Saturday morning I was standing in front of my house attempting to photograph some snails with my Olloclip, when a very dirty little black and white Shih-Tzu walked up and sat down next to me. I said hello and petted her for a second, thinking her owner had to be somewhere nearby. After a few moments, the dog began milling around my front yard, and eventually came back and sat next to me again. She was wearing a collar, but her only identification was a rabies tag. Thinking she must have gotten out of a nearby yard, I walked across the street to where my neighbor, Marvin, was working on his truck, and asked if he recognized her. Marvin thought she must belong to the history professor who lives a few houses down, but I thought she only had one dog, a Dachshund. I knocked on the history professor's door, but when no one answered or seemed to be looking for a dog, I took her inside in order to write a few notes to leave on doors.
As I was looking around for some paper and a pen, the dog disappeared into another room. I found her in the bathtub, where she stood grinning and wagging her tail. Seizing the opportunity, I gave her a bath, blow-dried her, and combed out her mats, all of which she tolerated in the way small dogs who are used to getting groomed do.
I spent the morning walking the neighborhood with her, trying to find anyone who might be looking for her. Everyone claimed they'd seen her around, but no one could tell me who she belonged to, only a general direction of where she might live. I tried calling the number for animal control which was printed on the tag, but the number came up not in service. I called my vet's office and asked them to check the number on the rabies tag, but she wasn't in their database. They told me animal control had moved to a new location in the past year, and gave me the new number. I'm guessing there are now thousands of animals living in this city who have incorrect phone numbers on their rabies tags, which is terribly useful when someone finds they actually need to call about something.
Afterward, I stopped by Kinkos and printed out signs, which I taped to all of the stop signs in a four block radius. I would have put up more, but the dog didn't seem to be traveling very quickly when I met her, and I didn't think she could have gotten very far on such short legs. Kinkos isn't exactly generous on price when it comes to using their ink, either.
That afternoon, I posted an ad with a very clear color photo on Craigslist, then drove her to Petsmart to have her scanned for a microchip. She was very excited to ride in the car. No chip, and Petsmart's database is designed in a way that won't allow you to look up a dog by rabies tag number without pulling dogs from every Banfield location in the country. I left my information and went home, where we resumed wandering the neighborhood trying to find anyone who might recognize her. The block captain for the 4000 block of my street said he thought he recognized her, but then his wife didn't. They did show me that my Craigslist ad had been reposted to the neighborhood group on Facebook, however, which was nice, especially because I didn't even know we had a neighborhood page.
On Sunday, I received a reply from another neighbor in the area saying that she had seen the post on Facebook, and that the same dog had apparently been found by someone else a month prior. Unfortunately, there wasn't really much information in the post that would tell me who the owner was, just a general suggestion to check behind Friendly's, the neighborhood sports bar.
That afternoon we tried searching in that vicinity, even checking with the bartenders themselves. One very large woman actually came to her door wearing only a green v-neck scrub top, fake eyelashes, and no pants. Her grey and white Shih-Tzu came flying out the door in front of her and immediately tried to attack the one attached to our leash. She apologized profusely about the dog attack, but not her lack of pants, and happily speculated for at least five minutes about the owner being a very old man who walks her past her street almost every day. As we thanked her again and walked away, the Wizard leaned in to me and whispered, "Did she have pants on? I don't think she had pants on".
The story was the same every time. Everyone thought they had seen her before, but no one knew where she lived. By this time, we had encountered three other black and white Shih-Tzus who looked similar, if not identical, to the one in our possession, which made me suspect that this was a very common dog that could easily be mistaken for hundreds of others. We called the neighborhood groomer, Chris, thinking maybe she belonged to one of his clients. He took down our information and let us know he'd call if anyone contacted him about her, but the shop was closed, so we couldn't bring her by until Tuesday. More emails were exchanged with the nearby mystery neighbor, but she had no further information to offer.
This morning, I awoke to find a new response to the Craigslist ad, from "Tiffany", which read:
"I think that's my baby girl!! (Phone number)"
I *think* is not exactly a confident response, especially when I had included such a clear photo and description of the dog. I decided to call animal control first, to see if they could trace her rabies tag number. Within a few minutes, I had a call back from animal control saying the dog's name was Missy, and that she belonged to Miss Ella D___, and that Miss Ella had been in the process of printing up posters when she called. Animal control gave me Miss Ella's phone number, and we spoke for a few minutes. Miss Ella lives around the corner from me, and does in fact use Chris the groomer for Missy's styling needs. Based on our conversation and the confirmation from animal control, I felt very confident I had found the right person. I told her that I walk Missy over tonight, after I got home from work.
Annoyed by the idea that someone might be trying to score a free dog from Craigslist at someone else's expense, I then replied to "Tiffany", and let her know the owner had been found. I then suggested that she try a local animal shelter if she wanted a dog, since there are plenty of great dogs in need of good homes.
"Tiffany" responded shortly afterward with the following email:
"That is my dog!!! My mother let her out and some lady found her and then gave her to some bitch n south county. And my dog got out from her because she's trying to come back to me!!!! And how isn't she mine according to animal control!!!?? How old is the rabie tag???? Because the number I gave u isn't the same number I had when she got her shot
[photograph of disheveled looking, ungroomed Shih-Tzu with similar markings]
Sent from my iPhone"
I responded that I was sorry she had lost her dog, but the dog in her picture was not the same dog as the one in my ad. Additionally, I wondered to myself how she could think that her dog had ended up in my neighborhood in South City, when she had stated that her dog had been given to a woman in South County. It would take approximately 20 minutes for me to reach South County by car. Were I a ten pound dog with very short legs, I suspect it would take quite a bit longer to travel such a distance.
"Tiffany" replied almost immediately:
"I'm telling you that's my dog I know my dog when I see her. The pic is a very bad pic from some lady that found her and I didn't even recognize her in that when i seen her. Can I come see her please just to make sure if she is or isn't my dog
Sent from my iPhone"
I feel bad for her, if she did lose her dog, but I responded with no, on the basis that she had failed to provide me with zero evidence that this dog actually belongs to her, and I had already located the real owners. You couldn't even provide you own photo of your alleged dog? Red flag. Big red flag.
"Tiffany" responded once more, just to be sure...
"Is her name Sue?"
No. Her name is not Sue. Who names a dog Sue?!
And so, after a very exciting weekend in the city, Missy will go home to her people tonight. As a parting gift, she's getting a brand new i.d. tag with her name and phone number, from us, just in case this ever happens again.
Because I'm betting it will.