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From the wild to the window

Posted Thursday, December 9, 2010, at 10:27 AM

Five months ago Daily Reporter intern Kylie Sebert wrote "Queen of the road" about a female German shepherd -- commonly referred to as Phantom -- living in the wild south of Spencer. Individuals left food for Phantom and tried to capture her numerous times, to no avail.

Seventeen days after the article appeared, a mixture of anesthetics, mashed potatoes and gravy were used to sedate Phantom and transport her to the Humane Society in Milford.

Before the capture, motorists' complaints and the possibility of Phantom causing an accident prompted the Clay County Sheriff's Office to give her neighbors two weeks to catch her or they would be forced to enact a shoot-to-kill order on the canine.

With that fact in mind, the capture was obviously necessary.

Fast forward a few months.

Phantom has been adopted, rehabilitated and has now made local appearances with her owner, most recently as a "doggie in the window" at Medlar Studios during the Grand Meander Monday evening.

The chain of events includes some positive aspects, but also raises some questions.

First of all, it is absolutely amazing that Phantom survived a year -- including a brutally cold, snowy winter -- on her own.

Furthermore, it is probably better for Phantom that she no longer has to survive on her own and instead has guaranteed food and warmth this winter.

Phantom has also become a type of mascot for shelter pets. Considering animal shelters across the nation are full of creatures hoping to be pets again, publicity for such a cause is a good thing.

But that last point in particular raises quite a few questions.

Safety has to be a concern.

How can a dog go from independently living on its own and fending for itself to being petted by literally hundreds of admirers, including small children?

Less than five months does not seem long enough to make the dramatic transition, especially considering German shepherds are often regarded as the third most dangerous breed, behind only Pit Bulls and Rottweilers.

Of course those breeds are not all bad, but they need to be handled correctly. Forcing a dog like Phantom into the limelight may not be wise.

Now in the limelight, her image is on business cards, post cards and badges. A portion of proceeds from sales of the badges go to People for Pets in Spencer, according to www.phantomthedog.com.

It seems as those items are only the beginning as the owner has openly mentioned the prospect of writing a book.

Why not? After all, Dewey Readmore Books paved the way for books about local furry celebrities to land on the New York Times Best-Seller list.

Perhaps some of the proceeds would go to People for Pets, or maybe a national organization like the Humane Society.

But the question remains, "Would Phantom had been adopted without the allure of attention, fortune and fame?"

Only a few people, and one dog, can answer that question for sure.


Comments
Showing most recent comments first
[Show in chronological order instead]

Where is Phantom now?

-- Posted by ReadySteadyEddie on Fri, Mar 25, 2011, at 3:33 PM

Dharris, please refresh my memory at what event that I spoke to you and a small group of people about writing a book?

You stated: "At the time this struck me as an odd comment to make in that it seemed he had stars in his eyes and was looking for a big payoff. I hoped, and still do, that this wasn't his motivation for adopting Phantom in the first place."

So why did you not address your concern at the time instead of confronting me through this blog?

I am sure that any author that takes the time to write a book, hopes and prays that their book will have the potential to as big or even bigger than the Dewey book."

Had I planned to write a book about Phantom, I would have taken the time to take pictures during the long hours of trying to catch and of her big rescue. The fact is Dr. Rees only had his camera phone to document the rescue of this dog on the day that she was saved from a shoot to kill order by the Clay Country Sheriff's Department.

If I write a book about Phantom and it would only do a fourth as well as the Dewey book. I would give a percentage of the book sells to our local People for Pets Rescue/Shelter.

I am a People for Pets foster parent and currently volunteer as a fund raiser. Please check out the Red Fire Hydrant coin collection containers that I made located at local area Spencer business's!

If my motivation for adopting Phantom was to write a book, I would not be currently fostering another German shepherd mix that was rescued from the ice shelf on the Little Sioux River near the Spencer Country Club. http://siouxcityjournal.com/news/local/c...

Please check out Phantom's web site: www.Phantomthedog.com

Phantom's story is one of courage, bravery and survival during one of the worst winter's on record. This dog is proof of the great gift rescued animals can be to the world. In her new family, dogs are celebrated!

We hope that Phantom's story can speak for the millions of voiceless dogs across the country. Our hope is that our story will improve the quality of life, one dog at a time, as well as put an end to senseless abandonment and death of unwanted pets.

