I’ve been telling the story of converting my van to a van dwelling here on AC. Once it’s complete and some other things are taken care of, I’ll be traveling all around the United States. My dog, Sadie, is a great traveler and she’ll be coming with me as a fellow Van Dwelling Wanderer .
Sadie’s very good about coming when I call her and staying within the bounds of my unfenced, forest property, but being on the road without a home base will put a new twist on our relationship. I was concerned about her safety and well-being while with me on the road. One aspect of that, was worry over what would happen if she got lost.
Some years ago, when I first moved to Virginia and before Sadie’s time, there was a snowstorm overnight that left us knee deep in snow. We were on a mountain on a dead end gravel road among a maze of other gravel roads hidden in the forest. Many of the houses around us were vacant summer homes.
I’d gone out to start digging us out and somehow didn’t get the door quite latched. Our two dogs, having had little exercise during the move and being very restless, slipped out and took off up the mountain, ignoring the road – and me as I saw them streaking around the corner and called them. I was sick. They were city dogs, unused to undeveloped areas, bent on stretching their legs and having some fun. I knew that they would immediately be lost.
The road had not been plowed yet, but I set out to dig out our little four wheel drive Geo Tracker and began searching as soon as we could get out. Both dogs had collars with tags but everything referred to our last home, back in Massachusetts. We’d only been in Virginia three days. My Belgian Sheepdog had been tattooed and registered. The problem was, the tattoo was several years old and had begun to distort, becoming very difficult to read accurately, and if he lost his collar no one would know which registry to call. This was assuming they even rolled him on his back to see the tattoo in the first place, on the inside of his thigh.
The story did have a happy ending, nearly four days later. We’d posted flyers from one end of the mountain to the other and called everyone I could think of from the animal shelters and vets, to the radio stations and sheriff’s department (and our old vet in case someone called them). Several people called us, having seen them. Apparently my friend’s Lab was happily getting fed from one end of the mountain to the other while my Belgian, being suspicious of strangers, continued to travel with him but would not be lured in. We finally got a call from someone who still had them in sight. They were about five miles down the mountain, footsore and very happy to see us.
We were very, very lucky. It’s not something I wish to go through again. Many dogs never do get back to their owners. Sadie’s story is like that. I adopted her from my local animal shelter when she was about a year old. Animal control had found her running the streets and she was a wreck, flea-ridden and full of worms. They thought she might have been on her own all summer. Her owner never did come to claim her, so I got to bring her home.
She now wears a collar with several current tags, including one with my cell phone number which will remain the same as I travel, but collars can get lost. I considered getting her tattooed, as my Belgian had been, but was also aware of a newer technology called microchipping. Checking into that, it seemed the Home Again people would be my best bet. I was even happier to find out that my vet and the local animal shelter were already using that company for their microchip applications.
The next time I was at the vet I asked about it and a couple of minutes later, Sadie was microchipped. She didn’t even blink as they inserted the needle holding the microchip between her shoulder blades. (I blinked when I saw the size of the needle. Home Again’s website says the chip is “about the size of a grain of rice”). The vet then ran a hand scanner over the spot to be certain that the chip was reading. My job was to register the chip by it’s serial number, either by going online to Home Again’s website or by calling them. And also to add the Home Again ID tag to her collar. Very easy.
My vet charged $35 for his part of the process. This price will probably be different from vet to vet. Home Again charged $14.99. This is an annual fee, but I find it well worth it for the peace of mind it provides.
Animal shelters and veterinarians nationwide are working with Home Again. When an animal comes in, each of them is scanned with a hand scanner to see if they’re microchipped. If they are, the chip’s number appears on the screen and they can then notify Home Again that the animal has been found. Home Again then notifies the owner. It’s important that, after your initial registration you make sure to keep your contact information current, so that they can reach you if your pet goes astray. Home Again also provides medical insurance for your lost pet up to $3,000 (minus a $50. deductible) in case your pet is injured while it’s lost. This is free as part of their service, you just need to be sure and enroll when you register your pet. With this method, even if the collar is lost, a pet can be reunited with her owner.
This gives me peace of mind as I become a van dwelling wanderer and hit the road with my best friend, Sadie.