Disappearing Dog: Local efforts rescue canine, search for his new home


Positively Canine in Westfield is searching for a home for Phantom, a stray dog that took three months to catch. (Photos by Zach Ross)

By Anna Skinner

Since October, Positively Canine co-owners Lori Fricks and Leslie Hinchee have been on the hunt to safely capture a stray dog they call Phantom. They call him that because whenever someone tried to get close, he would disappear.

Positively Canine co-owners Lori Fricks and Leslie Hinchee were concerned about Phantom as a stray because of this collar that was around his neck.

“I was contacted when a friend saw on Nextdoor he was loose, and people were trying to catch him,” Hinchee said. “I have a large humane trap for dogs. I went out there, saw him right away and couldn’t get anywhere near him.”

More people came to help, including Amy Bang,  who lived near the 161st Street and Oak Ridge Road area where Phantom was often spotted. Through the months, the dog dodged multiple attempts and traps, including sedatives, to rescue him. Other attempts included following him  in a car and throwing meat to lure him. A fox was once mistaken for the dog.

Finally, the group tracked Phantom’s routine and, on Jan. 1, enclosed him in a yard.

“We would spend hours in the car together following this dog, and one day I don’t know how long we sat,” Bang said of the group’s determination to catch the dog. “We were worried about his collar being embedded in his neck because he was having trouble swallowing food, and he had a really bad limp. The traffic in that area is horrible. So much of the community knew about him and was worried about him.”

Some nights during  attempts to catch him temperatures dropped below zero, and the group worried for Phantom’s safety.

From left, Lori Fricks, Amy Bang and Leslie Hinchee all helped safely rescue Phantom and are now searching for a home for him. (Photos by Zach Ross)

When finally caught, the group discovered Phantom had no microchip, had not been neutered and was sick with lungworm and hookworm. Although now treated, Hinchee said that if the infestation wasn’t treated when it was, the dog could’ve died. Phantom also is on melatonin for scars on his ears, where no fur grows.

Fricks is now fostering Phantom, who is microchipped to her.

“We have all fostered and rescued, but this one’s tough to say goodbye to,” Fricks said. ‘I’m struggling with it, the idea of him not being where we can check on him because we have a huge emotional investment in him and the time we went through and the almost catches and worrying about him when the weather was bad. When we finally got him, I don’t think any of us knew what to do after that. Our lives had revolved around saving this guy.”

“We were out every single day, sometimes multiple times a day watching, just because we needed to know we saw him and make sure he was OK,” Bang said.

Hamilton County Animal Control and the Westfield Police Dept. participated in rescuing the dog. Positively Canine has been in Westfield at 3276 E. Ind. 32 for three years.

A rescue video of Phantom can be found at youtube.com/watch?v=KdswSSH3hms&feature=youtu.be.

Adopt Phantom

Phantom was a stray who is being fostered by Positively Canine co-owner Lori Fricks in Westfield. Because of all the trouble rescuers went through to catch him, Phantom’s new owners need to be pretty special, according to co-owner Leslie Hinchee.

“He will be up for adoption through us,” she said. “It will have to be a very special home because he is near and dear to our hearts, especially after three months of trying to get him safe.”

“He takes time to feel comfortable, so we would not be tied to the process like a rescue would be because he can stay at my house indefinitely, and the new owners can get to know him slowly and introduce him to the household,” Fricks said. “We have that luxury.”

Phantom is good with other dogs, but he has not been tested with cats or children. He is not reliably house-trained, and Fricks and Hinchee suspect he never spent time in a house prior to the rescue.

Both co-owners said Phantom will receive training from Positively Canine for the rest of his life,  if need be.

For more, email positivelycanine@clickerchicks.com.