Sheltie Returns Home After Six Years Thanks to Microchip
Shetland Sheepdog, Adopted by Loving Family, Unknowingly Holds Former Owner's Information in Microchip
A few months ago, a Las Vegas family unexpectedly got the best – and most surprising – holiday present ever when they were reunited with their Shetland Sheepdog, Willie, after he’d been missing for six long years. The long-overdue reunion happened all thanks to observant animal shelter staff who checked him for a microchip. Sure enough, he had one and the information on the chip led them to Willie’s owners: the Marks family.
Way back in 2009, Allison and David Marks took a vacation to Pioche Hills, NV with their Shelties, Willie and Waylon. While enjoying the great outdoors, the (four-legged) pair took off after a rabbit. Only Waylon returned.
Willie, who was just five at the time, was a typical herding breed dog - agile and fast. The nearby rabbit triggered his quick reflexes and sent him on the run. The rest of that vacation was spent trying to locate the lost dog, but fliers, posters, drive-bys and calls to local animal shelters were of no avail. The family returned to Las Vegas without their beloved Willie.
That same year, 300 miles away from where he was lost, a deputy picked up a stray Sheltie in poor health and with a bad leg. It was Willie. After a little TLC, he was adopted by a local family who never thought to check for a microchip. The family eventually moved to Elko, NV, taking Willie with them. Six years after the move, Willie took off again. But this time he was taken to a shelter where it was routine to check for microchips; Willie’s microchip information led them to the Marks family.
Before 1991, this story might not have had a happy ending. That’s when microchips were first invented and they’ve been growing in popularity with pet owners ever since - and for good reason. This tiny chip (no bigger than a grain of rice) contains a chip, antenna and capacitor that’s easily inserted into the dog’s shoulder. Don’t let the small size fool you – the chip is encoded with everything needed to reunite lost dogs with their owners. (The chip must be registered and kept up to date.)
And don’t worry about the pain -- there isn’t any. Well, not much at least. If you’ve taken your dog to the vet for a rabies shot or blood draw, you’ve probably noticed that the poke doesn’t seem to bother them – at least when the vet is distracting them with a treat! And this is just the same.
Important Facts About Microchips
- Most vets, many shelters and some pet stores offer microchips.
- The procedure is quick and easy – no surgery involved.
- The chips are affordable, with costs generally ranging anywhere from $40 to $100 for the chip and registration.
- Unlike a collar, the chip can’t be lost or shaken off. It’s permanent.
- Most shelters and many vets have the equipment to scan for chips.
- Microchips only “work” when scanned. They can’t track a dog’s whereabouts.
- If you do choose a microchip, don’t forget to register the number with a recovery database like HomeAgain for a small annual fee – and don’t forget to update your information if you move, get a new phone number, change your last name, etc.
Keep in mind that microchips are a good place to start, but as a responsible pet owner, you can do even more to protect your pet. Be sure they always wear a collar or tags that give the pet’s name and the owner’s phone number. Though, don’t assume that tags are enough – if a pet is lost or stolen, collars and tags may be removed or fall off. If your dog has the tendency to run (like Willie), consider attaching a GPS tracker onto their collar.
And finally, there’s a unique new option out there for pet owners. It’s a facial recognition app. Here’s how it works: Download the app (2 popular ones are PiP and Finding Rover). Upload a photo of your dog to the database, and if your dog ever does go missing, you can use the app to match your lost pet with ones that have been found.
While Willie’s tale was a happy one for the Marks family, it’s safe to say that the story was a sad one for the loving family who cared for him during those six years. Adopting a stray from a shelter is a wonderful thing, but be sure to ask your vet or shelter to scan for a possible microchip. They’re increasingly common, but since they’re not visible to the naked eye, there’s no way to know - unless the dog is scanned for a microchip - all the pertinent contact information of the dog’s owners (if owned) is right there under the skin.
It’s easy to get caught up the in the fun of owning a brand new dog, but whether you take on a puppy or adopt a shelter or rescue dog, remember that dogs do occasionally become lost (or worse, stolen). Be sure to get your dog micro-chipped or otherwise ID’ed. And if you’re lucky enough to rescue a pup that needs a new home, be aware that he may belong to someone else, so check for a chip.
Then, your happy tale can really begin.