By Jane Gervasoni, Public Affairs Office, U.S. Army Public Health CommandMarch 6, 2014
Due to the kindness of a stranger and some smart sleuthing by a U.S. Army Public Health Command veterinarian, Bear, a black Australian shepherd dog, is back home with an Army veteran and his family.
After business hours on Feb. 25, the staff duty officer at the U.S. Army Public Health Command received a call from concerned animal lover Andrea Bonner about a dog found in Matthews, N.C. The dog had followed her son home from his bus stop.
Bonner took the dog to a local emergency veterinarian to ensure it was healthy and to determine if she could find the owner. The dog's rabies tag indicated he had been vaccinated at the Vilseck (Germany) veterinary treatment facility.
Although the dog had an implanted radio-frequency identification microchip, the owner had not completed the registration information. It looked like there was no way to locate the owner.
But Bonner didn't give up.
Since the rabies tag came from overseas, she began an intensive Internet search. She called two local county animal control offices, posted the dog on Facebook and other Web sites. She also searched for the codes on the rabies tag, which led her to the veterinary facility in Germany, but it was closed for the week.
"After a lot of detective work, I called the Army Public Health Command and spoke with Capt. Ryan Lindell, who took all my information and promised to call me back," Bonner said. "Thursday morning, Col. Robert Vogelsang from the Public Health Command called me with the contact information for Bear's owner."
Vogelsang, himself a veterinarian, called the veterinary treatment facility in Germany to get the owner's name from Bear's medical records. He then located a phone number using the Army Knowledge Online Web site.
"While Bear was with us, he was a sweet dog, but he had some anxiety issues," Bonner explained. "After talking with his owners, I found out that Bear was rescued from abuse in Germany and travelled to Fort Bragg, and then to Matthews, so I could understand his issues."
After his visit with the Bonner family, Bear was returned to his owners who live only one mile away. He was lucky that Bonner and the USAPHC were able to find them.
Without his microchip, though, he might never have made it home.
"Most installations make microchipping a requirement so if you do live on post it isn't an option. If you live on a post in a foreign country, the Public Health Command veterinary treatment facility usually provides the service," said Vogelsang, "but If the owners don't register their pets with the microchip company, then the microchip does not usually help in finding the animal."
Happy ending aside, Bear's story emphasizes the need for pet owners to have their pets microchipped and to complete the chip registration process.