Point of Loss – Apr 1, 2024

On Easter Sunday, Piper and her Mom were visiting family in Holmen. Piper got spooked and took off. Piper is a small miniature poodle mix who came from a breeder in Texas three months prior to her escape. Piper is unfamiliar with the area as her home is about 12 miles away.

Piper before she was Lost

First 24 Hours

There were several sightings the first 24 hours and a couple of attempts to hand catch. Piper is already a dog who is fearful of strangers so she would rather not be around strangers in the best scenarios. When a dog is “running for their life”, they are going to go into survival mode even more quickly. Piper is small, agile and fast. She can easily hide and elude the human eye. We setup two live traps with cameras in the area where she was last seen. Two days later she had not appeared on the cameras so it was time to broaden the search area with road signs and a neighborhood canvas was planned for the weekend.

First trap location with visiting dog

And we wait….

The drone operator continued to look for her each evening but the weather was difficult with snow, rain, warmth etc. So the drone searches were hard to focus on an area. It was probably a week before we started receiving some sightings from the road signs and flyers. Each time we had a sighting, she seemed to move on. She was still in flight mode and we needed her to settle into an area.

Looking for a Routine

Normally dogs settle into a routine after 5-7 days. Piper did not settle into a routine for about 2.5 weeks. Finally, we had some solid sightings from the community and the drone. She was bedded down one morning and we attempted to create a barricade and catch her but her survival instinct kicked in and she was able to elude us. Fortunately Piper had found an industrial area with a lot of cats that were being fed, lots of great cover in buildings and people who basically ignored her and didn’t really pursue her.


April 16 – 20

The morning of April 16th things started to change. We received two sightings that day in Midway and off Cty XX. We were able to set up a few feeding stations with cameras and wait but Piper did not appear on the cameras at the feeding stattions.

Around 10:30pm on April 18th, we received a sighting of her running down Commerce St by Kwik Trip off OT. Matt, the drone operator, went out and was able to spot her curled up in a corner at Hilltoppers Refuse. The next morning we met out there. The drone went up and she was still there so we took in some barriers in hopes of blocking her escape. As we were setting the barricade, she walked calmly towards the barricade and we thought she was done…. Then in a split second her relaxed approach changed and she went stiff and darted in the other direction and was gone. We tried to track her with the drone and on foot but she disappeared. A few employees at the surrounding businesses saw her run but it was a Saturday and not may people around. We continued to explore when Mick from Hilltoppers asked what we were doing. We told him and he said “She is in the building with the cats.” She had been hanging out there on Friday and they were not aware she was lost. We put up barriers and searched the building but she had obviously heard us and moved on. We left information with Mick and hoped she would return on Monday and Mick was going to try to lure her into the office.

April 22

The morning of April 22, we received 3 different sightings of Piper in Holmen between Halfway Creek Trail and Hwy 35 near Scooter’s Coffee sitting in the new industrial park in a field. We had assumed based on our tracking map that she was using the Halfway Creek Trail and the Great River State Bike Trail to move around. This pretty much confirmed our suspecision but also disheartened us as we were afraid she was on the run again…

We spent the next few days waiting for the next sighting and nothing.

April 25 – April 30

The morning of April 25th we received a call that Piper was running around inside the fence at Lappins (next door to Hilltoppers Recycling). The gates were closed but Piper had learned she could crawl under fences and she was able to escape. However, Lappins gave us permission to set up a feeding station, trap (locked open) and cameras. We already knew that Piper had been eating next door at Hilltoppers with the cats and so we were relatively confident that if Piper saw the cats eating near the trap, she would join them. It took a about 24 hours but on April 26th at 10:13pm Piper ate at the trap for about 20 minutes.

She returned the next morning for a rotessiere chicken breakfast. She continued to eat the Lappin trap consistently during the night time hours for two days.

After she ate at the Lappin trap on April 29, she did not return to that trap location. On May 1, we moved a camera to a different location at Hilltopper’s across the road. Matt set up a feeding station, trap and camera and Piper showed up on the morning of May 2 at 5am and ate out of the trap and dislodged the door and it shut but she was not in the trap.

May 3 – May 7

On May 3rd we had several sightings, Piper was seen at Wisconsin Builders Supply in their yard so we set up a feeding station, trap and camera there. Piper was also seen in a driveway on Cty ZB and the homeowner gave us permission to set up a feeding station, trap and camera there. She was also seen at Balduzzi’s Lumber sitting in their yard that evening. We were not sure if she was relocating to find a new safe spot or what but we knew we had to continue to feed the stations twice a day on schedule between 8-9am and 4-5pm as we had since April 25th at Lappins.

On the evening of May 5th, Piper ate from the WBS trap. She didn’t stay long. Next sighting was on Abbey Lane sitting in the grass next to Gasoline Alley on May 6th at 6am. Then again at 10:45am behind the Northland Storage sheds and moving along the fence. We had watched her and heard from several employees of the businesses in the area that she would run along the fences and shrubs. She would cross roads just to get to the next fence line. She moved quite discreetly. Based on these sightings, we set up a feeding station, Big Trap and camera along the fence at the back of the property between Hilltoppers and Don’s Transmission.

