2016-05-25 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
In the movie, Michelle Pfeiffer was “Married to the Mob,” which caused her lots of trouble. All of a sudden, I seem to be “Married to the Microchips,” which have taken over my life, after I made the mistake of saying the first batch of 400 could be delivered to my house.
Actually, I am a fan of microchip technology and the remarkable pet recoveries made possible by these tiny transponders, the size of a grain of rice, implanted in the skin at the top of the spine. There have been nearby microchip miracles like “Blaze,” the Jack Russell found in N. Amityville. His chip traced to an Atlanta owner. Air Trans flew him home for Babylon Shelter at no charge. Or the Bichon Frise lost for two years in Deer Park, and reunited with his true owner when the dog found as a stray was scanned at an animal hospital. Or “Felix” the cat lost at JFK after a flight from Abu Dhabi and discovered near a warehouse 13 days later. A scanner confirmed he was the missing Felix.
Recently, Pet Peeves (an advocacy group that assists Long Island rescue organizations) gave Last Hope a generous grant to purchase 1,000 microchips. All dogs and cats from local municipal shelters already have chips before they get to Last Hope, as do transport dogs from two out of the five Southern transport shelters. Dogs from two KY and one Virginia shelter will be chipped at Last Hope now.
Last Hope places around 600 cats a year. Most of our chips will be for Last Hope cats saved from various outdoor settings, especially the kittens. (Last Hope requires adopters to keep cats inside only, yet there’s always a chance a cat will scoot out.)
The kittens are microchipped while still under anesthesia during their pediatric spay/neuter. Although HomeAgain made the chip needle smaller (15 gauge), it is still relatively big, and potentially painful, for a kitten under three pounds.
I was asked to deliver a box of 25 chips to each animal hospital spay/neutering Last Hope kittens. It’s not that simple. Last Hope needs to specify which chip will be for each kitten and retain package components with the specific chip number like stickers, collar tags and ID cards for our records and to pass on to the adopter. It’s too involved to ask the animal hospital to save these tiny ID items for us, and often too hard for the vet to determine which kitten gets which chip when a same-colored litter is delivered to the hospital. In other words, the syringe packages have to be taken apart and individually labeled before delivery to the vet. Easier said than done, especially since Last Hope has six different clinics in Nassau and Suffolk performing kitten spay/neuters.
Experienced with microchips, Babylon Shelter has all chips implanted when their dogs and cats go to their vet for spay/neutering. I thought Babylon Shelter just scotch-taped each microchip syringe to the pet’s paperwork before the shelter brings the pets and chip to the vet, and the hospital sent the “guts” of the package back.
Boy, was I wrong. Babylon’s staff showed me their multi-step preparation of each chip. I began to hyperventilate because I knew I’d be the one doing all this for Last Hope, and then driving the labeled syringes to each hospital before kitten surgeries. Last Hope kittens are delivered to the clinics by various foster parents and other volunteers, unlike Babylon Shelter’s truck taking all their pet patients to the vet and back to one shelter location, whereas Last Hope kittens are dispersed to the Wantagh Adoption Center or one of five satellite stores like Petco Syosset or PetSmart Huntington Station. Later adoption deliveries and paperwork are finalized by many Last Hope volunteers.
In contrast, all Babylon Shelter adoptions and chip registrations are completed from one central office. All Babylon records stay there. I realized I’d be taking the Last Hope “Microchip Show” on the road, and then would need to become “Microchip Central” when registering the chips to the new owners. Otherwise, there could be mass confusion and mix-ups. What good is a microchip, if a pet is registered under the wrong number?
I am not going to bore you with the individual chip preparation tasks, but there are approximately 20 steps to getting each microchip ready. I must scan each chip syringe first to make sure it activates and check each 15-digit number matches the sticker. Further tasks include moving the small ID components into a tiny coin envelope, putting stickers on two HomeAgain documents and repackaging the labeled syringe into a business envelope with case numbers, the last six digits of chip numbers plus the name and physical description of each kitten getting a chip under anesthesia.
Next I place certain HomeAgain papers plus the coin envelope in the kitten’s file; and later track down the fortunate feline when he/she is adopted so I can register the chip to the new owner, and explain how microchips work. Many people erroneously think microchips function like a GPS tracker. They don’t. By scanning the pet’s neck, a microchip reveals a unique number which leads to the owner, only if the chip is registered.
Wish me luck. Presently, I’ll take a breather from microchip chores long enough to share these words of wisdom: Never let any organization deliver grant goodies to your home.
Two special needs cats: Both “Peter” and “HeyZeus” were originally rescued by Babylon Shelter. “Peter,” an endearing, older orange tabby, found refuge at Babylon Shelter after an eviction and cat overcrowding situation. He came to Last Hope several months ago. “Peter” was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and would benefit with a foster parent experienced giving insulin. “HeyZeus” 6-164 is an extraordinary, young cat. An ACO responded to a call for an injured cat. Despite gaping holes in his leg and side, this tabby was super friendly and ravenous. He had two surgeries to graft skin over his wounds. Even though in pain, “HeyZeus” greets new friends by gently reaching out and tickling their noses with his paw. He deserves the best home ever. Call the shelter at 631-643-9270.