My husband, Tom and I leave our Graniteville home for work at the same time each morning. He heads to Augusta and I head to Aiken. This past Wednesday, Tom made it to the end of our street ahead of me and stopped, got out of his car and waved me down for help.
Lying still in the street with his eyes wide open was a beautiful, large gray tabby cat. An apparent victim of a hit-and-run, just three houses down. His condition didn't look good, but there was a small bit of movement, so Tom gently gathered him in a sheet and laid him into the only container I could find, our laundry basket, and loaded him into my backseat.
I drove as fast as I could (as fast as the law allows, of course) to the SPCA's Veterinary Care Center where Will Parrish, the Veterinary Practice Manager, met me outside as I pulled into the parking lot and rushed the cat inside to check his vitals.
Sadly, the damage was too great and the cat had passed away. No heartbeat, no microchip, and no collar. The large tabby appeared otherwise healthy, so if he belonged to a person or family, they may never know the fate of their beloved pet.
I don't know if the cat was conscious during his last moments, the stillness of his eyes tells me no, and it's probably best if he wasn't. But if he was at all aware, I hope it was a small comfort to be in the care of people, and not just left to die in the street.
Unfortunately, many animals meet this fate every day. Opossums, raccoons, birds, squirrels, armadillos, cats and dogs. And not all of them are wildlife or strays, which is certainly not to say that their life is of any less value than that of owned pets. They all deserve better.
But yes, many of these lives cut short by passing cars belong to family pets, wandering near or far from the home they know. Dogs who have slipped out of their leash, or dug under a fence. Cats who, like our Bastian and Luna do too often, wriggled through the opened front door while their owner brought in groceries.
Thankfully, when our cats do make an escape, they don't wander far. Bastian is happy just to roll on the patio or in a patch of dirt. Luna usually heads straight to the neighbor's yard to nibble on the greener grass. But if they were to venture from our sight, we at least have the reassurance of knowing they both carry a microchip just under their skin.
That way, if they are lost and found, then taken to a veterinary office or animal shelter, they will be scanned and my husband or I will be contacted. And if the worst was to happen, and they were found in the same way we found the large tabby.... well, knowing and grieving is better than wondering for days, weeks or months.
Can you offer the same assurance for your pets? If not, why? And why wait? The procedure to implant a microchip is quick, very affordable, virtually painless, and usually only needs to be done once in a pet's lifetime. Then, pets can be traced back to their owner, even if a collar or tag slips off or isn't worn.
In case you didn't know: microchips are tiny transponders (not to be confused with trackers) that can be implanted just under your pet's skin, usually between the shoulder blades, by a veterinarian. Each microchip contains a unique registration number that can be read by a special scanner that most veterinarian offices and shelters possess. This registration number is then provided to the indicated microchip company who in turn can provide the owner's contact information.
Make an appointment with your pet's veterinarian today or call the SPCA Albrecht Center's Veterinary Care Center, where microchips are available for just $25, and you don't even need an appointment. Call 803-648-6863 or visit LetLoveLive.org/vet-care for hours.
Make microchips a priority for your pets to greatly increase the chances of lost, becoming happily found.
Sarah Neikam is the Communications & Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the SPCA since 2012. Sarah lives in Graniteville with her family which includes three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady, who are all living happy, loved lives thanks to the efforts of the SPCA.