2010-03-17 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

The “Quinn plot” thickens. Quinn was a wonderful English Setter rescued from the city shelter. We knew him less than a month before his kidneys succumbed to untreated Lyme disease. Only after Quinn’s death, did we learn that his migrated microchip was traced to South Africa. Yes, South Africa. Hence, what was this magnificent but emaciated dog doing outside a NYC project the day after Christmas? How far had he traveled? Our Quinn-quest for the truth continues.

You may recall that mysterious Quinn was profiled twice in “Pets” (see Post 1/20 & 1/27/10 online); each time wondering why an emaciated stray English Setter was found in the Bronx. A chain of people were involved in Quinn’s rescue. Although he was embraced in a loving Pennsylvania hospice home for two short days before he died, we still want questions answered.

Quinn’s devotees have a history of determined, but at times futile attempts, of trying to locate lost dogs. The group includes a private investigator turned rescuer, those who hunted for Vivi the champion Whippet lost at JFK in 2006 and, yours truly, obsessed with finding the 1887 gravesite of Sensation, Westminster’s mascot Pointer. We leave no stone unturned.

Our late Quinn’s microchip was from South Africa. Our late Quinn’s microchip was from South Africa. Quinn got a HomeAgain microchip from the city shelter but, to everyone’s surprise, an x-ray revealed that a prior chip had migrated to his chest, probably because he had lost so much muscle mass. It was a Virbac with a peculiar series of six zeroes. The sequence appeared to be from the UK but when it didn’t show in any British database, Virbac referred us to their headquarters in France. We couldn’t get through there.

Eventually our dog detective reached a Virbac lady in France who put her on hold while she called the contact in their computer. Finally she came back to say no one answered but refused to give any information because our caller was not a vet. Then Quinn’s vet (my vet) tried several emails with no response until he asked a French teacher client to translate his inquiry. On Feb. 6, the email reply from Virbac read:

The transponder was commercialized in South Africa in 2004 and we assume it was implanted at the time in South Africa. In South Africa, we manage our own database; unfortunately this transponder does not appear in the database, thus we assume the person who realized the implantation did not complete the process (did not register the dog in our database); we would have been happy to send you more precise information.

If Quinn’s South African chip wasn’t registered, then whom did the French woman call? Something didn’t jive. Besides, despite Virbac’s assumption, only the chip, not the dog, definitely came from South Africa since Quinn may have been implanted somewhere else. But where? Our mind boggling puzzle spawned several theories. Here are some scenarios:

#1 The Pinocchio Factor: Quinn had been called into the city shelter as a stray. Was the caller lying about his own sick dog? The cell number had been disconnected. Weeks later the dog detective got through to learn a kind family discovered Quinn hovered under a car and brought him into their apartment overnight. They tried to coax him to eat, but couldn’t keep him because they had a Pit Bull. The lady was so upset to hear he had died. She didn’t know his breed but said: “He wasn’t a dog from around here.” Nope, the caller didn’t lie.

#2 Canvassing All Setter People: We reached out to South Africa. Attempts to contact Setter breeders, an author there researching the breed, and the country’s kennel club, all yielded no response. Word went out to English Setter groups in the US. No one used Virbac although several exported dogs to South Africa. Then we discovered there was a long time English Setter breeder in the Bronx.

Take a breath. Proceed with caution. Correlation does not mean causation, yet the coincidence was uncanny, because Quinn was so out of context in the neighborhood where he surfaced. We flashed his photos and stories at Westminster and the specialty shows. Actually, the Bronx breeder and I had a long chat at ringside, where she and many others reassured us for a variety of reasons that Quinn wasn’t from her kennel. Still a nagging suspicion lingers that his proximity had an indirect connection. Perhaps a sickly Setter was dumped near her doorstep in the same way more kittens are abandoned in the yards of already overburdened feline caretakers.

#3 Paperwork Oversight: Passports for Pets is the way that many folks ship dogs through the UK to and from Europe or even South Africa. All must be microchipped. Thinking airport personnel scan and check chips merely against paperwork, there may not be a person’s name assigned to every chip number. Could a litter or dog slip through the cracks? However, it was doubtful Quinn was destined for a pet store. Most European import puppy mill dogs are tattooed rather than chipped, plus, English Setters are rarities in stores.

#4 Voice from Beyond: Quinn’s hospice Mom spoke to an animal communicator in Virginia who was given no background. The medium told a plausible story. Quinn’s real name was Simon. He came here by plane and belonged to an older man who adored him. He was whistle trained (field trial?), but when the man died he went to live with his sister where there was more snow. He chased after her Lab who had run off, but never found her; and ultimately wound up in the shelter. Had once- loved Quinn journeyed to the Bronx by way of Westchester or Connecticut? We’ve asked about field Setters named Simon, searched for listings of lost Setters and may even have found a male lost upstate in a PA shelter, yet we’ve gotten no closure about Quinn.

We may never know our mighty Quinn’s origin, yet he leaves a legacy. Microchips, when registered, can be a pet’s ticket home safely. The key word is registered. If your pet is lost, think of Quinn. You too may be lucky enough to cross paths with persistent folks who will track to the ends of the earth to reunite you with your beloved pet.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Milton” the Cocker Spaniel in Cage 9 is looking for someone extra kind. He came into the shelter with a skin/ear infection now treated. Upon neutering, it was discovered he had an undescended testicle next to a mass. The vet removed most, but not all the tumor. Milton is a happy, active fellow but his prognosis is unclear. Meanwhile “Bradley” in Cage 7 is one of the overlooked Pit mixes, a favorite of the new volunteers.

Male: red Husky Cage 4; “Teddy”- Retriever Cage 6; young Hound Cage 13; gentle brindle Cage 16.

Female: “Honey” sweetie Cage 30; “Piper” Dobie mix Cage 34; “Xena” Neapolitan Mastiff Cage 42; “Missy” purrsonality plus cat in the lobby.

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