On September 24, 1996 thieves broke into my home and stole a ten week old puppy. If they had not been startled by our Mastiff, Murfee, I believe they might have taken her entire litter.
We spent months and thousands of dollars trying to find her, even going so far as to call Blood Hound tracking clubs and a private detective to see if they might be able to help us find her. We placed ads in newspapers, sent bulletins to vets across Canada, called every breeder we could think of to ensure they knew she was missing, and spent countless hours crying and running over all the “what ifs” in our minds. Ruby was one of a litter of seven, and was our pick puppy, the one we planned to keep. We had never lost a puppy before, and to not know where she was simply devastated our entire family. We were convinced she might have been sold to a puppy mill, and had people check auctions in their areas, in case she might turn up there. I even contacted two of the largest puppy mill auction houses in the mid west and offered a reward – no questions asked – for her return. In spite of all our efforts, we never heard a single thing back about where she might be.
On Monday, February 2, 1998, I received a phone call that changed my life. A French Bulldog bitch had been found wandering in a church parking lot one hour from where we used to live, wearing no collar or tags. The dog they found was Ruby, 17 months after she had been stolen. She had been returned to a man who called to claim her just one hour before they reached me by phone.
We were originally told that the elderly gentleman who owned Ruby – now named Mitzi – had bought her from a pet store in December of 1996 for his wife. What we found out, thanks to the diligence of Sergeant Scott Burns of Durham Regional Police, was much more disturbing. Ruby had been stolen from our home by one of the men who worked for our pool maintenance company, which explained many things that had always puzzled us. He knew our routines, and had been in our house several times over the summer, so knew exactly which doors entered into the kennel room. He also knew our dogs, and felt confident that our Mastiff would not be able to get into that part of the house. What he didn’t know was that she routinely slept there at night, which is probably what saved us from losing more than just Ruby.
He stole her with the vague plan of “breeding her to make some money”, and hoped to sell the puppies through the pet store his wife worked at. Our repeated newspaper ads and vet fliers paid off – he panicked, and gave her to his in laws as a pet. They took Ruby to the vet once, and saw her poster on a bulletin board in the office, so she was never taken back again. It’s a good thing she’s healthy, as I don’t know what would have happened if she had ever gotten sick. While the elderly man may have lied to me about where he got Ruby from, at least she was well fed and does not appear to have been abused at all.
After almost a year and a half of looking, one phone call brought Ruby back to us. How did they know we were Ruby’s breeders? How did they track us down through a move and after seventeen months? Through something as small as a grain of rice – through a microchip.
One week before Ruby was stolen we had our vet microchip Ruby’s entire litter. The microchip carries a unique ID number, and when the vet Ruby was taken to scanned her he found her implant and called the number in to the Microchip company. They pulled up their data banks and found our information there, including our phone number and the names of myself and Ruby’s co-breeder, Arlie Toye. They immediately phoned me and even sent me an email message to see if I knew who now owned Ruby. If not for that tiny chip implanted between Ruby’s shoulder blades, I still would not know where she is, which is something that would have haunted me forever.
Microchipping takes only seconds, is completely painless (most of my pups don’t even notice it’s being done), and contrary to popular belief they do not “float” around in the dog’s body. We started doing it as an easy alternative to holding down a wriggling, crying puppy while it’s being tattooed. It’s a choice I’m glad we made.
We are still amazed at how incredibly lucky we are to have Ruby back. As I was writing this, my husband commented again that “Have you thought about how simply unbelievable it is that we found her after all of this time?” It is a small miracle, at the very least. Of all the places Ruby could have ended up – in an abusive home, a puppy mill, tied in a back yard, moved across the country – she ended with people who at least seemed to love her, less than an hour away from where she was taken. I’ve always said that I *knew* I would get Ruby back some day, but I admit that the chance seemed to be growing slimmer with every month that passed.
We owe thanks to all of the people who helped us in our search for Ruby – to the people who passed her message around mailing lists and on web sites and newsgroups, to my friends who snuck into auctions undercover in hopes of finding her there, and to the people most responsible for getting her back to us finally – Sergeant Scott Burns of the Durham Police who didn’t dismiss us as “just a lost dog”, Karen Wilson of Whitby Animal Shelter, Lisa at PETNET who left messages for me everywhere, and to Tina and Grace Crane, who found Ruby in the parking lot and took the time to have her examined by a vet. Without you we wouldn’t have Ruby back with us. My wish is that every single person who has ever had something like this happen to them has an ending as happy as ours.
MORE ABOUT MICROCHIPS
Microchips are small – about the same size as a grain of rice – and they are implanted painlessly into the dog’s muscle tissue by means of a special syringe. Each microchip contains a unique ID number. Using a radio signal, a scanner reads the number, and the number is displayed in a viewing window. Shelter workers or vets can then phone the chip company, provide them with the ID number, and be given the owner’s name, address and phone number. In the case of CanadaChip, which is a partner program of the CKC, the breeder and co breeder information of the dog is also kept on file.
This is particularily helpful in cases where the new owners might not be able to be found.
I have heard arguments that chips are “un natural”, but is tattoing a struggling puppy any more natural or humane? Also, for people who don’t have full faith yet in either chips OR tattoos, you can always have BOTH done, for a truly secure feeling about your pet’s identification. Many breeders implant their own chips – if you can give an injection, you can implant a chip.
Pet owners or the squeamish can have their vet do it for them. We strongly encourage that all dog owners keep a collar with ID tags and licence information on their pet, in addition to the microchip. It’s never wise to rely on only once source of identification for your pet.
Oh, and if Ruby’s story doesn’t convince you, how about the story of a dog who was found almost 3,000 miles from where he was lost – but made it home thanks to his microchip?
More on how pet microchips work – http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/pet-microchip1.htm