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Can Island Dog finally adjust to domestic life?

Blaze, “The Island Dog” who was rescued from a spoil island, escaped the day he was adopted and was on the loose for 50 days, is safely back home.

Blaze was finally found May 5th, in an under-construction house on Crown Eagle Circle SW. When Indian River County Animal Control received a call that a stray dog had been spotted in the area, Officer Rick Hall responded to the site. Officer Hall was able to leash the dog after luring him in with some pepperoni sticks. “I think this is Blaze,” Office Hall said, recognizing him from his local celebrity status as “The Island Dog.”

“This is Blaze, this is Blaze,’ Hall said. He called Blaze’s adoptive owner, Brittany Norair and said, “Hey, guess who I have on leash.” 

The search efforts to find Blaze were nothing less than heroic. Immediately after Blaze jumped the fence of his new home, Norair, 37, a server at Cobalt restaurant and a free-lance photographer and 20-year Vero resident, alerted authorities. She knew the public backlash would be terrible, but in the best interest of the dog, she posted on social media asking for people to help keep an eye out and contact Animal Control or herself if Blaze was spotted. There was a mix of criticism and support on Norair’s social media post, but ultimately it led to sightings of Blaze that allowed Norair to pin down his location. 

Blaze however, would not be caught easily. 

This German Shepherd has known no other home, or even his name. He did not want to be captured. Norair, a free-lance photographer, devoted herself to scour neighborhoods for Blaze. She organized a group of volunteers to hang flyers, search woods and residential areas. Some even flew drones to get an eye in the sky with hopes of spotting Blaze. She spent her nights laying in bed researching ways she could bring Blaze back home. Live traps were set in areas Blaze had been spotted. Norair checked the traps frequently throughout the day and night catching and releasing raccoons, opossums, and one armadillo, but no Blaze.

Animal Control and volunteers came close to finally bringing Blaze home when he was spotted on a farm. After being chased through tall grass, trees, fences, and even dodging a tranquilizer dart, Blaze disappeared. Norair continued to place traps baited with smoked meat and sardines to tempt Blaze. People phoned in sightings of Blaze eating roadkill, so Norair even went as far as carrying a dead opossum and placing it into one of the traps. “It did not help, I threw up on the side of the road,” Norair said. “That was the worst smell I ever smelled in my life.” 

Weeks went by with no Blaze sightings. Then he was spotted on Atlantic Boulevard, about a half a mile from his previous sightings. Animal Control couldn’t respond that day, volunteers sprang into action. The volunteer who spotted Blaze followed the dog on foot and ran back and forth within a canal for about 20 minutes. While waiting for help to arrive, the volunteer got stung by bees and tripped, falling to the ground after getting tangled around the ankles by fishing line. By the time he returned to his feet, Blaze was gone. An expanded search on foot, by car and by drone that day was fruitless. Blaze was spotted once, but evaded all attempts to capture him. 

Norair continued to set traps, make calls to experts for advice, and cooked food in fields near Blaze’s last-seen location to put the scent out of fresh bait piles. Still not enough to lure Blaze. Then weeks later and seven and a half miles away, Blaze was finally found. He was weak, and tired. There was no running left in him. He was ready to call the chase off. 

“Officer Hall had called me, and when I tell you my heart dropped, because I thought the universe was going to play another cruel trick on me, and that I was getting a call that Blaze was found, but not in the way I wanted him to be found. I just started crying,” Norair said. “I’ll bring him to you, let’s get your dog home,” Officer Hall said. 

Norair and Blaze have since then adjusted well together. Blaze is settling into his new home. He sits on the couch with Norair and rests his head on her lap. Blaze follows her around the house and sleeps next to Norair at night. Norair still takes extra precautions to make sure Blaze is kept safe and the two have begun meeting with a professional trainer. There is no doubt in Norair’s mind that she will be Blaze’s forever home. She believes fate played a part in their meeting. Coincidently, the day that Vero Beach Police rescued Blaze from the island, Norair’s beloved dog of 16 years was put down, and the day Blaze was returned to her would have been her dog’s 17th birthday. 

Norair’s said the search for Blaze taught her to never give up. “Hope can seem lost, you can feel like you have no chance in the world of getting to your goal, but anything is possible,” she said said.     

Photos by Joshua Kodis

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