simply appreciate the human interest aspect of this story? You must live really sad lives.

Labradoodle lobby

The poor, mis-understood labradoodle! I sure hope the Labradoodles' owners have a strong political action lobby (maybe the "NLA"??) to educate the public and politicians that will surely call for their ban based on their similarity in looks to the king of the Jungle! "From my cold, dead paws!!"


Still knee-slapping in Tennessee

Dog thought to be a Lion ?

Surely you jest? Someone actually called this in as a Lion? Geez! What have they watched all their lives, cartoons? Might be a great idea to go rent some episodes of "Wild Kingdom", to harness a better frame of reference for Lions. As a previous commentator wrote, what's truly scary is that somebody beleived this to be a lion! Give up the crack, booze, and weed, or whatever else is meddling with your mind. I'm left to wonder whether or not if you'd seen an actual lion, would you think it was a dog? Take a day off and go to the zoo, it'll be great for you.


1.Mistake a dog for lion= pitiful
2.Whine about leash laws= beneath pitiful


I'm sorry to say I agree with the comments about the owner being terribly irresponsible. Why is this dog just allowed to roam? Becoming somewhat of a local celebrity means he should be even MORE responsible and advocate for the safety of this dog! Letting him out and about and wandering is dangerous not only for him but what about the random person who encounters him? Some day it WILL happen! Some kid will do something stupid and get nipped - some car will not see him and that dog will get hit, think about THAT person who has to live with that. Plus what about the other strays etc this dog may encounter - this is clearly an owner who doesn't think about his dog's well being.

Yes, people are sorry...

...who use this funny story about an idiot that thinks a dog is a lion as a platform for "irresponsibility, breaking laws, someone could get hurt" and all the other idiotic comments. If anyone is that concerned, please stop by Daniels Nursery and let Danny Ray know what you feel face to face instead of posting anonymous comments, as if a reasonable person reading this article even cares what you think.

It HAS been said to his face

and he does not care. He may feel like he's above the law because people like his dog. I'm not sure but I do know that the dog is going to get killed or contribute to someone getting hurt because it, quite literally, roams free. Nothing was said about the dog's friendliness or lack there-of, the point is that the dog DOES jump and run all over the place and DOES lunge at people and things (not in a particularly vicious way but in a startling, large-dog-coming-at-me-and-it's-not-on-a-leash-and-the-owner-is-no-where-in-sight way and the owner IS incredibly careless. His previous dog was run over by a car and killed. If he's on a leash there's a much lower likelihood of that happening to this dog. Any reasonable person would agree.

Urban idiots

If, if, if people. If a frog had wings they would not bump their butts when they landed, but why are these idiots trying to put wings on them. It is obvious someone has a grudge against Daniel and his dog, to the point of being untruthful about his previous dog.. Thanks VP for the "ignore comments from this user" option. Definitely appropriate for a number of users here. Try to talk this rubbish in a mirror and keep a straight face. I bet you can't do it.

Lion Dog

Years ago when I lived in the Ozarks, I heard a story of a little boy who shaved his shaggy dog to look like a lion. He ran to his mom and yelled, "Lion! Lion!" His mother looked at the dog and told the little boy to go to his room and pray to God to forgive him for telling a lie. A couple minutes later, the little boy came back outside completely unrepentant. "Well?" asked his mother, "Did you pray to God and tell him about it?" "Yep!" was the boy's reply, "He said it looked like a lion to him for a minute too!"

Seriously though, someone needs to get that 911 caller to an eye doctor or maybe a zoo so they can see the real thing.


This story has gone national!!! It was featured on NBC's Today Show this morning.

You've got to be vision impaired and very naive to mistake this dog for a lion though...LOL!

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Comment removed for rules violation. Reason: Personal attack, name calling

You know when you're a red neck when you see a dog and........

I wonder if those who called 911 because they saw a lion, are the same people witness an UFO at 2AM after the bars close in Downtown?

Someone said they need to see a eye doctor, but the doctor may tell them they need a seeing eye dog.

What they need is a trip to the zoo or watch Animal planet on t.v. to be fully educated of what a lion looks like. I know in real life in the world of politics, many things get made up, you just can't make up a story like this. Now that it's gone National, Jeff Foxworthy has found new material.

The best part of that video

The best part of that video is that the dog is dancing to the Band's "Up on Cripple Creek."

3rd 911 Operator!?!?!?!

Geez, I'm so glad it wasn't a real emergency. The guy stated over and over where he saw this "lion" and she still asked him where he was. She had the attitude of "you're bothering me". And I love the "do you think he's looking for food?" Are you kidding me???

The City needs to do something to prevent this, and right away!

The guy lives close to the ZOO for the love of God! What was that fool thinking when he groomed his dog to look like a lion! There needs to be a law on the books that makes disguising a dog to scare the crap out of people a class I felony. What did he think would happen when he let it out to roam the streets around the ZOO? That guy is a danger to society. He should be committed for a 72 hour psychiatric examination if he can't be arrested and charged with perpetuating a hoax. Someone could have died in a stampede to run away from an escaped lion.

I sure hope...

...you were being sarcastic with your tongue planted firmly in your cheek. If not, you really need to get a grip.

Loose Lion on the Westside

Danny Ray and Charlie are keeping things colorfull in Norfolk. Charlie is a nice dog and very energetic. However, allowing Charlie to run loose puts the dog at risk of an accident. Plus , being leashed will help with the canine/feline confusion. A Win-Win for everbody!

The blames goes to

Public education for all the panic Lion Dog has caused.

911 Ring ring

I just saw a lion that looks like a dog.

911 ring ring

I just saw a lion dog. His picture is on your site about a new VB propaganda WEB site.

I've heard of a liger

I've also heard of a tigon. And now I've heard of a log... or was this a digon?

Charming Charles

Charles appears to be an awesome dog, but I still have to agree that letting him run loose is so unwise. He could be hit by a car, attacked by another animal running loose, and as strange as it seems that some folks actually thought he was a lion,he's lucky no one took a pot shot at him. And,better yet,after all this publicity I'm sure some people would love to get their hands on him and wouldn't think twice about stealing him.


This stroy was just on Good Morning America. I feel safer now just knowing!

Someone Please Call 911

If you spot something that looks like a mens' basketball team. It appears that one is missing in the area.


Did anyone notice that Charlie looks more like a Goldendoodle, than a Labradoodle? Registered Labs are either yellow, (blonde), black, or brown, (chocolate), and have short hair. Charlie's mane is red and long. Many people confuse Labs with Goldens, but it is my opinion that he is a Goldendoodle not a Labradoodle. In either case, he's cute for being a mutt!

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