Dog returns to master after a year
Pet safety tips
The Rock County Humane Society has this advice:
-- Keep a collar with ID tag on all dogs and cats at all times.
-- Never assume that an animal has been abandoned and simply keep a pet that you find.
-- If the animal has a chip implanted, keep your contact information current with the microchip registration company, especially after the animal goes missing.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a detailed list of pet-search tips on its website. They include a recommendation to use social media to post your lost-pet information, as well as the more traditional ways of communicating.
"Don't give up!" the ASPCA says. "Remember that many lost animals have found their way back home."
ROCK TOWNSHIP The story of John Vermillion and T.J. starts with John's daughter Tanya Jo, who died at age 11 of a rare blood disorder. That was in 2008. John feels the loss still.
About a year later, John was living in Illinois when, through a series of events that are not important here, he ended up with a dog.
John named her T.J. in memory of Tanya. The perky 4-month-old Pomeranian mix helped him cope with his loss.
John stands 6 feet, 6 inches. T.J. might be 9 inches tall at the shoulder. It's not the kind of dog John might have bought for himself, but the two bonded.
"She's been my faithful traveling companion ever since," Vermillion said Sunday at his Rock Township residence.
John affectionately calls her Killer and other names that can't be printed in a family newspaper. T.J. answers to those names with equal enthusiasm, her head darting to the sound, ears perking up.
She loves to hear "wanna go?" a signal that John is taking a ride in his truck. She likes to find a spot behind the headrest, riding as high as she can.
Then one winter's day about a year ago, she was gone.
The pair were living on Washington Street in Janesville. John put her out on a leash that was tied to the porch. He returned in about 10 minutes to find her gone.
He's pretty sure someone took her.
John made up flyers and posted them at veterinarians' offices. He thinks the person who kept T.J. never took her to a vet because the vet would have discovered the chip.
He posted her photo at the Rock County Humane Society. No luck.
Days turned into months. Vermillion never went a week without mentioning how he missed her.
Tips came in. Vermillion checked them out.
"I never stopped looking for her," he said.
That might have been the end of the story if not for the fact that T.J. possesses something many dogs do not. A microchip the size of a grain of rice was implanted in her body by previous owners. John had the chip's registry changed when he got her, so anyone with a chip scanner would be able to tell whose dog it was.
But maybe not. Consider how T.J. was found.
T.J. was brought in to the Rock County Humane Society on March 2. The humane society customarily scans cats and dogs, but the first scan didn't register T.J.'s chip.
It's normal that chips sometimes don't register, according to a humane society news release, because chips can migrate and get hidden in the animal's body, or the scanner might not be working well. That's why animals are scanned regularly when they're at the humane society, using different scanners.
A subsequent scan revealed T.J.'s chip. Vermillion had kept his contact information current with the chip company, or the reunion might not have happened. The humane society contacted the chip registry, and Vermillion soon received a call.
The reunion was something to see, humane society workers said.
"She tried jumping right through the cage at him," said Vermillion's roommate, Bill Squires.
Humane society workers told John that T.J. was reported as a stray on Racine Street in Janesville. That's one of the few clues he has to where she might have been for a year. Her coat was trimmed, so it looks as though T.J. was cared for.
Vermillion said T.J. has changed a bit. She used to "talk" when Vermillion prompted her. She hasn't done that, yet. And she doesn't play with Squires' dog, Buddy, as she used to.
Vermillion figures she's adjusting. She still answers when Vermillion calls, and she is still crazy about going for a ride.
"She knows me. She's got her papa back, don't you?" he said to her as she stood in the sun on the back of Squires' pickup truck Sunday.
Vermillion is planning something likely to make T.J. a happy dog. He wants to get a mobile home and take her on the road.