Panicked onlookers dial 911 after mistaking dog for 'baby lion'

Loose 'lion' prompts 911 calls
Loose 'lion' prompts 911 calls

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Story highlights

  • 911 callers report "lion sighting" in Virginia
  • Local zoo workers scuttle to make sure their lions are caged
  • This is no runaway big cat; it's a pooch groomed to represent a university mascot
  • The pup, Charles the Monarch, is now a "mane" attraction

A coiffed pooch mistaken for a lion's cub is causing quite an uproar in Virginia.

Charles the dog was frolicking down the streets in Norfolk, minding his own business, when panicked passers-by started calling 911.

With a dyed tail and a fluffy coat groomed to resemble a lion's mane, the pup's appearance was a little unusual.

"I'd like to report a lion sighting," a man said in the 911 call.

"Say that again?" a dispatcher responded.

A few minutes later, another call came in.

"I just saw an animal that looked like a small lion," a man said. "Had the mane and everything ... I don't know if it got away from the zoo, or what."

'Lion' on the loose in Virginia
'Lion' on the loose in Virginia

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'Lion' on the loose in Virginia 02:04
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Lion or labradoodle?
Lion or labradoodle?

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    Lion or labradoodle?

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Lion or labradoodle? 01:59
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And the flurry continued, including a resident who told the dispatcher that the "baby lion" is the size of a Labrador retriever.

As soon as the calls trickled in, the Norfolk Police Department contacted the local zoo to ensure its two lions were caged and accounted for.

"We all looked at each other like, 'Could it be?'" Greg Bockheim, the Virginia Zoo executive director, told CNN affiliate WAVY.

Zoo workers scuttled to the lions' cages, he said, but the big cats were fast asleep.

Police moved on to more pressing matters when they realized this wasn't a runaway baby Simba from "The Lion King."

Nor was it on the lam from the zoo.

It was a Labrador-poodle mix -- full name Charles the Monarch -- strolling down the streets after a recent visit to the groomers.

His owner, Daniel Painter, told the affiliate that the dog's shave represents the lion mascot at the Old Dominion University'.

Charles has turned into a celebrity since his sighting Tuesday, and is making rounds on national morning shows.

He also has a Facebook page that chronicles his life as a "party animal."

And the cuddly 3-year-old is not shy about his new role as the "mane" attraction.

The most recent post on his Facebook page asked: "Who wants a pawtograph?"