With all due respect to Jack London’s masterpiece, the hero of this tale is not a grizzled, mistreated dog in Alaska’s wilderness, but a scrappy, beloved Cocker Spaniel living in the outer limits of Winslow.
For more than two years, the officers and inmates at the Arizona State Prison Complex south of Winslow have been feeding a small, black dog without knowing to whom it belonged.
The dog didn’t seem to pose an immediate threat to anyone and was too shy to let anyone get close enough to pet it. Several attempts were made to catch it but all failed until two weeks ago.
Using a bone fried in bacon grease as bait, prison officers finally trapped the dog. On Monday, Nov. 15, after two and a half years on its own, the dog was reunited with its owners.
Nancy and Harry Fulks were relived to have “Blackie” back again.
“We are just so thankful to have her back and so thankful to (Officer) Rita (Canady) that she pursued getting her and bringing her to her house,” Nancy said.
Everyone was surprised that other than a good cleaning and a haircut, the 14-year-old dog seemed to be in good health.
“She looks very good for being on her own for two and a half years,” Nancy said
The Fulks live in Lake Hills, Texas near San Antonio. However, the retired couple also spends a lot of time on the road in their motorhome. It was on a trip to visit friends in Winslow in July 2002 that Blackie disappeared.
Nancy said they were inside their friend’s house while Blackie was in the motorhome. A sliding window was partially ajar, which Blackie was able to push open. She leapt out the window and was gone.
“She’s a very shy dog,” Nancy said. “We figure there were some kids on the street and we think they chased her and she just got lost.”
The Fulks stayed an extra three days looking up and down every street for Blackie. They finally continued on to Las Vegas to visit their daughter and returned to Winslow three weeks later to look again. They stayed three more days but could not find her.
“I called (the Humane Society) once a month for six months,” Nancy said. “It was such a shock when Rita called and said she had our dog. We just couldn’t believe it.”
Officer Rita Canady works at the Arizona State Prison. She was one of many guards and prisoners who fed Blackie.
Canady said, “When we got busy and didn’t feed her on time, she’d come walking up by the control room looking for us like, ‘hey, where’s my chow?’”
But no one could ever get close enough to touch her or see that she had information on her collar.
This was not the first time Blackie was on her own. The resourceful dog also spent two and a half years in the wilds outside the Fulks’ home in Lake Hills. One day in 1991, someone abandoned the shy dog in their yard. She had four pups with her that, Nancy said, were larger than Blackie. They took the pups to a veterinarian who found them homes on ranches.
Nancy fed the wayward pooch but could not get close enough to touch her. But after more than two years of feeding, Blackie finally allowed the Fulks to adopt her.
“One night, we were having a terrible, terrible lightning and thunder storm, and she stared scratching at our front door, and she wanted in,” Nancy said.
Earlier this month, Animal Control Officers used a tranquilizer gun to subdue her. Officer Earle Warren said the shot struck Blackie but she ran off. Awhile later, the dart was found but Blackie wasn’t. Warren figures the dart bounced off Blackie’s thick matted fur.
The following day, Canady borrowed a trap from the Animal Shelter. It took three days to entice her into the trap.
To catch the elusive dog, prison officers used a bone fried in bacon grease as bait. But Blackie was not so easy to trap. The officers originally used dog food in the trap, but Blackie wouldn’t enter. Perhaps spending so much time in the wild helped her to see the setup. Finally, the lure of the treat was too irresistible. Or perhaps, it was divine intervention.
“It took her five times before she finally tripped it,” Canady said. “She would go in there and smell it, and back right out. The fifth time we started praying.”
The Canady family, who owns three dogs, kept her in their yard and covered the cage with a blanket. Canady put a saddle blanket in for Blackie’s comfort. But just as before, Blackie wouldn’t let anyone get too close.
After the third day, Canady opened the trap for Blackie to run around the 12-by-8-foot kennel in her yard. Blackie moved into the big doghouse in the kennel and finally let Canady get close enough to pet her.
“She just closed her eyes and leaned into my hand,” she said.
Three days later, Canady called the name on Blackie’s collar. It belonged to a veterinarian, who then called the Fulks. They left Texas immediately and arrived in Winslow on Nov. 15. Blackie was going home.
Not everyone was so happy to see Blackie leave.
“(The inmates) were upset,” Canady said. “’You’re taking our mascot?’”
But Blackie signaled the great adventure was over when she climbed into the Fulks’ motorhome.
“She was in the backseat and they opened up her kennel with her old blanket in there,” Canady said. “She crawled right in.”