PARAGOULD, Ark. – MaryMargaret Church never gave up hope when her canine companion, Piper, went missing on February 13.
“Family members said you’re just going to get your heart hurt again if you keep looking, getting your hopes up and it not being her,” she said.
Somedays, MaryMargaret said she felt silly sharing her missing dog posts on social media. Her posts reached thousands of shares. Even a local billboard, donated by Mallory Gulley of Gulley Bail Bonds, was used to show the missing canine. With so much exposure, MaryMargaret stayed hopeful. But the days turned into weeks and eventually months with no real leads.
Then on Monday, April 11, almost two months after she went missing, MaryMargaret received a call. Someone who had seen her posts online had spotted the missing four-legged member of the Church family. Piper had been picked up by someone and taken to their home, said the informant, who wished to remain anonymous. Within a short time, Piper was located and back at home in the Church household.
“The relief is just unreal,” she said. “I seriously have looked for her almost daily.”
The family, including husband Jason and their children, Maize, 10, and Joshua, 1, rested well Monday night, having their pack whole again. It’s the perfect ending to a story few would have expected to see end this way. But the happy ending almost didn’t happen.
More Than A Pet
On January 3, 2018, MaryMargaret let her son, Maize, get a dog for his birthday from Jonesboro Animal Control. With barking dog sounds filling the room, the mom and son duo walked down the aisle between pens. They reached Piper’s pen. Unlike all the excited dogs, Piper was curled up in the back, shaking. She had kennel cough and was terrified.
Maize immediately wanted her.
“I took him to school the next day,” MaryMargaret recalled. “I went back to the pound when I dropped him off and I asked to see her…I have a video of getting Maize from school and bringing him to our house and walking into the door and seeing her in our living room. He kept holding her saying ‘No way!!!!'”
In 2020, MaryMargaret and husband Jason added another doggie member to the family. His name is Kevin. Like the others, he became attached to Piper, too.
“Piper has always been like Kevin’s ‘mom’ so to speak,” she said. “He eats when she eats, he follows her around and she’s the ‘boss’.”
It was Super Bowl Sunday, February 13, when the two dogs got out of the house. MaryMargaret remembers it happening during halftime. Kevin ended up back home a few hours later, panting. But Piper was no where to be seen. Worse yet, Piper had gotten out without a collar on.
MaryMargaret made several posts on social media that week about Piper but the most widely seen was shared over 1,300 times. Although the viral post would ultimately lead Piper back to her family, weeks without answers left the Church family feeling hopeless at the time.
“My oldest had a hard time and didn’t think we would see her again after a week had gone by,” MaryMargaret said.
During the span of the two months, countless hours were spent searching for Piper. MaryMargaret missed work. She also faced several instances of false hope, mostly brought on by well-intended tips. However, one person actually attempted to scam her by falsely claiming to have found the dog.
“I’ve thought so many times I had a lead and that ‘Today would be the day I found her,’ and it was never her,” she said.
But she never gave up. Finally, on Monday afternoon, April 11, her perseverance paid off. MaryMargaret received the phone call she had been hoping and praying for. A woman wanting to remain anonymous said she believed she knew where Piper was.
“She said [someone in the area] brought home a dog a few months ago and he told her that he found her at a gas station in Paragould,” MaryMargaret said. “Then she saw my post people have been sharing and said, ‘These people are really bad people so please don’t say how you found out where she was, but she’s outside in the pouring rain and she gets out all the time and they end up finding her. But when I say Piper, her ears perk up.'”
The Church’s drove to the address to find her. Just like they had been told happened so often, Piper had gotten loose and was running down the road.
“When she saw me, she jumped into the car and we took off…” she said.
After so many false leads, it was hard to believe finding the missing pup was reality.
“I was so emotional,” MaryMargaret said. “I was so happy when we got home and everyone saw her walk through the door. No one believed it would be her.”
The person who gave the tip refused a reward, MaryMargaret said. Knowing Piper was back home was rewarding enough, the person said.
The family had their Piper back. But they also got another member of the family back, too: Kevin. In the two months since Piper went missing, Kevin had stopped eating. He lost almost 20 pounds. He became moody and the veterinarian actually put him on medication for the depression.
“When Piper came home today he was jumping off all four paws into the air and went and ate his entire bowl of dog food,” MaryMargaret said. “It’s like we got them both back in a sense.”
The family rested better than they have in recent memory Monday night, MaryMargaret told a reporter. They celebrated being reunited Tuesday with a “Pup Cup.” After months of emotional highs and lows, the story finally had a happy ending – coincidentally on National Pet Day – April 11.