Ghost survived living with a pack of Nevada coyotes. Now the dog's part of a bitter custody feud.
It seemed like a simple feel-good story: A dog living in the Nevada desert with a pack of coyotes was rescued after hurting his paw and capturing the attention of local dog lovers.
The two women who trapped him in Henderson on Jan. 28 called him Ghost because he had a habit of disappearing when people got near. They thought he'd get treated for his injuries and put up for adoption.
But first, a local news station wanted to do a story about Ghost's life in the wild and his rescue. The news soon made headlines across the nation, and that's when things got complicated.
A Las Vegas family who says Ghost is theirs, and that his name is really Hades, came forward to claim him. The women who trapped Ghost didn't believe the family, leaving the two sides in a bitter feud that culminated this past weekend with a confrontation involving police.
LATEST UPDATE: Dog famed for living with coyotes in Nevada desert has emotional reunion with family
Living in the wild
Ghost 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.
Then last month a resident named Judy Hendrickson saw that Ghost was limping heavily and shot a video of him.
That's when a two-woman crew calling themselves the Southern Nevada Trapping Team say they knew they had to intervene and capture Ghost for fear the pack would turn on 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 needs amputated), and his scrotum was so badly infected, a veterinarian said it would have to be removed altogether, said Carole Sandy, a board member with Amor Paludo Animal Rescue, which had taken charge of Ghost's care and potential adoption.
The surgeries would cost thousands, and a GoFundMe page raised more than $14,000 to pay for it.
A fight ensues
Christy Cabada of Las Vegas was watching the local news with her husband when they saw a story about Ghost.
Cabada said they immediately recognized the dog as Hades, the 4-year-old bull terrier mix that had escaped from their family member's home while they were dog-sitting last summer.
Cabada was soon texting with Susan McMullen of the Southern Nevada Trapping Team. Ghost had been staying with McMullen as he awaited surgery, which was scheduled for Tuesday.
Though Hades hadn't been vaccinated or chipped, Cabada said she had plenty of photos to prove ownership and sent them to McMullen.
McMullen, in consultation with Sandy, decided the dogs weren't the same and told Cabada that she would not be getting Ghost.
Soon after Cabada and her husband went to McMullen's house. Both women's stories vary wildly as to what happened next, but McMullen ended up putting Ghost in her car and leaving, prompting the Cabadas to follow her.
Police soon responded to the Cabadas' call that they were following the car of a woman who had stolen their dog.
When police arrived, they called Clark County Animal Protection, which impounded the dog and turned him over to a group called Animal Foundation.
Officer Luis Vidal, a spokesman with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, confirmed the agency was involved in the call. Officers determined that no crimes had occurred but could not decide who rightfully owned the dog, Vidal said.
VIdal said two people at the scene were cited for obstructing officers but declined to identify who that was. The department has no further involvement in the case.
What happens now?
The dog is now on a 10-day hold with Animal Foundation, said the group's spokeswoman, Kelsey Pizzi.
She declined to say whether he has gotten any surgeries but said that "we are caring for Ghost and he's doing well."
"He's being monitored by our veterinary team," she added.
During the 10-day hold, which ends early next week, she said her group is wading through "a handful" of claims from people who say Ghost is their dog, including the Cabadas.
She said they'll determine if any of them are his owners and whether he goes with one of them or is put up for general adoption.
Meanwhile both the Cabadas and the trapping team have obtained attorneys and believe the issue is headed for court.
The Cabadas say all they want is Hades back and for money from the GoFundMe to be returned to the donors.
"We just want him back home and pray that the day does come," Christy Cabada said.
Sandy said she wants a court injunction to keep Ghost away from the Cabadas and to be able to take charge of his adoption so they can find the best owners possible.
"We don't believe that this is their dog," she said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ghost: Dog was living with coyotes but a Vegas family says he's Hades