DICKINSON — When Sweetie, a Pomeranian owned by Alan Jones and his wife, Debra Burris, went missing in 2007, they figured they’d never see the fuzzy pup again. Then — a month ago — came the call.
Jennifer Phipps left a short voice mail on Jones’ mobile phone.
“This is Jennifer with the Harlingen Humane Society in Harlingen and this call is in reference to a little dog named Sweetie,” she said. “Please return my call.”
Could it be? Six years after she disappeared, could Sweetie still be alive?
Thanks to a decision to have a microchip implanted when she was adopted in 2003, Sweetie, now 13, is home again.
“It was after hours when she called, so I had to wait until Saturday morning to call,” Jones said, adding he couldn’t get much sleep. “I stayed up all night.”
Jones was elated to know his dog was OK. He also wanted to know how Sweetie ended up in South Texas, 351 miles away from Dickinson.
That’s still a mystery.
Jones said he had long suspected a member of a yard crew that was in the neighborhood took her. But he didn’t have anything concrete to go on.
Phipps, the Harlingen shelter’s assistant manager, said Sweetie was brought in about a month ago by a family saying it could no longer care for the dog. Phipps handled the intake, which included checking the dog for a chip.
“That’s the first thing we do whenever we get a purebred animal,” she said. “Then we check, and if there’s a chip we call the company and track down the owner.
“This happens to be one of those weird, good-ending stories.”
Phipps said a chip implanted in a yellow Labrador retriever led to a reunion with its Houston owner about two years ago.
“You never know how they get here,” Phipps said. “Not sure if someone stole it, or it got loose and picked up. It’s just good to hear about these stories — especially when the owners take the time and keep the (registration information) updated with all their correct phone numbers.”
More and more pet owners are taking advantage of pet microchips. The Galveston County Animal Alliance has chipped more than 12,300 animals since 2006, Erica Johnson, the alliance’s executive director, said.
“It is truly our only route of permanent identification,” she said. “Tags come off. Collars can come off.”
Microchips could help lower the number of animals brought into animal shelters, Johnson said.
“As many shelter dogs we deal with, it’s a shame to see all those animals come in on a weekly basis and not have a chip,” she said.
The chip, Johnson and Phipps warned, is only one part of the process. The pet owner then must register the chip with the company that provided it and keep that information updated.
Jones said of all the information he had provided the microchip company, only his mobile phone was current. That’s the number Phipps used to reach Jones.
The Galveston County Animal Resource Center checks for microchips on every animal that is brought in, spokesman Kurt Koopmann said.
“Many times when they are chipped we find out the owners never registered the chip, so we are still unable to reunite them,” Koopmann said.
Johnson said the alliance provides the initial data for the microchip so that the registration process is handled promptly.
Johnson said, too, that because so many companies use different types of microchips, not all scanners are compatible. That’s changing, though.
A month ago, Jones wasn’t sold that the chips were worth the investment. Now he is convinced and plans to have his other two dogs — a golden retriever and a Maltipoo — microchipped.
Several companies provide microchips for pets and, in addition to the Animal Alliance, local veterinary offices provide the service as well.
At the alliance, the cost is $30 and includes the initial registration. Some places charge extra for the registration.
The Galveston County Animal Resource Center, through the alliance, chips each dog it adopts. The Galveston Island Humane Society also implants a microchip for each animal adopted.