When Piper, a white and tan terrier, escaped her new home in Green Valley six weeks ago, no one imagined she’d run literal circles around the community, much less produce dozens of tips and photos as people tracked her whereabouts.

The fact she is still alive is a surprise in itself.

She’s dodged every attempt to reach her, and it became clear early on that it would take an army of volunteers to bring her to safety — Piper’s Army, an animal-loving team of four or five locals committed to bringing her home.

Piper, who escaped from her newly adopted family in mid-March, has been on the move in Green Valley and Sahuarita ever since; the sightings come in on a daily basis.

She was spotted most recently Tuesday morning.  

From Nextdoor to Facebook, phone calls and texts, Piper's Army has been busy.

Green Valley resident Laura Berfield is the main contact when people spot a flash of white and tan in their neighborhood.

It’s been such a long and consuming task, Berfield can hardly remember how she even got involved. But it spoke to her passion for helping animals.

 “I have a ton of previous rescue experience," she said. "Before I retired, I volunteered for a rescue in Phoenix and I was with that rescue almost four and a half years before I retired from my profession.”

Berfield said Piper has been traveling in a large circle, with sightings as far as north as Anamax Park in Sahuarita to Esperanza Estates in central Green Valley.

“I just saw her this morning,” she said Friday. “She’s a traveling girl. I don't know how she is still alive, but she is.”

Though many have tried to get Piper to come to them with food or gentle words, Berfield said the dog  appears afraid and is unfamiliar with the area since she came from Tucson and escaped just days after arriving in Green Valley.

“She has been recently rehomed from Tucson and hasn’t had time to bond with her new owner,” she said. “I don’t know how she got loose but it happens sometimes with newly adopted or foster dogs.”

Vickie Jackson has also been dedicated to the cause, and she actually had a sighting of her own before jumping on board to help.

“I came back from Minnesota and one of my first days home I was driving and I saw a dog cross the wash behind me in my rearview mirror,” she said. “I thought, ‘poor thing.’ By the time I got home and got parked there was no way I could have gone after her. It was dusk.

“I didn't put it all together until recently.”

She got involved after joining Nextdoor and seeing posts about Piper.

Jackson said the original adopters of Piper made flyers after she ran off but no longer wanted any part of the search or the dog, leaving them to piece together some of the story.

“What we have found out is the dog was found in South Tucson and a person found her, instead of taking her somewhere like a rescue the dog was given to a 60-year-old lady who gave her to her 80-year-old mother here,” she said. “The lady had her for two or three days.”

It's not clear if Piper belonged to someone in Tucson before getting lost there.

Piper escaped once but was caught. Then, she got out of the car when the woman was at Walgreens on Esperanza Boulevard, running across the street to the Best Western hotel where attempts to catch her failed. She’s been on the move since.

Jackson said a group of them got together April 12 to plan and since then they have gotten some advice on what to do.

“We’ve learned a lot,” she said. “There's someone temporarily in Green Valley from Minnesota who was part of a lost dog rescue. She got a hold of us and gave us some hints and advice.”

Because of Piper’s current state, Piper’s Army has advised people who spot her to not approach or startle her and give Berfield a call.

Traps and snaps

Berfield said by this point she’s probably received 60 to 70 calls and texts about Piper sightings, and counting.

“I don't care if it's 4 a.m. or 9 p.m. — call me or text me, doesn't matter which,” she wrote on Nextdoor. “I'll sleep later.”

Currently, they are trying to catch Piper by setting a humane trap in the area she seems to be settling in most, around Esperanza Boulevard and Abrego Drive.

“Even if I see her, she runs,” Berfield said. “We do have a trap set up for her and we hope one day she is hungry enough to walk into it.”

Jackson said they reached out to a Tucson based trapping group called Animal Experts, who said they are doing everything right.

“We got tips from him and when we can get her to go to one spot for food, that's when we or they will trap her,” Jackson said.

Along with the trap, Berfield created a Gofundme page with the goal to raise money for a drone to help search for Piper.

“We had initially hoped to buy a drone, but we have someone who will offer his drone to use,” Berfield said. “People come out of the woodwork.”

The man who volunteered his drone in the search also helped in the search for missing Green Valley man Johnny Huff.

The $380 contributed toward the drone now will likely go toward taking Piper to the veterinarian. They might also donate some of the remaining funds to The Animal League of Green Valley.

What's next

As of Friday, Piper had been spotted near Esperanza Estates, though she remains on the loose.

Jackson said she’s doing well considering she’s been on her own for five weeks.

“We know she's eaten a few times and people have witnessed her eat,” she said. “She could be getting water from water systems for plants and at golf courses. People have been putting food out and she really is in good shape but she needs to be caught.”

Berfield said they are hopeful they can catch Piper and that The Animal League would take her and the right owner could be found.

Jackson said the community help has made all the difference, and she believes they will catch Piper, it’s just a matter of time.

“We're not alone in this. Everyone else out there looking and helping with sightings and locations is the best way to help. We couldn't do it alone without the community.”

Jamie Verwys | 520-547-9728 


Reporter Jamie Verwys grew up in Sahuarita and graduated from the high school in 2006. She lives in Tucson and graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2018.

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