Piper returned to the WBS trap twice on May 7th. The first time was just after midnight and then she hung out for about 10 minutes at 5am that morning. She then was sighted at Gasoline Alley around 7am sitting in the grass again. She ran from that location to the back of the Northland Storage and along the fence. We knew she had a route and were confident that we would could get her if she just stayed around. We armed both the WBS and the Big Trap and stayed on high alert.

Finally, Piper is SAFE

We assumed she would most likely be trapped at the WBS Trap as that is where she had been eating and she had not been seen on camera at the Big Trap. However, the ever-changing Piper fooled us and she appeared on the camera at the Big Trap at 7:25pm. Fortunately we were armed and ready for her. We were enroute to the trap by 7:26. At 7:31pm we received a photo from the camera showing she was secure within the trap. Fortunately we were able to contact Luke and he ran over immediately when we called and arrived within 4 minutes. We did not call him until we were certain she was secure in the trap in case he might scare her away. Once he arrived and was watching her from inside his truck, he saw her try to pull the door open. Luke got out and walked over a bit closer and Piper retreated away from the door and waited in the back of the trap.

Upon arrival, we ziptied the trap door closed so that she could not get out and we didn’t accidently jar it loose on transport. We knew we had to be within an enclosed garage before we attempted to remove Piper from the trap so the trap was loaded into our vehicle. Once the vehicle was inside the garage we carefully opened the door and crawled inside to get her out. The trap was still inside the SUV and a second person was ready to close the car door if Piper were to dart out. Piper was pretty shut down and allowed us to pick her up and remove her from the trap. We checked her thoroughly for injuries and found none. We then sent a message to her Mom to let her know Piper was safe and where she should come and what to bring along. While we waited for Mom to arrive, we removed the many, many burrs and ticks she had accumulated over the last 5+ weeks on the run.

Welcome Home Piper!

The reunion video and photos say it all.

Community is So Important

We were able to canvas the businesses and provide them with instructions to call, not chase. The businesses and their employees were amazing. We kept the location as quiet as we could so the traffic of people searching for her would not disrupt her sense of security. She bolted from the area a few times over the last two weeks. She would eat from a feeding station for a few days and then change her routine. She knew how to evade us but ultimately she was following a few predictable movement patterns. She hit the same places and her routes where always along shrubs, between buildings and large equipment. She stayed in the shadows and being small it wasn’t hard for her to do.

Feeding Stations and Cameras

Throughout this journey we were constantly also feeding cats. We were fine with this as we knew Piper trusted the cats and they would help lead us to her. However we had to be careful to not trap the cats and if a cat was trapped release it immediately. Fortunately most of the cats were not big enough to trigger our larger traps. However, we had to make sure Piper would be large enough to trigger the trap. The ever willing Kicker, Susan’s terrier, tested the trap for us a few times and he was rewarded appropriately each time! In fact we had a hard time getting him out of the trap!

Tracking Maps, Road Signs and Flyers are SO IMPORTANT in locating Lost Dogs

Road Signs

One of the most valuable tools we have are Road Signs. Social Media is often relied upon for spreading the word and it is a great tool but do NOT Forget the value of Road Signs in the area. We always put large, simple bright road signs at major intersections in a 5-10 or more mile radius. This allows us to inform the general public traveling on those roads to watch for a Lost Dog. We hear many people say, they saw the dog and drove back to the sign to get the phone number. These signs are INVALUABLE and old school. They are inexpensive:

  • Bright Poster or Tag Board
  • Old yard signs from political campaigns or other organizations
  • Thick black markers
  • Clear Shipping Tape
  • And a few minutes

Signs should include:

  • Brief description color and breed or size
  • Phone number that will be answered 24 hrs a day
  • Do NOT Call Dog or Chase

Small Flyers & Neighborhood Canvas

Another tool that has proven beneficial is to create small flyers using the Lost Dog poster provided by most Lost Dog organizations and then some valuable reminders on the back. Print them about 4.5″ x 5.5″ on a heavier stock if possible and then hand them out to people you see and businesses.

We also organize neighborhood canvas events to have volunteers go door-to-door and talk to people. Ask them to check their garages, sheds, window wells and under decks. Especially when we are looking for small dogs. We also use these flyers to leave with businesses and the flyers were instrumental in alerting the businesses in the area of Piper’s presence and what to do if they saw her. Many handed the flyers out to their employees.

Tracking Map

Keeping track of all of the sightings is vital. We record the date, time and exact location or cross streets on My Maps by Google. We often ask people to “drop a pin” on Google Maps and send us the coordinates so we can map the exact location the dog was seen. This is how we are able to determine patterns and routines. Most dogs will get into a set pattern after 5-7 days and you can sometimes predict where and when they will be in an area and get feeding stations and cameras set up.

Piper LD TrackingMap-Final 4/1-5/7
Piper’s Final Tracking Map – Red House Icon = Point of Loss; Red Heart Icon = Point of Capture. All of the Purple Dog Face Icons = Sightings.
Piper LD TrackingMap-FinalwithAssumedPath
The Thin Yellow Line is the path we assume Piper used to get from Holmen to Midway/OT Industrial park. We know she used this path several times during her 5 weeks as we have sightings along it at different times.

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