I've been seeing a lot of "Lost Dog" postings online lately. It breaks my heart to think of somebody's precious animal lost, alone and afraid, wandering hungry through the city streets. In every instance, I believe an ID tag on the dog's collar could make the difference between that animal getting home safe and sound and never being seen again by his family.
It made a difference to me.
I adopted my beautiful black lab mix, Mickey, July 2007 from The Anti-Cruelty Society on LaSalle Street at Grand Avenue. They told me he was about 4 years old and his former family "just didn't have time for him." My last dog had died several years earlier and I was actively looking to adopt another one. After checking several online Petfinder postings and visiting three different animal control centers, I wound up at The Anti-Cruelty Society.
For a nominal fee, you can adopt a homeless animal that has been neutered or spayed, is up to date on shots, has been temper-tested, health-tested and is equipped with an identifying microchip, which is injected just under the animal's skin at the base of his neck. In addition, after filling out a bunch of paperwork, I got a temporary leash and collar, rabies tag and an ID tag for Mickey. On one side it reads "The Anti-Cruelty Society" with Mickey's ID number beneath. On the other side the tag reads: "I am lost. Please call ..." and lists The Anti-Cruelty Society's phone number. Although Mickey has a different collar from the one he came with, he still has the same ID tag. And it was that tag that enabled me to be reunited with him when he ran away once upon a time.
I was living in rural Michigan in early 2010. And when I say "rural" I'm talking a little cabin that was heated with wood on the grounds of a recreational cooperative. Mickey, being the squirrel-obsessed dog he is, LOVED living in the country. One morning I let him out and he took off after some critter. I heard him crashing through the underbrush in pursuit of his prey. And then I didn't hear anything. He was gone.
Frantic, I quickly got dressed and tromped around in the snow, calling him repeatedly. Nothing. Although Mickey has taken off before, he always came back eventually. That day was different. He had been gone for a couple of hours by the time I started driving up and down the dirt road we were living on. I even ventured out onto the paved county road, praying I wouldn't find him lying in a ditch. There was no sign of him.
I was back in the cabin, beginning to think I was never going to see my sweet doggie ever again, when the phone rang. Did you lose your dog? a pleasant voice asked. Yes, I said, tentatively. I was thinking, how the heck did she know where to find me?
Turns out Mickey's romp took him about 1/2 mile away as the crow flies to our closest neighbor to the north. They had a big, custom-built log-cabin home set back from the road. The husband noticed Mickey rummaging through their garbage cans. The way they tell it, Mickey was a slippery thief. He did not want to be caught. But once they were able to corner him on their expansive wooden porch, he became completely cooperative, wagging his tail and hoping for snacks. Racing through the woods in all that snow and tearing into garbage is hard work, after all!
The good Samaritans checked Mickey's tags and called the out-of-state number. Unfortunately, I had not updated my contact information with The Society yet, so Mickey was listed at my previous address in Wisconsin! After the receptionist told them they would have to bring the dog to Chicago if the owner couldn't be found, the couple decided to do some more investigative work locally.
They tried calling the co-op I was staying at because people from out-of-state visited there often. Whoever answered the phone at the main office recognized Mickey from the couple's description and transferred the call to my little cabin in the woods. Twenty minutes later I had Mickey back home where he belonged and had made some new acquaintances. All because of a little silver tag.
Now that I'm back in the city, Mickey doesn't get to run loose like he used to, unless we're at one of the fenced-in dog parks. Even so, the microchip and ID tags ensure that someone will be able to find me if Mickey and I were to get separated.
I hope nobody ever has to use the tag, but it is VERY reassuring to know my Mickey has one--just in case.