Ham spent a recent weekend with us, after I found him wandering alone on a busy Frazier Avenue Friday afternoon. Not a typical North Chattanooga loose dog, he lacked both a collar and street smarts and was perilously close to becoming road kill. I caught up to him on the Walnut Street bridge, having been directed there by others who were concerned for his plight and mistook me for his distraught owner.
Safe at home with us, he made our Biscuit quite jealous and prompted Leigh to name him Ham. We placed calls to Luther at WDEF and to the Times Free Press classified advertising department. We even showed him to the good people of Bone Appetite, lest he be a regular customer of theirs. He wasn't.
As fate would have it, another North Chattanooga house pet escaped that weekend. Flyers seeking the return of Petunia appeared all over the neighborhood. We had to clarify in our copy that our recovered dog was indeed a different animal. Even so, numerous callers seeking Petunia were disappointed not to find her.
For the most part, "Ham" was a perfect houseguest. Despite our Biscuit's envious ways, he neither growled nor barked and knew what it meant to go outside. To be sure, someone was missing this creature who so adored his belly rubs and slept peaceably between us. Ham's one vice was his will to escape. Every time we opened a door, he was there, not to greet us but to bolt. The front door still displays scratches, tokens of his urge for freedom.
Monday morning our veterinarian passed a wand over Ham's shoulders and found a microchip. What should have been a process whereby data entry to a website would yield an owner's name in moments merely opened another chapter. All we learned was that the breeder had microchipped him and there the trail turned cold. Three telephone calls later we were no closer to finding his home, so Ham and I departed to get on with my day.
That episode bolstered my belief that there are no hightech solutions to human failings. For example, v-chips in televisions do nothing to curb the viewing of gratuitous violence. What use are microchips in pets if people do not register them? I had imagined identification chipping to be a sort of social service, perhaps a joint effort of the AKC and ASPCA. It is instead a for-profit enterprise requiring a registration fee from the pet's owner. Paying to put a chip in the animal is not a fait accompli.
Ham's real name turned out to be Rufus. Credit goes to our veterinary clinic. A fourth telephone call found his owner, who recovered him that afternoon. It seems that Rufus likes to keep cool atop the floor vents, but his dog tags catch in the grating. Add his propensity for flight and the rest became this story. My opinion of microchipping pets is much improved. If need be, please take a moment to update such records. Our furry friends will thank you for it.