Phantom's recovery from her year long ordeal in the wild is based on building a relationship in her new family via morning walks, playful exercise, clear communication, respect, and lots of love.

I wish that instead of people questioning my

motivations, that they put their efforts into volunteering at People for Pets and show their own motivation to help thoses who can not help themselves!

-- Posted by Nikki on Mon, Feb 7, 2011, at 3:20 PM

I met Phantom and Lee recently at an event. While addressing a small group of people, myself included, Lee, in talking about the book he wanted to write, said: "This book has the potential to as big or even bigger than the Dewey book."

At the time this struck me as an odd comment to make in that it seemed he had stars in his eyes and was looking for a big payoff. I hoped, and still do, that this wasn't his motivation for adopting Phantom in the first place.

Also, he needs to keep in mind that Dewey lived to be nearly 20 years old, a lifetime of anctedotes to make up a book. Having a dog that lived in the wild for year and adopting it does not a book make.

That said, Phantom seemed like a wonderfully gentle dog with lots of personality. Lee seems to be doing a great job with him.

-- Posted by DHarris on Sat, Feb 5, 2011, at 4:41 PM

If you or someone received a gift of a pet for Christmas, please remember that you should care for this joyous pet for the rest of its life! If you are not able to do so, then please be a responsible pet owner and find a loving home for them. Pets are not throw away toys after you grow tired of them!

You may lose your job or your home, but pets do not understand these kinds of things and have no idea why you were so willing to give them up! They LOVED you and your family unconditionally! DO NOT Abandon any pet out in the wild, as they have been domesticated and have no idea how to make it on their own! Most are killed by wild animals, large birds or hit by a car!

Nikki, Gretchen, Phantom and me would like to wish everyone ( especially Pets) a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

-- Posted by Nikki on Fri, Dec 24, 2010, at 4:37 PM

Thank you for your honesty!

I did not correct the first Daily Reporter story on the facts because, this is what Dr. Rees thought and there was no reason to. Just proves what you read in the Newspaper is not always correct.

If the people who took your poll have a problem with how I handle my dogs, I would suggest that they contact me! Or better yet, step up to the plate and save abandon or a shelter dog.

No matter what they think, Phantom's life is so much better, then being left out in the wild, only to be shot to death by the Clay County Sheriff's Department.

I would request that you contact me, so you can meet my dogs and see for yourself !

Nikki, Gretchen, Phantom and Lee Youde

-- Posted by Nikki on Thu, Dec 23, 2010, at 10:46 AM

Lee,

Thank you for commenting. I must ask why you have waited until now to "get the facts correct?" I took my information straight from previous Daily Reporter stories that you commented on, but did not "correct."

Here is an excerpt:

"Despite Dr. Mark Rees' -- a local veterinarian-- concerns, the capture plan was executed smoothly.

'I had nightmares about how the plan could go wrong but it all worked out without drama,' he said. 'We told all of the people we knew who were feeding her to stop for a couple days, so she would be hungry and in the end we mixed anesthetics with mashed potatoes and gravy. Within an hour and a half of putting the food out, they were able to get her.'

According to Dr. Rees, she was scared but not mean when they finally got her. She was also healthy. Phantom -- which is her official name now-- was then turned over to the Humane Society in Milford.

The Humane Society put her in foster care on July 26 to start her rehabilitation into domestic life. Director Kate Whitrock shared how Phantom is doing but said she could not give out the name of the designated foster parent. ..."

As for Phantom's role in the Grand Meander, I was once again going from a brief we posted online.

"Joining the featured 'doggie in the window' will be Phantom, northwest Iowa's rescued German Shepherd that now campaigns for the millions of voiceless dogs across the country in hopes that her story will improve the quality of life, one dog at a time, as well as put an end to senseless abandonment and death of unwanted pets."

Reading that, do you see how it sounds that Phantom was also a featured "doggie in the window?" Regardless, an account at www.phantomthedog.com clearly states, "Hundreds of Phantom fans stopped by to say 'Hi' to her and many had their photo taken with Phantom." Whether she was in the window or not does not change that fact. I'm glad there have not been any incidents and that Phantom has acclimated to being the center of attention quite well. Nonetheless, I thought the questions I raised were fair to ask.

We also posted a poll about this topic.

In light of Gabe Licht's Junior Moment's column "From the wild to the window" how do you feel about Phantom?

