Few things can match the fear, dread and panic of losing a pet. Whether it's coming home to find that your dog managed to dig his way to freedom under a fence, watching as she breaks free from her leash during a jog or a hike, or any of the numerous other ways that a beloved dog or cat can go missing, not knowing where your best buddy is has to be one of the worst feelings in the world.
For me, that nightmare became a reality a few weeks ago, when Sarah (my significant other) and I visited Atlanta for a wedding. Nola Mae, our floppy-eared beagle-basset mix who is so darned cute she was featured in a Pedigree dog food ad, and Olive, our recently adopted Catahoula Leopard Dog, who, despite being filled with a fistful of pellets from a shotgun, is the most loving, trusting dog imaginable, were along for the ride.
As we often do when we take a short trip, Sarah and I found a pet-friendly hotel where Nola Mae and Olive could snuggle up to us when we were in the room, and devour treats and take naps when we weren't.
After getting the girls settled in the room with plenty of toys, Sarah and I locked the door and left for a quick lunch. When we returned to the motel, we saw -- to our horror -- that the door to our room was standing wide open. Nothing was missing -- except for our most important possessions: Nola Mae and Olive.
How, exactly, they managed to sneak out is unknown. Either a maid opened the door to attend to the room and didn't make a very strong effort to corral our dogs when they made a break for it, or Olive managed to jump against the door and push down on the door's lever handle, like a canine Houdini, to open the door. Either way, our dogs were gone and our hearts were broken.
After a few minutes of frantic, tear-filled searching, we found Olive in a gazebo gladly accepting tummy rubs from a couple of the motel's housekeepers and maintenance men. But Nola Mae was nowhere to be found. Since the motel sits on one of the busiest intersections in Atlanta, we feared the worst.
Soon after we got back in the room with Olive, Sarah's phone rang. It was a nearby veterinarian's office calling to say they had Nola Mae. We didn't know what condition she was in -- or why they called Sarah's phone. My number was on Nola Mae's collar. How did the vet even know how to reach her?
It turns out a good Samaritan named Grant who saw Nola Mae running across the five lanes of traffic of a major North Atlanta highway pulled over, snapped her up out of the road and put her in his car. When he searched her collar for an identification tag with a phone number, he found nothing. Somehow in the mayhem of breaking free, running through several hundred yards of weeds and brush, crossing an intersection and jetting several blocks down the road, Nola Mae's ID tag came off her collar.
Fortunately, when we adopted Nola Mae, she was implanted with a HomeAgain microchip. Each microchip contains information that is saved in a nationwide database allowing lost pets to be reunited with their owners no matter how far the dog or cat has travelled.
A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is implanted with a simple injection. The process takes only a few seconds, but the microchip lasts a lifetime. Most shelters and animal clinics have microchip scanners that identify microchipped animals and provide the contact information of the animals' owners.
With no way to get in touch with us, Grant dropped Nola Mae off at the closest vet's office. The veterinarian scanned her for a microchip, which showed Sarah's phone number and our address. Getting in touch with us was a simple as dialing the number that popped up on the scanner.
Within minutes, we were at the vet's office with Nola Mae safe and sound in our arms thanks to a very kind-hearted good Samaritan, a thoughtful vet and a microchip.
In celebration of Nola Mae's safe return, the McKamey Animal Center, HomeAgain and the Free Press opinion page are joining together to make sure more lost animals are reunited with their owners.
The first 25 Chattanooga Times Free Press readers who bring a pet to McKamey and present this article will have their dog or cat implanted with a free HomeAgain microchip like the one Nola Mae has.
Simply visit McKamey at 4500 N. Access Road in Chattanooga to receive the microchipping at absolutely no cost thanks to McKamey and HomeAgain.
The microchips will be implanted on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a limit of one free microchipping procedure per family, but McKamey will microchip any additional dogs and cats for only $25 per pet. The free microchip is available to any Chattanooga Times Free Press reader, no matter your location. McKamey microchips pets Wednesdays through Saturdays.
By microchipping your dog or cat, you can greatly increase your chances of having a happy reunion like we did if your best friend is ever lost or missing.
- Drew Johnson