Labradoodle Mistaken for Lion, Prompts 911 Calls

Bustling Colley Avenue in Norfolk, Va., lined with its shops and eateries, is clearly no wild jungle. But that didn't stop three 911 callers Tuesday from reporting that there was a lion on the loose roaming the streets, possibly rummaging for food.

Turns out, however, it was just one local business owner's friendly Labradoodle dog, named Charles the Monarch, whose fur coat is intentionally groomed to resemble nearby Old Dominion University's lion mascot.

"I go to Old Dominion University and our mascot is a lion and we have a local zoo right here also," Charles' owner, Natalie Painter, told "He was just roaming around. He does his own thing a lot of the time. He visits the locals on the street and walks on the sidewalk shop to shop. He was walking around, and he does look a lot like a lion. So I guess some concerned citizens thought there was a lion."

Upon hearing of the lion sightings, the police actually called the Virginia Zoo, making sure the lions were all in place, which they were. But apparently this isn't the first time the Norfolk Police Department has been alerted to a "lion" in the area.

(Image Credit: Courtesy Natalie Painter)

"The callers all described the Labradoodle as a 'lion.' The dog is named Charles and has not been documented to hurt or bite anyone," Karen Parker-Chesson, the Norfolk Police Department public information officer, said.

Natalie's father, Daniel Painter, owns Daniel's Lawn and Garden Center on Colley Avenue, and often has Charles the Monarch at work with him. The dog is well-known around the community for his resemblance to the lion mascot, frequently making appearances at football tailgates and around campus.

"It happens all the time," Natalie Painter said. "It's really funny. I'm used to the attention but when I'm on campus, I'll bring him to roam around while I do homework outside and I see students and faculty running around with cameras after him. It's like he's in The Beatles.

"He's 4 years old. He's been a lion ever since we've had him. We always bring him to all the football games. He's a little local celebrity when it comes to football season, but it always catches people off guard."

A Labradoodle is a cross between a Labrador retriever and the standard or miniature poodle.

Charles, affectionately nicknamed "Labra-Lion," has established quite a reputation for himself, equipped with his own Facebook and Twitter pages.

And when asked how Charles the Monarch got his distinctive name, the answer was simple.

"We took a picture when he was on the porch one day," Painter said. "He had his snout up, and he just looked so majestic, so regal. So it just stuck.

"People are abbreviating it on Facebook, calling him 'CTM.' That's when you know you've made it."