I'm glad people are getting the opportunity to see Phantom and she is being used to promote animal shelters and pet adoption: 26.6% (51 VOTES)

I would prefer now that Phantom has a home, she simply be allowed to live the life of a normal dog: 44.3% (85 VOTES)

I'm concerned that she's becoming a marketing tool and will eventually become a money making machine: 7.8% (15 VOTES)

She should have been left alone to live in the wild: 6.3% (12 VOTES)

It's really not something I care about: 15.1% (29 VOTES)

As you can see, I was not the only one with a few questions and concerns.

The bottom line is, I am glad Phantom has a home and also kudos to you for fostering the other rescued dog (I wish my job and living arrangements would allow for me to adopt a dog myself). I also agree that there is no such thing as a bad dog, only bad owners. I did not write this column/blog to attack anyone, but to share questions and concerns (that others I talked to also had). And while I'm clarifying, I might as well emphasize that my column/blog is my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Daily Reporter or Rust Communications.

-- Posted by Gabe Licht on Thu, Dec 23, 2010, at 10:18 AM

We would like to Thank everyone who has blogged on behave of Phantom!

Phantom is a really great dog; she is now helping Gretchen, the dog that was rescued from the ice on the river, learn how to behave indoors. Gretchen joined my family yesterday, when I offered to foster her. If Gretchen does as well as Phantom, she will become the newest member of my family.

Last night, the four of us found our places in my queen size bed! It might be time to invest in a king size bed!

If you are still looking for a Christmas gift and you can give a shelter dog a forever home, please contact your nearest shelter and give a pet the greatest Christmas gift of all! Plus they come in all sizes!

Nikki, Gretchen, Phantom and Lee Youde

PS There are no BAD DOGS . . . only BAD OWNERS!

-- Posted by Nikki on Thu, Dec 23, 2010, at 10:15 AM

I actually know this dog on a personal basis, unlike alot of people who see her at the mall, or wherever they may be. I've interacted with her as well has my 6 year old daughter on a 1 on 1 basis. yes I was concerned at first yes she was out on her own and she is a large animal, and for that fact a new dog period anyone should have concerns with. but after about 5 minutes, she is a big teddy bear we ventured over to where phantom lives several times to swim and my daughter spent many days just going over and throwing toys around for her. I actually see her few times a week and have no concerns at all with her now. if you respect her, she will respect you. people should really either contact someone who knows facts(maybe Phantoms owner?)or just perhaps keep their thoughts to themselves. "sometimes it is better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt"

-- Posted by ENajera on Thu, Dec 23, 2010, at 9:33 AM

Next time, please get your facts correct before issuing an article on one of my dogs or myself!

!. The mixture of anesthetics was with, meat loaf; cut up grilled Cheeseburgers and gravy . . . no mash potatoes! I made Phantom's last meal in the wild.

2. Phantom was not transported to the Milford! 1 and 1/2 hours after eating this last meal in the wild, Phantom was loaded into my truck and transported to my home, where she stayed for the next couple of months! Phantom made only one trip to the Milford Humane Society and only met the staff once in mid-September.

3. Phantom was not the doggie in the window, People for Pets had 2 shelter dogs in the store window and Phantom was in the back room for her protection.

4. Phantom loves kids, only a few days after being relocated to my home and yard. Neighborhood children continued coming over using my pool and they have never had a problem with Phantom.

Phantom has appeared at South Park Mall, the Spencer library a couple of times and at many other events! We have not had one problem with Phantom. She is a ham when it comes to having her picture taken with the kids!

Next time before you write something like this, maybe you should come and met Phantom and see for yourself how well behaved she is!

I am also fostering the German shepherd that was rescued from the ice on the river, since the owner no longer wanted her and gave her up!

There is no such thing as a BAD DOG . . . Only BAD OWNERS!

-- Posted by Nikki on Wed, Dec 22, 2010, at 10:18 PM

Gabe, I want to thank you for the front page article on the People for Pets building renovation and open house! We had an excellent open house with over 125 people visiting and touring the facility. Most brought gifts of food, money, blankets, etc. We could never have gotten the word out as well without your article, and we greatly appreciated it. Many people seemed delighted to see what is happening at People for Pets! Also thanks for your recognition of Susan Kellen and her book "My Name is Ed or Betty", who was present that day to autograph books and whose book has reminders for people to ADOPT SHELTER PETS!

