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And this is how it went. Around 5 or 6am, Ghost Dog wandered to the Vanderbilt Street Playground, where he was fed by various park-goers accustomed to his visits. A few hours later around 8am, he walked to the dog beach, where he lingered just outside the metal fence. He barked until people, mostly dog-owners, tossed scraps over the fence for him. He spent much of the rest of the day lounging in the Nethermead, careful never to be touched, but playing with other dogs. At 5pm, he headed to the Quaker cemetery and there, he kept careful watch as the horses paraded by. He barked loudly at the sight of them, perhaps saying hello. He strolled back to the Nethermead to play with dogs on their off-leash adventures. He slept in the hollowed trunk of a fallen tree, a tree he hollowed and that bore his claw marks. If ever he got hungry, he could rummage through the dumpster behind a pizza restaurant for scraps. This was the dog’s life.
In the weeks before Ghost Dog’s capture, Casey and Ipcar started to receive more reports about a large mastiff “haunting” the park. They received allegations of aggression that Casey cites as completely ridiculous. “He’s a sweetheart,” he says. It is likely his size that lends him a reputation of aggression. Ghost Dog is 109lbs, and beefy. He has a wide face, and short nose. If he were to bark or open his mouth, he would reveal large, white teeth, and a thick, pink tongue. He looks intimidating, a massive dog without collar or leash.
But his behavior had begun to change recently. He had always been comfortable with other dogs, and always on alert when humans came too close, ever ready to run, but he began to let down his guard. He started lounging in the open on the meadows of the Nethermead, letting strangers come within yards of him. He wasn’t shy anymore, he didn’t seem alert. He was limping too.
Casey had been planning on capturing him at some point. A dog gallivanting in the park forever was unsustainable. At some point, when the dog slipped up, he would be caught. Casey worried that this injury was a problem too. He, and those who had come to know Ghost Dog, launched a plan to capture the dog and get him treated medically.