View Full Version : When 'Whiskers' goes wayward

12-17-03, 06:25 AM
When 'Whiskers' goes wayward
Submitted by: MCAS Iwakuni
Story Identification Number: 20031214211334
Story by Lance Cpl. David Revere

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan(December 12, 2003) -- Navy Lt. Timothy Jirus picked up the phone and braced himself. He was about to break his wife's heart. At some point as he crossed the Arizona desert in a van filled with family belongings, her cat had disappeared.

Flash, their wiry little alley cat, had earned his name because of the way he was able to "disappear in a flash." This time, he had disappeared right out the side window as Jirus drove from San Diego to join his wife in Jacksonville, Fla.

They had first found the friendly feline wandering the streets of Iwakuni, where Jirus worked until June as the Station's industrial hygiene officer. The young stray wasted no time capturing their hearts and settling into the luxuries of domestic life. Now, the 'meow' of the wild had once again beckoned him away.

As his wife wept at the news, one small hope loomed in Jirus' mind. During the adoption process, Flash had been microchipped.

Microchipping is a simple process that involves inserting a small chip, two millimeters in diameter, just beneath the skin, said Army Capt. Sandi K. Parriott, the chief of the Iwakuni District Veterinary Command.

"It's just like any regular shot," she said. "The animal will react no differently than they would at a normal vaccination."

Each chip comes with a number, said Parriott. When the chip is scanned at an animal clinic, the number is input into a database, where the owner's name and contact information appears.

Some of the major objections Parriott said she has heard have had to do with fears of being tracked. Some people are concerned that with this technology, 'Big Brother' will be watching. They are worried that someone is tracking them, listening to their conversations.

"There is no way to actually track people," assured Parriott. There are other ways to identify a pet, but the microchip can't fall out; it doesn't hurt, and it doesn't fade.

Once a microchip is inserted, it's in for the life of the pet, said Parriott. If ownership or location changes, the information is updated in the database, but the microchip number remains the same.

For Flash, location had changed to nearly 2,000 miles away. Days turned into weeks, and still no word came to the Jirus's.

"I assured my wife the he was okay, but I secretly figured he was either road kill or coyote food," said Jirus. "Every night, she would pray for him to find someone to return him to our family. Three months eventually passed, and with it, all expectation.

A lot of abandoned and injured pets are found through microchips, said Parriott. Any stray animal can be brought in and scanned.

In fact, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Web site, more pets are reunited with their owners now than have ever been before. A wayward Snuggles or Scruffy increases his chance of finding his way back home if he has a microchip.

Additionally, microchips are mandatory for everyone on the Station who has a cat or dog, said Parriott. If there was to be an emergency evacuation here, pets would probably be flown out separately from their owners. Microchips would be instrumental in reuniting the pets with their families.

"I also recommend it for people living outside the Station," said Parriott. "For active duty, it's a one time fee of $15, and it's good for the life of the pet, no matter where you move."

The assurance an owner can have of knowing their pet is permanently identified with them is something only this technology has achieved. "Whoever scans the pet can call the microchip company and find out who that number went out to," said Parriott.

That was exactly the action a woman in Tucson, Ariz. took when a friendly stray cat found her and decided to move in. He was scanned for his microchip number when she brought him into a veterinarian clinic to adopt him into her family.

The Jirus's were elated when the phone call came. Arrangements were made and Flash arrived by air the day of their 16th wedding anniversary. It was an expensive present, said Jirus, but it brought a lot of joy.

"The experience was well worth it and is priceless compared to the sight of my wife holding her favorite cat again," said Jirus. "Amazingly, Flash didn't show any signs of abuse, injury, or malnutrition. I'm sure his many trips in Iwakuni prepared him well for his stay in the desert," said Jirus.


Codie and Sasha eagerly wait in the kennels here to be reunited with their owners in the U.S. Photo by: Lance Cpl. David Revere