John Grogan archive: Doggone fugitive could go county


What we have here is not just another petnapping. What we have is the makings of a No. 1 country music hit.

Something like, "Doggone, my doggie's on Death Row, and I'm stuck at home with the fleas."

The subject of this hit-song-in-the-making is a yellow Labrador mix named Phantom, who was sentenced to die by lethal injection for mauling a 10-year-old neighbor girl.

Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control deemed Phantom a menace and locked him up to await his last meal. Enter Phantom's owner, Marie Fravel of West Palm Beach, who began waging a last-ditch battle to save her 11-year-old pooch's hide.

("He's a surly cur, and he stinks to boot, but he's everything to me.'')

Fravel was not having much luck with the canine appeal process when, as luck would have it, Phantom's ticker started to act up.

("My hound's old arteries are about to bust, and I'm left with a broken heart.'')

Animal control officers agreed to release Phantom to his veterinarian, who had been treating the mongrel's bad heart. That's when the dog disappeared.

("Phantom's now invisible, and I'm a mom on the run.'')

An early morning rendezvous

The vet, Dr. Richard Kunz, reported that Fravel came to visit her dog at his office about 7:30 a.m. on Monday when only an assistant was on duty. Fravel asked to take her ailing pet for a walk, and that's the last time anyone has heard from either of them.

The pair are considered pawed and dangerous and should be approached only with a generous supply of Milk Bones.

("The only heat he's packin' is a set of pearly whites.'')

County officials consider Phantom stolen and want him back. The only one who might know the pair's whereabouts isn't talking.

"If they think I'm going to say where Phantom is they're barking up the wrong tree," said Phantom's lawyer, Barry Silver.

Many loyal women have chucked it all to follow their lawbreakin' men. But Fravel may well be the first to do it for her lawbreakin' Lab.

It all adds up to Nashville nirvana. All the country music elements are there: a sad-eyed hound, a prison, a death sentence and a good-hearted woman. If only Fravel were dating the dog catcher ...

("I love you Mr. Dog-catcher man, but you'll never get my pooch.'')

This story is so perfect, in fact, Hollywood may be the next stop.

Remember Thelma and Louise? If the story of two renegade women on the run from the law could be a hit, so can the sequel: Phantom and Marie. It'll be the story of a misunderstood hound and his dedicated mistress, livin' on the lam, moving from town to town in search of a reprieve.

Just the pooch for the part

I'm not sure what actress would be best to play the mistress, but I'd be happy to volunteer my own dysfunctional yellow Labrador, Marley, for the dog's role, especially if they promise to keep him on Death Row after the movie ends.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Before the movie, we need the song.

And it goes like this:

Dum-du-duh-dum, dum-du-duh-dum ...

My doggie never hurt nobody

Till he bit the girl next door.

He knocked her down and mauled her face,

And then went back for more.

Now the dog catcher has come around to put my pooch away,

But first he'll have to find us, and that will be the day.

Me and my dog, Phantom, we're runnin' from the law,

Me on my two hoofers; him on his four paws.

If you spot a pooch in sunglasses with a muzzle on his snout,

You've surely found my Death Row dog; stay back, he'll bite you, too.