The following fictional tale tells the story of Charlie, the black Labrador retriever. Learn the immense value of a tiny microchip from Charlie’s heart-wrenching experience when he runs away from his home. 

It all started when my pet parents left for the holiday weekend. My family often leaves me at home when they go away on vacation. I don’t mind it. Actually, I prefer it. They tried putting me in a kennel once and, while the staff was nice, I didn’t sleep or eat well while I was there, and had bouts of diarrhea. After that, my family searched for a caregiver to look after me when they went out of town. Kim is our 20-something neighbor who’s smitten about all things furry and four-legged. She comes by a couple of times a day, feeds me more than she probably should, and takes me on a different walk every day. This July Fourth weekend was set to go like every other time the family left—except it didn’t. 

It was Saturday. I spent most of the day dozing, nosing around for long lost crumbs, and wandering from window to window to observe what was happening outsidean ordinary day at home without my family. When Kim came by that evening, she was dressed in red, white, and blue, star-shaped sunglasses embellished her head, and sparkling beads dangled from her neck. She fed me a hefty bowl of kibble and filled up my water bowl, promising she’d return for another bathroom break. After she patted me goodbye, I went to my cozy perch by the window with my favorite stuffed toy, and nestled in to digest my large dinner. Little did I know that only a few hours later, I’d be far from my favorite resting place. 

The first “BOOM!” awoke me so suddenly that I swear all four of my feet left the ground. “What was that noise? Where did it come from? Am I in danger?” raced through my head. Another “BOOM!” I looked out the window and saw colorful lights falling from the sky. “BOOM!” Again. My immediate instinct was to leave. I darted for the backdoor—thankfully, Kim had left it slightly ajar, and I was able to escape without breaking through the screen door. I ran across the yard, and dug and dug and dug until I could wriggle my way under the dilapidated fence. It was a tight squeeze, but once my collar and identification tags snapped off, I was free. “BOOM!” I ran. My old joints don’t work like they used to, but I alternated walking and running for the better part of the night until, finally, the explosions stopped. I found a quiet respite in a neighborhood park, got as cozy as I could under a nearby tree, and drifted off to sleep.

When Kim discovered I was gone, she made the uncomfortable phone call, and my family returned immediately. When I didn’t return the next morning, panic settled in. Meanwhile, I was wandering around, feeling exhausted, trying to make my way back home. As the morning progressed, I saw more and more people—mowing their lawns, playing basketball, or tinkering in their gardens. A few gazed at me curiously, assuming I lived down the block and would return home on my own. Then, as the sun began leaning toward the west, a woman who’d been eyeing me for about an hour approached me. She patted around my neck in search of an identification tag, and then proceeded to check her phone for any missing pet posts, to no avail. So, she helped me into her car, and began driving from neighborhood to neighborhood, looking for flyers and pictures of an aging black lab, again with no luck. Then she took me home, and made me a makeshift bed in her garage. We tried again the next day. And the next. 

I was grateful to have a roof over my head and food in my belly, but I missed home. Then, after a week of unsuccessful searching, we were in a completely different town about 15 miles away, when the nice lady suddenly stopped the car next to a telephone pole, pointed to a picture of me and shouted, “That’s you! That’s you!”  

Kim was at the house when I arrived, and was the first person to greet me. In fact, she lifted all 75 pounds of me off the ground, and didn’t let me go for a full minute. The rest of my family came in to join the group hug. I was so relieved. 

The next day, my family took me to Belmont Animal Hospital to ensure I hadn’t sustained any injuries, and to booster my rabies vaccine. My veterinarian suggested microchipping, and explained the benefits of the tiny, rice-sized chip that is inserted under the skin similar to a vaccine, and my family agreed. Honestly, I barely felt the injection—I had my eyes fixated on the bowl of cookies staring at me from the counter. The awesome Belmont team showed my parents how to register my chip number, and instructed them to monitor the injection site for a day or two, although usually there were no complications from the implantation, they said. I am so happy to have my chipI feel great knowing that if I ever become lost again, a quick trip to a veterinary clinic or animal shelter for a microchip scan will reunite me with my irreplaceable family. Once my number is pulled up on the scanner, a simple phone call to the microchip company will provide my family’s contact information, and I’m on my way home. I definitely don’t plan on escaping again, and one thing is for certain—my family won’t be planning any future July Fourth getaways. 

If you’re on the fence about microchipping your pet, contact us for more information, or visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s comprehensive guide on microchips and pets.