Chipped And Chapped
Tanner Hetherington, Division 3, Graduate school

My phone vibrates. I check it and see an unknown number calling. With a stern look of disapproval and my battery only at two percent, I tuck it back away in my pocket.

“What’d you think of the movie?” I asked my boyfriend, walking through the parking lot as the last bit of sunlight illuminated my hot breath against the freezing evening air. “They should have called it Can’t Breath” he said jokingly, trying to relieve the tenseness we felt from watching the very aptly named thriller: Don’t Breath. It worked. My emotions jumped from one extreme to the next and I was now uncontrollably giggling. This was one of those gut-wrenching, eye-watering laughs that wouldn’t go away without a fight. After having to stop the car in the parking lot to get a grip on myself, we were finally able to head home; but not without having this overwhelming feeling of not being in control. This was just the beginning, and the sun had set.

We pull up to find my roommate standing in the driveway with his snow boots and coat on. With a worried look on his face, he comes up to the driver’s side window and asks, “Did you guys happen to see Meeko? I let him out about 15 minutes ago and now I can’t find him.” In any other situation I would have brushed it off and assumed my dog had gone across the street to visit the old neighbor lady. But tonight there was about 8 inches of fresh powder with the only light coming from dim street lamps, and the temperature had dropped to the negatives. My heart sank and my brain stumbled to piece together some sort of game plan. I instinctively pulled off my gloves and reached for my phone to see if anyone had called. The battery was dead.

He couldn’t have gone far, so we remained in the car and did a quick loop around the block calling his name and whistling into the frozen night. There was no sign of him at the nearby dog park or neighboring side streets. Our next plan was to go door to door. “I’ll go this way, you guys head down there and there” I pointed to the west and south crossroads. I could already feel my face and extremities going numb which effectively painted a distressing picture in my head of my baby: freezing, and all alone. I stepped up to the first house and knocked on the door as calmly as I could. A teenage girl opened the door cautiously, probably wondering what the hell some strange guy was doing at her doorstep at 8:00 pm. With numb lips I struggled to ask if she had seen a black and white husky this evening. Her face softened and she shook her head empathetically. “I’ll let you know if I see him.” There was no time to waste, so I was off to the next house. Many apologetic neighbors later, I decided I couldn’t stand the cold anymore. The search party had to stop and we met back up at the house.

“Any luck?” We all looked at each other, shivering and despondent. My roommate feeling overwhelmed with guilt kept apologizing. I told him not to worry about it and that I was sure he was picked up by someone and that he was fine. Although I truly believed this, the thought actually terrified me. I always have people jokingly tell me that they want to steal my dog. With long black and white fur, striking markings, two different colored eyes one turquoise and one brown and such an endearing disposition, Meeko genuinely is a special dog. My fear was that someone had picked him up and realized that they had just hit the canine jackpot.

My boyfriend and I went to my room to defrost and plan our next steps. First step was to plug my phone in. Hopefully I’d get a call (although Meeko didn’t have any ID tag on with my phone number, just a rabies tag verifying he’s been vaccinated); I was starting to regret not having one made. In the meantime, Stephen tried calling local animal shelters. Of course at this hour, they were all closed and calls went straight to voicemail. Finally, my phone powered on and moments later vibrated, notifying me of a voicemail message. It was a friendly voice from a microchip company letting me know that someone had picked Meeko up. “His microchip!” I exclaimed as I remembered spending that extra $25 fee when getting him his first round of puppy shots. The vet had explained to me that the chip was about the size of a grain of rice and worked by transmitting unique radio frequencies used for identification. Apparently some girl named Katy had picked him up and gotten him scanned right away. Inconveniently though, this had happened at the time we were in the theater; when I was unable to answer the call. The microchip company had left me with Katy’s number and I dialed without hesitation.

We finally connected and there was this long explanation about how she had just left the dog park and found him wandering the sidewalk not too far from my house. She took him into the closest vet to get him scanned but wasn’t able to keep him because of her other dogs, so she dropped him off with somebody else she saw nearby where she found him. “What? So you’re telling me you don’t have my dog?” I asked, astonished. “Well, I mean, thank you for picking him up and all, but where is my dog?” I had to show my gratitude, but at this point in the night I was overly anxious and a bit peeved with the whole situation. She gave me the address to where she left him and I thanked her twice more.

Stephen and I whipped on our coats, shoved our snow boots on, hopped in the car and made it to the house only one block away. We excitedly knocked on the door, and were greeted by a grungy looking college kid with a plume of smoke lingering about him. “Hey, we’re looking for our husky, is he here?” With a look of confusion and a reaction that seemed to take a lifetime, he finally replied, “Oh yeah, my girlfriend took him back to her house so he could have a yard to run around in. Gorgeous dog by the way.”

I licked my chapped lips and the only thing I could manage to conjure up was, “Are you serious?” It seemed as if Meeko was so close, but with every new clue, getting further and further away. It was like being able to see our own breath in the stiff cold air and then watching it disappear right before our eyes. The kid gave us his girlfriend’s phone number, and once again we continued our never-ending dog hunt.

Upon answering, Ashley confirmed that she did indeed have a very vocal husky with her at her house (which happened to be 20 minutes across town). As the evening had proven, I couldn’t be careful enough, so I asked her once more just to make certain; Yes, she did have my dog. Relieved and ready to have my baby back, we agreed on a meeting place and within 30 minutes, Stephen and I were reunited with our beloved. We said our thank yous to Ashley and parted ways. It was around midnight, and at this point we couldn’t have been happier to finally have Meeko back home with us.

We laughed at how ridiculous the whole night had gone and got settled for bed. But before finally shutting my eyes, I thought about how thankful I was for that tiny, rice-sized piece of technology in the nape of Meeko’s neck. Without it, I might have lost my best friend to some crazy college students who apparently pass dogs around like one of their Frisbees. And now, if anyone asks, I am the biggest advocate for getting dogs microchipped.

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