Pet Identification: Microchip vs. Tattoo

My pet is missing!

That is the worst nightmare of a caring pet owner. When our old border collie, Joshua, was spooked by fireworks and ran off, we thought we’d never see him again. He was twelve at the time and infirmities were setting in.

We searched the neighborhood, put out flyers, contacted the SPCA, posted to online groups and anything else we could think of. Joshua was wearing an ID tag from North Shore Animal League where we had adopted him from, but he had lost it somewhere in his blind panic. Fortunately for all of us, a kind woman found him and alerted the SPCA who then called us. Three days later we had our precious boy back and were blessed to have another two years with him. We were very lucky.

According to the American Humane Organization’s website:

  • 56% of dogs and 71% of cats that enter animal shelters are euthanized. More cats are euthanized than dogs because they are more likely to enter a shelter without any owner identification.
  • Only 15% of dogs and 2% of cats that enter animal shelters are reunited with their owners.

When Saphyre, a standard poodle, joined our family, we wanted to have her permanently identified so if she were ever lost we would have the best chance at recovery. The options we considered were Microchip and Tattooing.

First I researched microchips, the popular choice. Once implanted they are permanent and shelters will check for them. Vets, shelters and some rescue groups offer chipping for a range of fees. There is no battery involved. All that’s required is a scanner and Pet/Owner Identification is easily retrieved.

However, I also learned there is anecdotal evidence that chips can migrate from the injection site and they may cause cancer if a sarcoma forms around the chip. Owners are advised to regularly check the area of the implant for tenderness or swelling. Hard to do if the chip has migrated.

Chips are not visible to the naked eye. The pet must be taken somewhere that has a scanner and that scanner must be the universal type that can read all kinds of chips.

Logic tells me that inserting a foreign body into an organism could lead to problems. There have been reports of nerve damage and even death from improperly inserted chips. These cases are rare, but that is little comfort if it is your pet that dies.

Veterinary Oncologists quoted in an Associated Press article, Chip Implants Linked to Animal Tumors, concluded that more study was needed and that anyone considering a chip should be apprised of the risks.

Next I researched tattoos. I learned there are two main registries: Tattoo A Pet and National Dog Registry. They are easily identifiable from the lettering of the tattoo. Authorities are familiar with these registries and call the appropriate one and the registry supplies contact info for the animal’s family.

Tattoos can be applied by a vet or someone authorized by the registry (often they are groomers). The tattoo is applied either in the ear flap or along the rear inner thigh. There have been reports of dogs having their ears cut off to eliminate tattoos so the thigh has become the more common site.

The procedure takes just minutes and requires no anesthesia. Once applied it is easily visible to the naked eye. The drawbacks are that darker skin may be harder to read, the area should be kept shaved for best visibility and the tattoo may fade over time. Fading can easily be addressed by reapplying the tattoo so that issue is negligible.

For Saphyre we opted to go with a tattoo. I contacted the registry and got the names of some local tattooists, made the appointment and vóila, Saphyre was permanently identified as part of our family.

Our Saphyre
Our Saphyre

The procedure really did take just minutes. The tattoo instrument reminded me of an engraving pen. Each letter and number were simply drawn on leaving a large blotchy spot. Saphyre never whimpered or otherwise indicated discomfort beyond being restrained on the table. When the ID was complete, the area was swabbed, revealing an easy-to-read code that uniquely identifies our Saphyre. Filling out the paperwork actually took longer than the tattooing.

If you choose to have your pet permanently identified, I encourage you to take a little time and research your options. Choose the best one to meet your needs. Then you can rest easy knowing should your pet ever get lost, there is a greater likelihood you will have a happy reunion and beat the statistics.

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My foray into fostering

His name was Beau. He was purportedly a shepherd mix. Maybe, but there was definitely some Bull Mastiff in there. He had a huge head which I was soon to learn he used most effectively.

I had decided to try fostering dogs after reading repeated pleas in my local paper. Our county SPCA had closed down and local rescues were doing their best to fill the gap, but they needed foster families to house them.

I also thought it would be a great way to see if a second dog would fit with our family. You see we have this wacky, hyperactive, standard poodle, Saphyre, who we absolutely adore, but her antics can sometimes be a bit much. A companion for her could be exactly what we all needed. Fostering seemed like the perfect way to find out.

Beau was about 80 lbs of sweetness and love. He wanted to kiss everyone and was just happy to be part of a family. He and Saphyre hit it off immediately. They wrestled with intensity and then collapsed until the next time. Yesssss!

Saphyre & Beau wrestling
Saphyre & Beau wrestling

However, like with all things there was good and bad. Beau did not like being confined, even in our generous fenced yard. He immediately began digging under the fence and escaped repeatedly. Once he was loose there was no catching him until he was done with his adventure. Worse, Saphyre escaped with him so there were two dogs running around wildly.

Luckily we have a lot of rocks which I immediately began hauling and placing around the fence. With all the rocks in place and the yard appearing secure, I let the dogs out again. Beau very shortly put that big head of his to good use pushing the rocks! The ones he didn’t push he flung, some as much as two feet, as he went to digging past them!

