News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Alachua’s ‘Ghost Dog’ no longer haunting animal loving residents

Princess investigates the camera. (Elena Bressler/WUFT News)
Princess investigates the camera. (Elena Bressler/WUFT News)

“Ghost Dog” may sound familiar to some Alachua residents, but the elusive stray is a ghost no more.

Her new owner has coined a more fitting name for the recently adopted dog: Princess.

The famed ghost dog who frequented Alachua’s Heritage Oaks along U.S. Highway 441 has finally found a home. The woman who saved her life? Jennifer Trenteseaux.

“Everything that I saw in her was love and beauty, and she was a princess,” Trenteseaux said.

For 10 years, Princess, also known as the Ghost Dog, Gypsy or Purdy Girl, wandered between U.S. 441’s Raceway gas station, the Publix parking lot and Wendy’s. Attempts to rescue the dog were futile – she refused to approach people. That is, until Trenteseaux, a 39-year-old computer tomography technologist at UF Health Shands Hospital, gained the dog’s trust and gave her a new life.

“She’s linked to me, and I’m linked to her,” said Trenteseaux.

Like Trenteseaux, members of the Heritage Oaks community in the city of Alachua spent years providing for Princess. Others gave her food, water, blankets and even made her a doghouse.

Trenteseaux rubs Princess' snout. (Elena Bressler/WUFT News)
Trenteseaux rubs Princess' snout. (Elena Bressler/WUFT News)

“If it wasn’t for all the people that felt the need to go after her, felt the need to leave water for her, felt the need to leave food for her or felt the need to make sure she didn’t cross 441 again, she wouldn’t be here today,” said Trenteseaux.

Trenteseaux first encountered Princess in 2017 in the Raceway parking lot while getting gas. She said she grabbed anything she could find in her lunchbox to coax her. But the closer Trenteseaux came, the further Princess ran. She chased the dog for more than two hours through the Publix parking lot, with no luck.

“You never really know what to expect, you don’t know their backgrounds…you don’t know what’s going to set them off,” said Trenteseaux.

These encounters continued for years, but Trenteseaux did not give up. In 2022, Princess moved her shelter from the parking lot to the fence in front of the Heritage Oaks community. Every day when Trenteseaux drove her golf cart to the fence, arms filled with chicken and treats, the Ghost Dog came running.

Then in February this year, the pair sat together for hours, Trenteseaux luring Princess closer with food: 30 feet apart, then 20, then 10. After two years of dedication and persistence, Trenteseaux made a breakthrough.

“The first time she ate food out of my hand, the waterworks just came,” she said. “It was love. I tried to keep it in because I didn’t want to scare her away. She almost shook with happiness, and she wanted to be touched, she wanted to be loved,” Trenteseaux said.

A visit to Hilltop Family Vet in Heritage Oaks revealed that Princess had acquired a plethora of health-related ailments, including a tick illness which affects her blood. She needed to be put on medication indefinitely. The disease requires her to take four pills a day, including steroid injections.

Jennifer Trenteseaux feeds treats to her dogs. (Elena Bressler / WUFT News)
Jennifer Trenteseaux feeds treats to her dogs. (Elena Bressler/WUFT News)

Trenteseaux and her husband Nate are already parents to four other dogs, which they call their kids: Austin James, Ace, Lily Ann and Bug. The two are animal lovers and said they are more than equipped to add another to the mix.

“She’s very much so already part of our lives and part of our family,” Trenteseaux said.

Trenteseaux’s neighbors in Heritage Oaks had similar instances of helping the Ghost Dog. Her Facebook page is filled with updates on Princess. When she brought the dog home, she received an outpouring of gratitude and recognition in her post’s comments.

“None of this would’ve happened without the army of people here in Alachua County banding together, not knowing each other existed, to help this animal, so thank you.”

Shannon Wallace-Giles, a 51-year-old UF Health emergency room nurse, said if Trenteseaux didn’t adopt the dog, she would have.

“At the beginning it was super difficult because we had no clue what her story was,” said Wallace-Giles. “But as the years went by and we’d see her all the time, she just took this little place in our hearts.”

“It’s beautiful. It keeps our community completely bonded together forever,” said Trenteseaux.

Jennifer Trenteseaux and husband Nate play with their dogs. (Elena Bressler/WUFT News)
Jennifer Trenteseaux and husband Nate play with their dogs. (Elena Bressler/WUFT News)

Ghost Dog's full history, and how she ended up at a Raceway, will likely remain a mystery. The community still talk about her ten year stint on the side of the road, Wallace-Giles recounting how she once saw Princess eating out of a deer carcass on her way to work.

“I’d love to know her story before that and know where she came from,” Wallace-Giles said. “She was resilient to live in the woods alone for 10 years.”

Another Heritage Oaks resident, 54-year-old Vickie Dyal, an acupuncturist at the Healing House of Alachua, is the one that asked a friend in the lumber business to make Princess a doghouse.

“I came back the next day, someone added a pink blanket to the doghouse,” said Dyal. “Everyone just kept adding to it.”

According to both Dyal and Wallace-Giles, Trenteseaux has a unique ability to be able to bring Princess out of the shadows.

“It’s like fate,” said Dyal. “It really is.”

“She was the perfect person for it,” said Wallace-Giles. “I’m glad Princess found that kind of attention and that kind of love.”

The Trenteseauxs are trying to help Princess transition to her new life. Their main goal is to make Princess comfortable living indoors.

“She does not belong outside, she does not belong in the woods, she does not belong on the streets,” Trenteseaux said. “She belongs in a home with a family that loves her and holds her every night as she goes to sleep.”

From struggling on the side of the highway to living in luxury, Princess can finally rest in her castle–with her very own queen.

“It is the biggest honor in this world to feel an animal’s love and to be bonded with an animal in this way,” Trenteseaux said. “I wish it happened sooner.”

Elena is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing