19 April 2015
By Joanna Samson, FOTAS Vice President
When friends of mine adopted a young, severely abused retriever mutt named Missy from a local shelter, they knew it would take time, patience and kindness to earn her love, but they were determined and committed. Over the course of the next year, Missy grew to love and trust her humans, but only her humans and no others. Although her physical wounds had healed, Missy’s psychological wounds could only heal so far.
So when Missy disappeared from their campsite in rural Vermont during a thunderstorm two years later, the family was devastated. They searched everywhere. They called every shelter and every law enforcement office in southern Vermont. They posted photos in vets’ offices, local restaurants and on telephone poles. They flew back to Vermont, returned to the campsite, and repeated the process on a regular basis. Missy had, quite literally, disappeared, and after months of fruitless searching, they concluded, with broken hearts, that she was gone for good.
Two years later, my friends received a call from a veterinarian in Vermont. A couple of college students from a nearby campus had brought in a painfully thin, matted and terrified stray dog for medical treatment. The boys had been leaving food for her in their backyard for more than a year, but until that day, the dog had never let them close enough to catch her. The vet scanned the trembling animal, and to his relief, discovered she had a microchip embedded with her family’s contact information implanted in the loose skin between her shoulders.
Missy had been found.
The practice of microchipping was developed in response to the plight of thousands of pets lost or separated from their owners during Hurricane Katrina. The microchip is programmed with a unique identification number registered to the pet’s owner and is implanted by painless injection by a veterinarian or other animal care professional.
Aiken County’s Chief Animal Control Officer, Bobby Arthurs, is a big believer in microchipping.
“When we pick up an animal,” says Arthurs “we scan it immediately. If we find a microchip and the owner’s registration is current, we contact the owners and take the animal home right away. We can bypass the shelter completely and save everyone a lot of heartache and stress.”
The national statistics regarding the return of microchipped pets support Arthurs’ enthusiasm. According to a 2009 article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, twice as many microchipped dogs and twenty times as many microchipped cats are returned to their owners compared to lost animals with no microchips.
The County shelter microchips all of its adopted animals; it is part of the adoption fee (along with the cost of spay/neuter and inoculations). If your pet comes from someplace else, the County can microchip your dog or cat for only $23 (Aiken City Animal Control and the SPCA have similar programs). It’s quick and painless, and it could save your pet’s life.
Missy has been safely and happily home with her humans for a while now, still painfully shy, but otherwise recovered from her ordeal. Her remarkable tale had a happy ending because of her innate determination to survive, the kindness of strangers, the competence of the vet, and the wonders of the microchip.
Their lives are in our hands.
PETS OF THE WEEK
EDEN Male, Bulldog/Lab mix, 1 year old, 54 lbs — $35
MISTY Female, Domestic Short Hair, 4 years old — $15
All black dogs $35 and black cats $15 through April 30, 2015