Known for his flashy passing, Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons has a new partner to play fetch with — one whose championship pedigree traces back to our neck of the woods.
The lovable acquisition is a product not of the 76ers front office, but rather, Notta Bear Newfoundlands, a Canby-based kennel of service and therapy dogs.
Bethany Davis, Notta Bear owner and founder, said she was contacted by a representative of Simmons, who was looking for a well-bred Newfoundland.
“I tried to help them find a Newfie all over the world, but because they are so rare, I couldn’t find him anything,” Davis said.
Simmons, a native Australian and lifelong animal lover, was in the market for a loving new pet and Newfoundlands — which have a reputation as “gentle giants” for their sweet dispositions and calm natures — seemed to fit the bill.
“Also, he’s nearly 7 feet tall, so he didn’t want to have to do a lot of bending to pet,” Davis quipped. (Despite slotting in at point guard in most lineups, Simmons is indeed listed at 6’10”.)
Though Davis had failed to find an available Newfie pup through her usual network, she happened to know of one — much closer to home.
“We had a litter of one,” she recalled. “We were going to keep her, but I knew how much Ben was really looking, so I told the finder we would offer her to Ben.”
Davis started sending Simmons daily photos and videos of the pup and getting to know him better.
“Before that, I hadn’t spoken to Ben personally,” she said.
This is actually not that unusual for Davis, whose journey in founding Notta Bear is entirely personal. She grew up in the South American jungles of Suriname, the daughter of a mission pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship.
“When I got back to the United States, I got culture shock that turned into an anxiety panic disorder, which turned into agoraphobia,” she said. “I was a shut-in for over 10 years.”
She eventually had to be hospitalized for a break-down, where a doctor recommended a service dog. Research led her to the Newfoundland breed, though it still took her a couple of years to find her first dog — ShellBea — in Prague, no less.
She decided to get into breeding to replace her own service animal — but not all puppies meet the rigorous standards required.
For those, Davis goes searching for the best possible home, and that has brought her into the orbits of many “amazing people” all over the world: a Hollywood film producer, a Realtor to the stars, one of the country’s top sushi chefs, the director of a multinational footwear company, a lineman for the NFL.
And, of course, Simmons, who has now taken the role of sending Davis daily pics and videos of his new addition — which he named “Kuro” (a Japanese word meaning “black stone”).
“To me, he’s just Ben,” Davis said. “I don’t know anything about basketball. I just care the sort of home my dogs have.”
Her daughter, Bethany, escorted Kuro on the flight out to her new home. She praised the airline, Delta, and its crew for making the transition as smooth as possible.
“The airline staff was super excited to meet her and gave her lots of attention,” Bethany Davis said. “They checked on us and made sure she was doing good, even offered water before any drink service had even started.”
The pup handled the cross-country flight like a champ, sleeping most of the time and playing with toys during a brief layover. A friend picked the travelers up at Newark Airport, and they drove out to Simmons’ house together.
“His house is big and beautiful but he is very down to earth,” Bethany recalled. “He had a few people there; a body guard, his photographer, and a couple other people. All very very welcoming and nice, thrilled to meet the puppy.”
Kuro seemed to take it all in stride.
“She played with everyone for a while — she LOVES toys,” Bethany said in a Facebook message. “She ate some dinner, and then passed out cold. We had to leave the house at 3 a.m. for our flight, so I guess she was pretty tired — even though she slept most of the flights, haha.”