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Mr. Roscoe's adventure

dozens on a wild chase and then slips in his doggy door at 5 a.m.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 22, 2000

SEMINOLE -- After hightailing it from his owner's Pinellas Park bingo parlor 12 days ago, an American pit bullterrier named Mr. Roscoe turned up at 5 a.m. Monday at his Seminole home.

[Times photo: Douglas R. Clifford]
Larry Lafkowitz, left, comforts his dog as Ben Tipton, center, and veterinarian Mike Eldridge check for injuries.
"When he came over to me and started licking my face, I thought it was a dream," said Tracey Lewis, who was asleep on her fiance's sofa.

The 11/2-year-old dog had chewed his way through a wooden fence and crawled through the doggy door in the back of owner Larry Lafkowitz's house.

Mr. Roscoe's 11-day adventure began March 10, while the unleashed animal was inside the Park 66 Bingo hall, which Lafkowitz owns. Suddenly, the medium-brown dog with a black snout ran for the door.

"He bolted out before I could catch him," said Lafkowitz. "Other than our yard, Mr. Roscoe never went anyplace (outdoors) without a leash. He's the greatest, most loving dog you could have."

Mr. Roscoe's escapade couldn't have come at a worse time, said Lafkowitz, who had to go to Italy on business two days later.

That left Lewis, several of Lafkowitz's neighbors and dozens of friends -- even bingo patrons -- looking for Mr. Roscoe.

"Larry was so worried, he called me from Italy twice to see if anyone found Mr. Roscoe," said Merilee Bennett, a next-door neighbor. She owns one of Mr. Roscoe's sons, Brutus, a 6-month-old puppy, which is part pit bull and part beagle.

Bennett and another friend, Beverly Norcum of Largo, took turns driving around trying to find Mr. Roscoe.

"We would take different shifts," said Bennett. "Bev would go in the early evening hours, and I would go after midnight. I even used a spotlight."

They also handed out fliers, checked with various pet shelters, put ads in newspapers and offered a $1,000 reward for anyone who could actually catch Mr. Roscoe.

It didn't take long before Bennett, Norcum and Lewis began to hear of Mr. Roscoe sightings.

Shortly after he bolted from the bingo hall, Mr. Roscoe apparently headed northeast to 78th Avenue N, according to one report.

A few days later, he was spotted behind an auto detailing shop several miles north, at Belcher and Ulmerton roads.

"We know that people would put out food and water along the way, but they were either afraid to approach him or just couldn't catch him," Norcum said. "It was at Belcher and Ulmerton where he came out of his dog collar -- which we got back."

The next report of the wayward, weary Mr. Roscoe came a few days ago at 46th Avenue N and Bay Pines Boulevard, miles south of where he was last seen.

"Then, it's really a mystery," Norcum said. "We think that he must have jumped in the bayou and swam to the Pinellas Trail. Of course, we have no way of knowing, but we think he traveled about 25 or 30 miles."

The trail goes through Seminole, very near Lafkowitz's home on 118th Way N.

After he returned Monday morning, Mr. Roscoe slept on the floor, never venturing more than a few feet away from Lafkowitz and Lewis.

In the afternoon, Lafkowitz took Mr. Roscoe to the veterinarian and for a bath and massage before returning with him to the bingo hall.

"He was pretty stinky when he showed up this morning," said Lafkowitz.

The veterinarian, Mike Eldridge, of the Animal Medical Hospital in St. Petersburg, examined Mr. Roscoe and found no broken bones or parasites.

But he had sores on his paws and had lost about 9 pounds.

"We are going to have a welcome-home party for Mr. Roscoe," said Bennett.

"A doggone good party," added Lafkowitz. "In the meantime, after we get home from the bingo hall tonight, Mr. Roscoe is going to get a big steak."

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