SMITHFIELD — A Jack Russell terrier is back in North Carolina after spending 10 days lost in the woods of New Jersey. But the dog will eventually head back up north to spend the rest of her life with the woman who rescued her.
Joy Frannicola of Smithfield is a leader of the pet-rescue group Ruf Creek Ranch, and early last month, she had arranged to fly several dogs to a shelter in Maine. Frannicola works through Pilots N Paws, a network of volunteer airplane pilots who fly dogs facing euthanasia to out-of-state shelters and rescue groups that have room for them.
During a pit stop in New Jersey, the pilots took 5-year-old Piper and several other dogs for a walk. But the airport was next to a drag strip, and Piper got spooked.
According to Frannicola, the little dog “bolted, pulling the leash out of her handler’s hands. She escaped through a hole in the airport’s perimeter fence and ran into the woods.”
Piper’s disappearance sparked a rescue effort that involved New Jersey residents who didn’t know the dog or the North Carolina group trying to find her. Media outlets asked folks to keep an eye out for the missing canine. Volunteers canvassed the woods where Piper was last seen, and members of the Angier group that had care for Piper flew to New Jersey to join the search.
After 10 days, the searchers were starting to lose hope. Piper is small, and they weren’t sure she could make it on her own. At best, they hoped someone might have already taken her into their home. “A lot of dogs get picked up, and we never hear about them,” Frannicola said.
Then Cyndi Albujar, who lives nearby, spotted Piper while walking her own dog. She placed cat food in a traps to snare the scared, lost dog.
More than two weeks after Piper ran off, she was on a plane returning to A New Leash on Life Dog Rescue, the Angier group. Volunteer pilot Terry Friedman also took the opportunity to bring back three other dogs that needed a rescue flight. “It turned out to be a miracle flight,” Frannicola said. “It all worked out.”
Though she’s back here for the time being, Piper’s not among the dogs up for adoption. Albujar took a liking to Piper and will take her back to New Jersey when her other dog passes away.
While Piper’s set for life, Frannicola is hoping the dog’s story will inspire others to adopt. For more information on Frannicola’s rescue facility on Brogden Road, go to rufcreekranch.com. A New Leash on Life also has pets available at anewleashonlifedogrescue.org.