I read your article From the Wild to the Window with great interest. I followed the stories of Phantom and was a tiny bit sad for Phantom's loss of freedom, but a lot happy for her newfound safety, love, shelter, food, and care. Lee Youde should be commended for having the patience and intelligence to work with Phantom and give her a new lease on life. (I really doubt that Lee had any intention of personal monetary gain when he agreed to work with Phantom, and if he writes a book, more power to him.) I do agree with you that a dog who spent at least a year "in the wild" was super amazing to be in a window petted by total strangers only a few months later! I grew up with German Shepherds and have great respect for them, and yes, I agree that their temperament will be based on how they are trained and brought up, but still, you can never be sure what could possibly trigger a bad moment for the dog. People who volunterr at shelters are aware that sometimes just putting a dog out with another dog can turn nasty. I'm not saying we cannot trust Phantom, as I believe that Lee is very careful with her. I also appreciate that Lee is a proponent for shelter pets, as there are so many out there who are waiting and hoping to be loved. But I do appreciate your candor in bringing up the subject and agree that making all of us THINK. Thank you for your intelligent insights!

-Kay Rose Ostwald

-- Posted by luvrugby on Tue, Dec 21, 2010, at 2:23 PM

Wow, alot of comments. I wonder if Gabe as ever been a pet owner? The most important part is that a family adopted a animal in need of a home. The animal turned out to be a great pet. Animals are resilient and will reward you many times over for saving them. Many abused and neglected animals turn out to be wonderful pets. I myself have owned a few that came from less than favorable conditions. I am sure she would have been adopted even without any publicity. Bless the family that came forward to give her a home and bless anyone that helps the millions of stray and abandoned animals. So please if u can donate your time at a shelter,do. If u can't donate your time, then make a donation as they mostly rely on volunteers. Better yet if you can make a commitment to adopt an animal you won't be sorry!!

Merry Christmas.....

-- Posted by summer on Fri, Dec 17, 2010, at 10:59 AM

The point I'm making is the fact that there's a double standard that people are hinting towards. Sorry about spelling her name wrong. That's something that I did know and I do commend her for that as well. But what people need to realize is that I doubt he went into it thinking about writing a book. I also doubt that vicki thought about writing a book as well. I just like to have people try to see more than one side of a story that's why I will write things on here to get people to think about more.

-- Posted by buss22 on Fri, Dec 17, 2010, at 8:33 AM

Buss -- At a library board meeting last spring Vicki (that is the correct spelling) made a very generous donation to the library and plans on donating more to it. She may not tell the general public about any other donations she makes.

-- Posted by communicate on Thu, Dec 16, 2010, at 6:15 PM

buss22,

If you want I could always write a Child's book about Dewey and have someone illustrate it. The book would be written through Dewey's eyes of living in the Spencer Public Library. It would be about getting dropped in the book drop and then sleeping in the book shelves!

I personally held the cat back in the day when Dewey was still alive--maybe that would take the heat off of Vicki's book for you not liking it so much.

-- Posted by SystemofaDown on Thu, Dec 16, 2010, at 3:13 PM

Buss,

I was not here when Vicki wrote her story about "the library cat that touched the world," so I am not sure if she received any criticism. If I had been here, I probably would have written a column and/or a blog about it raising some of the same questions I have raised about Phantom.

I can relate to being more of a dog person. It seems like cats warm up to me right before they bite me, so I generally try to stay away from them. For that reason, I probably will never read a book about a cat. In all reality, I would be much more likely to read a book about a dog, and that would include a book about Phantom. I am not against such a book being written. I just thought I would pose some questions. Thank you to everyone who has responded.

-- Posted by Gabe Licht on Wed, Dec 15, 2010, at 10:06 AM

Where was all this critisism when Viki wrote a book about a cat. I see a lot of you people have a double standard and think its fair for her to prosper but not someone else who is taking care of a dog thatwas out in the cold for a year. Dewey was put into a drop box that was at a library nož outside living in the extreme cold. I'm more of a dog person and would prefer to have dogs over cats anyday. Dogs are more interactive with people and cats are way to independent. Plus the book that viki wrote doesn't deal a whole lot about the cat. Its mainly about her and her life with bits and pieces about the cat. I have a friend that read the book and she hated it as has many others that I know have read it. So kudos to you Mr. Youde write a book it will be more enjoyable and with help a much better cause than lining a pocket.

