Lost, then found

Bryan has received a homecoming three years in the making.

Lost in 2012, the black and tan dog was reunited with his family last week after a microchip proved his identity.

Animal rescue officials say his happy ending gives others hope, but it is also a reminder that microchipping pets is an essential step to take in case your pet goes missing.

Bryan had been at Almost Home, the animal shelter in Fort Dodge, for a week and had been given the name Hunter since he came in without tags, said Sam Swoyer, animal care specialist with the animal shelter operated by the North Central Iowa Humane Society. Postings had just been made about his availability for adoption when a man from Goldfield walked into the shelter Wednesday afternoon and told the staff he thought maybe the dog they were referring to as Hunter was actually his dog named Bryan.

“We’ve heard it a thousand times,” Swoyer said. “People come in and are sure that’s their dog or that’s their cat, but the problem is, can they prove it?”

In this case, she said, the man could. He had paperwork from when his dog was microchipped and he had pictures of the dog taken when it was still with his family.

After confirming the matching microchip was on Bryan, then verifying the number and the personal information registered for the dog, the man and his family were reunited with Bryan.

Bryan went home.

“His son was 1 when Bryan went missing,” Swoyer said, “and the little boy was really excited to see him again.”

Bryan first went missing in 2012 from the Goldfield area, she said. He next turned up three years later in Wright County as a stray and was turned into a smaller shelter that then transferred him to Almost Home. What happened in the time between his disappearance and return is unknown, but based on where he was lost and found, he did not seem to venture too far geographically.

He was also a healthy weight, suggesting he was not left to scavenge for food. Someone was likely caring for him, Swoyer said.

“While we don’t know his whole story, in the end, it was a good one,” she said.

But that’s not always the case. Should your pet go missing, Swoyer said don’t just rely on luck to get it back. Several steps can be taken to make it possible to locate and bring the animal home.

One of the simplest things to do is to be sure the animal always wears a collar and tags with up-to-date contact telephone number and address.

However, collars can slide off and tags can get lost, which is why microchipping is also recommended.

“Microchipping, it’s a big thing,” Swoyer said. “We really believe in it. If you adopt from Almost Home, we include it as a complementary service. It’s $40 for people who otherwise just come in and would like to have it done.”

Microchipping is a simple procedure that slips a microchip the size of a grain of rice beneath the skin of the animal. The chip and its unique number is then registered as belonging to that pet and its owner. Paperwork that comes with the chipping service should be kept in a safe place, Swoyer said. It is the link that can prove the animal is yours.

Additionally, she said, when people go out of town and have friends or family take care of their animals, if the animal runs away and is picked up, the people caring for them for you can’t claim the animal without some form of proof. This can develop into a problem if the animal sits in the county pound too long or goes into a shelter. They could easily be put up for adoption if it can’t be verified that they already have a home.

If you’re the one who finds a lost animal, Swoyer said, take it in somewhere and get it scanned for a microchip. Microchipping is common enough that most local veterinarian offices and animal shelters can scan the animal. Also, contact all of the vet offices, pounds and rescue groups in the area and let them know a description of the animal, as well as contact information should they hear of someone searching for the pet.

Communication is key, Swoyer said. People need to get the word out if they’ve lost their pets, but they also need to be able to confirm the animal is theirs when it’s found. Microchips are a great way to do that, she said, and they’ve proven the technology can help bring about even more happy endings.

Almost Home did not have permission to release the name of the family reunited with Bryan.