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Evasive, ‘sly’ ex-showdog ends months as tramp

CENTRAL KITSAP, Wash. – A champion St. Bernard that avoided capture for more than nine months is finally back home.

Cinde Bannon of the Newberry Hill area adopted Flash, a 3-year-old retired champion, in August. Three days later, the 145-pound galoot lumbered down the driveway and was gone. Bannon put classified ads in the newspaper and got about 100 calls reporting Flash in Seabeck, Hintzville, Dewatto, Tahuya, Belfair, then back within a couple blocks of home, in Silverdale and finally Poulsbo.

Flash was on somebody’s porch eating their dog’s food or dumping over trash cans. People got close enough to take pictures, but couldn’t catch the red-and-white giant with a white stripe splitting his big black noggin. With each call, Bannon visited the neighborhood, tacking up posters and searching.

A man called and told Bannon to hurry over. His wife was chasing a St. Bernard down the street. It turned out to be George, not Flash. Another guy called and said he had tracked down a St. Bernard in Shelton and had him in his car. Again, not Flash.

“He is a clever little guy,” Bannon said of the elusive former showdog. “He traveled so many miles, and I did, too. I was just determined to get this guy back home.”

One morning about two weeks ago, Annette and Kristan Franzen, of Poulsbo, looked out their back window. On a wooded hill overlooking the bay, sleeping under a big cedar tree, was a St. Bernard. He showed up most mornings and nights, but wouldn’t let anybody near him. Fifteen-year-old Kristan set out food and water each day, and slowly started gaining his trust.

The Franzens and their neighbors tried everything to find the dog’s owner, to no avail. Then one of them remembered the newspaper ad. They got Bannon’s phone number and called her. She was in Hawaii. They emailed a picture. It was Flash.

Bannon decided to return Flash to his original owner, if he could be caught.

“I felt that he needed to go back to what was a normal life for him,” said Bannon, who has another St. Bernard and has since added a puppy. “He’s really skittish, so afraid of people.”

Kimberlee Dorr of Heavenly Acres Saint Bernards in Estacada, Ore., was thrilled at the chance to get Flash back.

“I had flat-out anxiety attacks about him being gone,” she said. “It was horrible.”

Dorr arrived and even she couldn’t lure Flash. After a few days, she went back home. The Humane Society set up a trap, but Flash was too smart. Finally, after about a week, he went for the food Tuesday and tripped the gate.

“The animal control guys said he’s kind of a legend, like Bigfoot,” Annette Franzen said. “He apparently traveled all over the place. Animal control would go out and try to catch him, and he was too sly for them.”

Dorr said Flash is incredibly healthy, and heavy, for being on his own for nine months and 16 days. He had kennel cough and an ear infection.

“In the end, she’s happy and I’m happy he’s in the right place,” Bannon said. “We both thought after all the trauma he’s been through, he needs normal. She’s just ecstatic getting him back.”

Flash is happy, too. He won’t leave Dorr’s side, and keeps giving her kisses and crawling into her lap.

“He’s so happy he’s home,” she said.