Rescue operation for Oconee County dog takes disappointing turn - FOX Carolina 21

Rescue operation for Oconee County dog takes disappointing turn

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Photo snapped of the dog now known as "Piper" (Courtesy: UARFSC) Photo snapped of the dog now known as "Piper" (Courtesy: UARFSC)
"Piper" spotted in Westminster (FOX Carolina/ May 15, 2014) "Piper" spotted in Westminster (FOX Carolina/ May 15, 2014)

Sunday morning was a somber time for volunteers entering their seventh day trying to rescue the stray dog now known around the world as "Piper."

Volunteers have been scouring a 500-acre stretch of federal forest land in hopes of finding the abandoned dog who was seen last Monday with a section of metal ductwork stuck on his head.

After days of setting traps and trying to earn the wild dog's trust, volunteers were hopeful they would finally succeed in their mission late Saturday night.

"We almost had him," said Kelly Blair with the Upstate Animal Rescue Foundation of South Carolina.

Blair said a veterinarian equipped with high powered binoculars had been tracking the dog, and volunteers trained in netting animals were closing in on Piper.

The veterinarian also made a critical observation about the dog's health.

"He's still certain that the metal is wound too tightly around Piper's jaws for him to eat, but he's fairly certain that Piper is able to drink water," Blair said. "So at least he's still able to get some nourishment."

As the volunteers inched closer to the dog, keeping careful watch on him with infrared equipment as the minutes ticked away, Blair said bursts of gunfire ripped through the calm night air, and sent Piper bolting away into the darkness.

"Some of the neighbors were having a yard party and just starting shooting, expelling what sounded like dozens of rounds at a time," Blair said. "In a matter of minutes, they probably went through over 150 rounds of ammunition and may have ruined six days of rescue efforts. We're just going to have to start over (Sunday)."

Blair said Piper wasn't seen again for the rest of the night.

"This is a traumatized animal who is leery of humans, and it takes time to earn enough trust to get close to him," Blair said.

While people around the world have been shouting for volunteers to tranquilize the dog with a dart gun, Blair said shooting a dart is not as easy as it sounds.

"What people don't understand is that, even with the best tranquilizer rifle, you have to be within 40 yards of the dog to get a successful shot," Blair said. "We were right near that point before the shots rang out."

Sunday morning brought heavy rain to the area, adding to a long list of obstacles and dangers the rescuers face.

"There is a lot of rugged terrain that's home to timber rattlers, wild boar and bears that we have to be mindful of," Blair said. "Now we also have to take into account the cold and the rain."

While Blair said some volunteers felt that neighbors' actions had set them back, other neighbors worked to lift their spirits.

"One woman living nearby has opened her home to us," Blair said. "She continually makes us coffee, orders pizza for us and gives us a place to regroup and plan the next step."

As the UARFSC's rescue mission continues, news of their operation has spread around the world.

"People from across the United States, even as far away as Australia, have reached out to us," Blair said. "They all have advice and tips for us, and we want to assure them that we're using every resource we have access to in the area," Blair said.

While the dog remains bunkered down after Saturday night's fright, Blair said volunteers hope to finish building a barrier fence around Piper's known area of travel.

"We're hoping to build this fence to close in on Piper without him realizing it," Blair said. "We're using store-bought chain link kennels, breaking them apart and using the individual walls as fencing. We still need a few more to be able to complete the fence."

Blair said concerned members of public have continually asked what they can do to help. Blair said any donation of chain link kennels would be greatly appreciated.

"We're using ten-foot by teen-foot, six-foot tall kennels," Blair said. "They can be new or used."

Anyone interested in donating a kennel can reach out to the UARFSC through their Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Blair said the UARFSC's team of volunteers and local veterinarians are going to remain patient and diligent, and she's certain that, eventually, they will save Piper.

Update here:

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