A dog who gained fame for living with a pack of coyotes in the Nevada desert is finally home following a bitter custody battle between a Las Vegas family and the women who rescued him from the wild.
Hades the 4-year-old bull terrier mix is back with the Cabada family of Las Vegas, according to the Animal Foundation, a nonprofit shelter that been caring for the pup since a dispute over him led to police involvement.
The organization looked at photos, videos, and documentation showing the family had been looking for Hades after he went missing, said Kelsey Pizzi, a spokeswoman for the Animal Foundation.
“There was plenty of evidence this was their dog,” Pizzi said.
In an emotional video capturing the dog’s reunion with the Cabada family on Monday, Hades runs up to them, wagging his tail. He repeatedly jumps on them as a boy and girl cry and hug him.
“It was a very emotional reunion,” Pizzi told USA TODAY on Tuesday. “As soon as he saw his family, he ran right over to them … He just kept jumping into everyone’s arms.”
The fight may not be over
Despite the latest development, the women who rescued Hades from the desert say they’ll continue to fight for custody.
In a video posted to Facebook on Tuesday, the women assert that the dog is not Hades, but Ghost, a name the dog picked up from residents in the Henderson area who tried approaching him when he was living with coyotes.
“We’re devastated,” said Carole Sandy, a board member with Amor Peludo Animal Rescue, which had taken charge of the dog’s care and potential adoption before the police got involved.
“We’re not going to give up,” she continued. “We’re going to pursue this by any legal means possible.”
A desert rescue
The dog was first spotted in July by Henderson residents who saw him running with a pack of three coyotes. Residents would post videos and photos of him from time to time on a neighborhood Facebook group, tracking his movements with keen interest.
They named him Ghost because he had a habit of disappearing when people got near.
After a resident saw Ghost limping, Susan McMullen of the Southern Nevada Trapping Team and her trapping partner captured him.
In all, Ghost lived among the coyotes for at least six months and it showed. He’s got bite scars all over his face and body, he had a broken toe (which was causing the limp), and his scrotum was infected, Sandy said.
She said his medical care would cost thousands, and a GoFundMe page raised more than $14,000 to pay for it.
As he was awaiting surgery in McMullen’s care, a local news station did a story about Ghost’s life in the wild and his rescue. The news soon made headlines across the nation.
The Cabadas were watching TV when they saw one of the stories about Ghost and said they immediately recognized him as Hades.
Cabada was soon texting with McMullen. Though Hades hadn’t been vaccinated or chipped, Cabada sent over photos that she said proved ownership.
McMullen, in consultation with Sandy, decided the dogs weren’t the same and told Cabada that she would not be letting him go.
Not long after that the Cabadas went to McMullen’s house, where a confrontation led to a police response.
When police arrived, officers determined that no crimes had occurred but could not decide who rightfully owned the dog, said Officer Luis Vidal, a spokesman with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Police called Clark County Animal Protection, which impounded the dog and turned it over to the Animal Foundation on Feb. 4.
Home at last
In all, Hades was at the Animal Foundation for nine days as the organization worked to figure out where he belonged.
In the end, the Cabadas proved he was theirs after all.
The moment Hades ran to them, Christy Cabada said the whole family was overcome with emotion.
“This past week I was feeling horrible. I had anxiety and a knot in my chest and honestly, all of it went away when he recognized us,” she said. “My heart felt full of love.”
She said the reunion is the perfect Valentine’s Day present and that the family planned on celebrating by baking a cake.
“We got him some Valentine’s treats, he’s here, home in his big old fluffy bed,” she said.
Story Credit: usatoday.com