After more chasing down loose dogs, and some very scary moments involving the road, they were once more captured. This time I hauled small boulders. These were large enough that I had to use a lever and tractor to gather and place. At last, success!! The dogs were now safely contained and we could begin to enjoy our foster boy.

One thing I noticed was that Beau did not respond to his name. I checked with the rescue group and learned that he had been found wandering the streets. The shelter had given him the name Beau and he had lived primarily in a kennel before going into foster care. Little wonder he didn’t respond to the name. (Being an animal communicator comes in handy at times like these.) I asked him what he would like to be called and heard Sampson. But he didn’t answer to Sampson so I tried Sammy. That was it! When I called him Sammy he visibly relaxed and came to me.

We had a really nice couple of weeks before Sammy found his new family. They made sure to reinforce their fencing before his arrival, and by all reports, he is a perfect fit.

Don’t you just love happy endings?

Farewell little poodle

I’ve previously posted about Nyla, the little poodle who went to live with the draft horses. Little Poodle finds home with Giant Horses and Update on the Little Poodle

Nyla had a great life and lived each day to the fullest. She was adored by her family and never taken for granted. She made it her mission to rid the farm of ground hogs and excelled at the task. Much to her chagrin, she had even begun having short “rides” on the horses. Her guardian delighted in seeing Nyla sitting on the back of the gentle giants.

Sadly, Nyla was recently killed in a trailer accident when she decided to go visit her friend, Noella. Her family was devastated and asked me to communicate with her. They needed answers and some closure and I was privileged to be able to act as their conduit.

When I contacted Nyla, she was spending time with two dogs (Princess and Mystery) who had previously lived with her family. They had been there to meet her when she transitioned. Nyla communicated with me both in words and pictures. What Nyla shared with me is below in bold blue. Her guardian’s comments are interspersed in italic green.

She’s hanging out with Princess and Mystery. They are swapping stories about the horses. Mystery particularly wants to hear about the ground hogs. Sitting under a shade tree just relaxing and visiting.

It’s just like Mystery to enjoy hearing about ground hog hunting. She always stood by and cheered Princess while she hunted. It’s fascinating to know Princess and Mystery teamed up on the other side – just like they did in their life with us – to help Nyla.

Nyla says she’s sorry. She just wanted to see Noella so badly and wasn’t as careful as she should have been. She didn’t feel pain. There was just a thud then dark and floaty. Next thing she remembers is being in this new place. Princess and Mystery were there when she woke up and explained what happened. That helped because she was confused. She’s not sorry she crossed over, she rather likes it there. But she is sorry that she broke your heart. She treasured your time together and would not have deliberately hurt you like this.

Nyla’s choice of words, “break your heart”, is significant. I have not said those words to anyone, but Nyla. When Princess and Mystery passed, my heart was broken, but not by them. However, this time, it feels as though Nyla directly broke my heart with her abandoned recklessness.

I appreciate and accept Nyla’s apology. My pain is soothed knowing she, too, treasured the life we shared.

She loved sitting in your lap. It made her feel so special. She wonders if you understood how important that was to her?

Nyla was so undemanding, so perfectly independent – I never refused her need for cuddles. She was irresistible. I’m so glad it meant something special to her. It seemed as though she was here to make everyone she met feel loved and needed.

She says please don’t be sad. She would like you to remember how happy you were and hold onto that. Don’t let the sadness block out the good memories. It’s ok with her if you get another dog but pick a good one so you will be happy together for a very long time.

Our hourly joys were so intense, they easily out shine the pain of my loss. As for my next dog(s), I am already scanning the possibilities.

She says she’ll come back to you if you want. She would enjoy another lifetime riding on the quad and sitting in your lap. It was a good life and she appreciates that you gave her a chance at such a good life.

Nyla will always be welcome in my life. She knows my breed, age, gender, size and price specifications. I wouldn’t want to bore her by asking her to return with the same temperament and personality. Instead, I  challenge her to find a way to improve on her already perfectly perfect self.

As soon as she is ready, I want her back in my life.

Her thoughts are still a bit jumbled from the shock so there wasn’t much else but she will fully come back to herself in time and be capable of more fruitful conversation. She’s sorry to be so slow but that’s just the way it is right now.

I will continue to talk to her and enjoy her presence, no matter where she is.

Thank you, Debbra, for giving me such a beautiful message from Nyla, my perfectly perfect poodle.

With gratitude,
Gayla of Serenity Equestrian Center
Photos of Nyla, Princess and Mystery

Wild dogs thriving in Moscow

Having recently blogged about my chickens demonstrating Darwin’s theory, “survival of the fittest,” I was fascinated to read about Russia’s wild dogs.

It seems that when the old Soviet Union collapsed, homeless dogs relocated to the suburbs along with the industrial complexes they inhabited. However, their main food source was in the city. Gotta have a place to sleep. Gotta eat. What’s a dog to do?

These clever dogs quickly deduced that they could simply commute, just like the humans. According to scientists who have studied the phenomenon “Dogs are surprisingly good psychologists.” Not only have they worked together to solve a problem, they are having a good time doing it. Observers have noted that they make a game out of jumping onto the train at the last minute, barely escaping getting a tail caught in the closing doors.

The full story along with pictures comes from Britain’s The Sun.