An English setter named Soup was honing his quail-hunting skills on Saturday when he was distracted by a scent.
In the woods next to the pecan orchard where he was training, Soup smelled a deer.
The dog took off running into the trees in Montgomery, Alabama, leaving his owner behind, reports The Washington Post.
Soup's family, Michael Parker and Leigh Goyer Parker, searched for him for days. They were despondent, Leigh said, and thought their 3-year-old pup was gone forever. When Michael noticed buzzards circling a carcass, he felt sure that Soup was the birds' dinner, until he saw that the creature was a deer.
Then the Parkers got a call from a guard at the prison a mile away. He heard that the couple was looking for the dog, and he wanted to tell them that he knew where Soup was. The dog's tag fell off, and employees at the prison didn't know Soup had a microchip.
Michael discovered Soup was living large at Kilby Correctional Facility, which receives most of the state's inmates for evaluation. The inmates were giving up their dinners to feed Soup, who feasted on roast beef, chicken tenders, steak and peach cobbler, as first reported by the Montgomery Advertiser.
Soup, whose name was the nickname of Leigh's father, got to run around a big field outside, play basketball with the inmates and tussle with the K-9s who work at the facility.
"He was living high on the hog," Leigh said in an interview.
Charles Brooks, a plant maintenance supervisor, said he found Soup at 6 a.m. on Monday laying by a state vehicle and looking scared. After Brooks fed him a biscuit, the dog followed the maintenance staff everywhere. At night, Soup slept under a shed outside, and he rested on top of a makeshift bed of old towels during the day.
Brooks met Michael outside the maintenance shop on Wednesday when he pulled up to the prison in his truck.
"Do you have good news for me?" Michael asked, according to Brooks.
Brooks said he whistled for Soup, who trotted out from the shop. Parker sat down on the concrete and started crying as Soup climbed all over him, Brooks said. Then the dog jumped into the front seat of the truck.
"You absolutely knew that it was his dog," Brooks said. "Me and the dog were inseparable for three days, and he wouldn't even come to me when that man pulled up."
Soup was either worn out or depressed on his first night back at home, but he started acting like himself again on Thursday, Leigh said. Luckily for Soup, the separation from his new friends at the prison is unlikely to last forever.
"We're going to take him to visit the prison," Leigh said. "And we're going to take the warden a pecan pie."