-- Posted by buss22 on Wed, Dec 15, 2010, at 9:50 AM

Aimee - You are right. Dog attacks do not usually happen without warning. But not everyone knows the warning signs. And as Gabe brought up, Phantom has come from a year of living in the wild. Can someone who has known the dog for less than 5 months know if the dog has any "hidden triggers" or be able to recognize the signs of stress that might lead to her being aggressive? And again, who has evaluated this dog? Maybe you could contact Lee Youde and see if he would be willing to let you evaluate Phantom and settle people's worries.

And, Gabe, maybe you could contact Kate Whitrock at the Humane Society and see exactly what kind of evaluation was done on Phantom by the shelter.

-- Posted by ReadySteadyEddie on Sun, Dec 12, 2010, at 2:42 PM

Also, this comment from one of the woman's family members was posted on the KC Dog Blog...

"I am one of Shirley's relatives and all of her friends and relatives told her not to get this large of a dog,but she refused to listen. She was also told repeatedly to get rid of the dog and given places to safely adopt the dog out. She loved dogs and refused all pleas for her safety. She was very healthy and strong for her age and we could not legally take away her dog. Don't blame others. She caused her own death by living dangerously and refusing to be sensible."

Link: http://bit.ly/g8EOC6

-- Posted by AimeeClark on Sun, Dec 12, 2010, at 11:41 AM

Facts in the Ida Grove incident...

The dog was kept as a guard dog and had been known to show aggression in the past. The owner was a 79-year-old woman that was unable to control the dog. This was an accident waiting to happen! It should also be mentioned that the woman was on blood thinners and bled to death. Perhaps a person without health issues wouldn't have had such a severe reaction to the bite wounds.

People need to understand that dog attacks don't just happen out of the blue, despite popular belief. People ignore warning signs, or brush them aside and don't take them seriously. In 13 years of working in veterinary clinics and working with countless numbers of dogs, I saw ONE dog that just "snapped." The next day, the dog started suffering from seizures. He was taken in for an MRI and was found to have a brain tumor.

Perhaps sometime I can meet Phantom and give a personal opinion of her temperament and demeanor. At this time, however, I can only go by what other people familiar with dog behavior tell me.

-- Posted by AimeeClark on Sun, Dec 12, 2010, at 11:31 AM

The statement keeps being made that "someone" must have evaluated Phantom for her role as a public figure. Does anyone know positively who exactly evaluated her for this role, and how she was evaluated? I'm sure that the Humane Society of NWIA evaluates their pets to be sure they are appropriate for adoption into a loving home. But, that they haven't rendered an opinion on this is conspicous in its absence. Also, donations are going to People for Pets - perhaps they evaluated Phantom for her public role? I find it interesting that involvement of the Humane Society seems to have ended with Phantom's adoption. I, too, would like to hear from Kate Whitrock or Lee Youde.

One last thing - in late November, a 79-year old woman from Ida Grove was bitten by her 5-year old German Shepherd and died from her wounds. I am concerned.

-- Posted by ReadySteadyEddie on Sat, Dec 11, 2010, at 9:38 PM

I have to say that I fully agree with Amy and Aimee. I believe that with all the time, work, and attention that the new owners have put in I highly doubt any kind of fame was behind any of there work. And I agree too, whats wrong with them making some money??? German Shephard's are very intelligent dogs. My dad adopted one from the humane society that had been there a very long time and had been brought back many times from multiple people for various reasons. He took the time and energy to train her and work with her on her problems. Before he adopted her we would take my 2 very young children to see her at the humane society to see how she would react to them as i visit my dad frequently. At that point she hadnt had much training and immediately took to my kids and was gentle to them. She has never to this day snipped, growled, barked, bitten or anything like that to any of my 3 children or my neice. The kids almost act like she is a small horse and yet she has always protected them and been gentle to them. We do believe she had been beaten at some point before her extended stay at the humane society but was able to get past all that. I truly believe that most shelter pets are so happy and appreciative that they have a loving family that they are usually better pets. Maybe phantom is the same way? Happy to not be fending for herself anymore. And I also agree that if they didnt feel completely comfortable with her being in the public around so many people that she wouldnt be, and that if she herself was unhappy being around so many you would be able to tell. I have seen her a few times and it never seems to bother her.

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Fri, Dec 10, 2010, at 5:40 PM

Gabe, sorry I mixed up your name. I got two of the letters right. That's what I get for multitasking, but I do apologize -- I do know who you are and for what it's worth believe you are one of the most talented writers in the Spencer Daily Reporter/Dickinson County News family.

Thanks also for replying. I do hope Lee and Kate get on with their comments as well.

-- Posted by AmyPeterson on Fri, Dec 10, 2010, at 3:59 PM

Amy and Aimee, thank you for your comments. You both brought up a lot of good points.

Amy, who is Nate? I'm not sure, but I will respond to your comments anyway.

I do not believe writing a book about Phantom was Lee Youde's original thought. As a pet lover, I am certain he was concerned first and foremost for Phantom's health and well-being. Let me reiterate, "it is probably better for Phantom that she no longer has to survive on her own and instead has guaranteed food and warmth this winter." I should have left out the probably. It is a blessing for the dog to be rescued and loved.

You actually reinforced one of my questions when you said German shepherds are very territorial. Phantom was likely in a home before, but not likely with hundreds of children petting her certain days. Ding sounds like he was a great dog and I have no doubt Phantom is, too. Ding was a type of watchdog of you, though, not the center of attention for hundreds of petting kids. I hope safety is not an issue with Phantom. I am sure Lee and others have worked extensively with her. They did not want others seeing or touching her before they believed she was ready. If she is ready now for all the attention she is receiving, great! I don't think there was anything wrong with raising the question, though, and I don't think I'm the only one who had that question.

I did mention in my list of positives that Phantom is an ambassador for shelter pets. I think that is a good thing.

Aimee, I am pleased to have your perspective as a former dog trainer and canine behavior consultant.

Like I said before, I am thrilled that Phantom has a family again. But, not all the children in the Spencer area are a part of that family, which makes me wonder if she will always react positively. If research and evaluation says she can handle that, I will not question that. Once again, I feel I am not alone with these questions and so it is good to have conversation about them.

You inverted my words. German shepherds have been known as dangerous in the past, but they are not all bad and not bad at all if trained and handled correctly. I know there are not official rankings anymore and I know those three breeds get a bad rap because of their size and because of the amount of damage they can do if provoked. That's why I said such dogs must be handled properly. With your background, I am sure you know what I meant by that. If they are trained to be aggressive, they can be very aggressive. If they are treated like lap dogs and loved, they are some of the biggest sweethearts. For that reason, I am explicitly against any kind of breed ban in cities, but perhaps that is a different column for a different day.

You are right about your assessments. I did not contact Lee or Kate because there have already been stories about them. This was my opinion and, more so, my way of starting a conversation. If Lee or Kate would like to join the conversation, I invite them to set up a username and do so. They could even write a blog about Phantom - or anything else - as we are always looking for new bloggers.

I don't think Phantom was adopted just for potential fame, either. But, now that she is adopted and is a public figure, I wanted to put my opinion out there and see what others think.

"Dewey Readmore Books paved the way for books about local furry celebrities to land on the New York Times Best-Seller list." Marley was not from Spencer or the area.

I would like to reiterate that if Lee Youde or Kate Whitrock or anyone else with connections to Phantom would like to join the conversation, they may set up a username and do so.

Once again, thank you for your comments.

-- Posted by Gabe Licht on Fri, Dec 10, 2010, at 10:27 AM

Let me preface this by saying that I used to train dogs professionally, and did canine behavior consultations in a veterinary clinic setting for about 13 years. I am currently a therapy dog handler. One of my current dogs was nationally ranked in AKC obedience in 2005. I think I know dogs fairly well.

I have never met Phantom, so I cannot comment on her demeanor. However, her behavior is not uncommon for dogs that have been dumped or escaped. In fact, I know of a rather well known dog trainer that even had her service dog escape while she was hospitalized and do something similar. Once the dog was captured, he returned to service dog work in a very short period of time. My guess is that Phantom was once somebody's pet, and being back in a home environment made her remember what it was like to be a part of a family.

Dogs are resilient and can bounce back from emotional trauma faster than any human could. Just take a look at the Vick dogs as a good example. They lived through unspeakable cruelty, and many of them have gone on to not only be pets, but earning AKC's Canine Good Citizen certificate and even becoming registered therapy dogs by passing the strict testing developed by Therapy Dogs International.

You mention that "those breeds are not all bad," but also that "German shepherds are often regarded as the third most dangerous breed, behind only Pit Bulls and Rottweilers." The only people who "regard" such a thing are people who are ignorant when it comes to normal dog behavior. The CDC stopped tracking dog attacks by breed in 1996 because nearly everybody that claims things like the above quotes a CDC study done more than ten years ago. That in itself is ridiculous, as the study had right on the front page: "[The study] does not identify specific breeds that are most likely to bite or kill, and thus is not appropriate for policy-making decisions related to the topic. There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill." The study also stated that they got their breed IDs from media reports, who in turn gets their breed IDs from witnesses.

My Pit Bull is identified a good 80% of the time as a Boxer. I can count on my fingers how many times my Belgian Malinois HASN'T been called a German Shepherd. The general public is clueless about properly identifying dog breeds.

I understand your concern, and it may be valid to some extent. But, Phantom has been evaluated by local dog experts and was adopted by an experienced dog owner. If they weren't comfortable having her out in public, she wouldn't be out in public. Had you thought of contacting Phantom's owner, Kate at the Humane Society, or anybody from People for Pets? Did you actually go and interact with Phantom? If the experienced people in Phantom's life weren't comfortable having her out in public, she wouldn't be out in public. Leave the armchair quarterbacking to people who have an understanding of canine behavior.

I don't think that Phantom was adopted just for the potential fame aspect, or that she would have not been adopted if she weren't a local celebrity. She's a pretty, purebred dog, and would likely have been adopted fairly quickly.

Lastly, I don't think that Dewey paved the way for animals on the bestseller list. For starters, Marley came first. I'm sure there were others.

Some links since HTML markup doesn't appear to work in comments...

Canine Good Citizen info: http://www.akc.org/events/cgc

Therapy Dogs International: http://www.tdi-dog.org

National Canine Research Council: http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com...

-- Posted by AimeeClark on Thu, Dec 9, 2010, at 6:49 PM

Not to make this longer but I also wanted to say Phantom's owner's purpose with the book is to build awareness of shelter dogs and to tell a compelling and unique story.

However, even if his purpose was purely self-enrichment, he would not be the first one, or even the first one in Spencer, and really, what's wrong with writing a good memoir and earning money from it?

-- Posted by AmyPeterson on Thu, Dec 9, 2010, at 6:40 PM

Nate, I have to say your leaps of logic are astonishing.

I know Phantom's owner and have had the opportunity to talk to him about his book. He's been keeping notes and correspondence about Phantom since he first got involved in saving her.

Think of this -- a dog in the wild, a deadline to capture and save her and the thought pops into his head "Gee, maybe she'll make me famous like Dewey made Vicki Myron famous." I just don't think so.

Phantom's new family has spent these months gently training and socializing her, helping her adapt (probably again as she was lost from somewhere) and caring for her.

My family had a German Shepherd when I was a child. I had not heard that Shepherds were particularly dangerous. They are very territorial. When I was a baby in a stroller, my mom would be outside talking to a passerby and Ding would wedge his body between my stroller and the non-family person. He was trained to check on me in my crib and if I was awake he would bark -- if I was still asleep, he would come down quietly. In an era of fewer leash laws, he would follow me as I rode my tricycle and bark when I got close to the next corner where I was mandated to turn around and ride back home. When we went camping, he would make large circles around me as I wandered around and bark if he thought I was venturing too far from the campsite. If my parents had thought for an instant that Ding was a danger, they would either have gotten rid of him or had watched us constantly when we were together. As it was, he was practically my babysitter.

Shepherds are among the most intelligent dogs in the world. They're able to learn quickly. As Phantom learned to trust her owner, I would venture to say she learned she could trust other people if her owner said she could. Shepherds can be gentle and playful. And just because Phantom was in the wild for a year or so does not mean she's dangerous or could not be domesticated with constant trust building by her owner.

-- Posted by AmyPeterson on Thu, Dec 9, 2010, at 6:37 PM


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As the junior staff writer here at The Daily Reporter, I enjoy interacting with my readers. This blog will allow me to do that. Whether voicing my opinion and looking for response or asking readers to weigh in on a specific topic I am writing about, I look forward to getting to know my readers and what they think.
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