On Friday, Feb. 1, at 5 p.m., I received a call that would change my life.
“Hello, Ms. Stephenson? This is Officer Penny with the Burleson County Animal Control. We have your dog.”
We all cringe at the sound of those words. But this one was something else.
“Officer Penny, where is Burleson County Animal Control?” I asked.
“Well, Ms. Stephenson, it’s in Burleson, Texas!”
“I live in Florida,” I told her, confused. “I haven’t been to Burleson Texas that I know of.”
Officer Penny went on: “Ms. Stephenson, here is the thing. We have an Australian Shepherd named Riot, and he has a microchip in him that is registered to you, according to the AKC.”
I had to think about that one.
“Officer Penny, can you tell me about him?” I ask.
“Riot is a 12-year-old, black tri male,” she says, describing him as a nice, well-mannered dog. She goes on to tell me that since I am in Florida, they will hold him the prerequisite five days, and add an extra two for me. Since it was after 5 p.m. now, we ended the call with me looking up records, and agreeing to call her back on Monday.
Ok, I thought. Twelve years ago. A glimmer of memory came back to me.
The Waiting Game
I pulled records and found the woman that I sold this dog to. She was a friend, and I knew that she had died about five years ago. Over the weekend, I tried to find out who her husband had dispersed the dogs to, but I came up with no luck. Monday, I followed up with my call to Officer Penny. We agreed that we would wait for the five days to see if Riot’s family came to claim him. What a long week.
On Friday, Feb. 8 at 4:30 p.m., the call came in. I was a little more prepared for Officer Penny — we seemed like friends at this point. She let me know that no one ever came for Riot. In the five days that I waited, I worked on a pipeline of Aussie friends that would be able to get him home, just in case no one came for him. It was by a miracle that a dear friend of mine lived near Burleson. She told me that she was going to a show, and she would be able to meet another friend, Corey Lambert, who was coming to Florida!
The shelter opened at 11 a.m. on Saturday. My friend Pamela Bryant-Meeks was sitting in the parking lot at 10:45 a.m., ticking the minutes down on Facebook for the entire world to see. By this point in time, Riot was now ‘famous’ with thousands of likes on social media.
I kept staring at my telephone. Holding my breath. At 11:10 a.m., the telephone rang; Officer Penny was on the line. She wanted to make sure that it was okay for my friend to take Riot.
Joyously, I cried into the telephone, “Oh yes Ma’am!” She took down all the pertinent information.
Soon, I received a text with a picture of Riot in my friend’s truck … hallelujah!
Riot, it turned out, was a grandson of my favorite dog of all time — CH Sunswept’s Motion Approved. I only got one litter by him, and since a decade has worn on, we had only one litter, and only one litter from that. Riot was in that litter, over twelve years ago. Our puppies are like seeds in the wind, loved by many.
On Feb. 14, Riot arrived in Lakeland Florida. He was tired and seemed a little sad, but I called his name, and did the ‘whoopee’ puppy sound, he perked right up! He knew someone!
Riot came into our home, acted like he lived here all his life, and sat at my feet. He followed me everywhere.
Luckily, his papers were still in my name with AKC. But even though this mattered, it didn’t at that time. I was just glad to get one of mine back. That is what being a breeder is all about; taking back our puppies no matter what.
Being so grateful to have a family, Riot fit in and didn’t cause any problems. Why would someone give up this dog? He was really well behaved. I kept waiting for a sign. No phone calls ever came. I ran advertisements on Craigslist and Facebook in the surrounding areas of Texas. My Texas friends kept an eye out. Nothing. He was mine.
So being the active club member I am, a fun match was coming up put on by a sister club. I was informing members of our club about all the details. And on one of the match pages, there it was: Semen Collection. I called the number listed immediately. There was one last opening for first thing in the morning before the match. “We will take it,” I said.
We arrived early at the March 3 Brevard Kennel Club B Match with Curly Coated Retriever puppies and the token Australian Shepherd. Riot was feeling special, having a full groom, and combed and trimmed to perfection. He hopped up in the trailer and met Dr. McDaniel. Telling her Riots story, Dr. McDaniel tried to keep me from getting my hopes up, but it was worth a try.
Riot had an audience waiting for his report. My tears of joy were the tell-all! Three sticks-80 percent motility. My Rugby’s line isn’t the end. And Riot, he will be a proud dad someday.
Could the fairy tale end?
The Greatest Win
At this match, Brevard Kennel Club was offering a Veterans class. Mr. Riot, being the perfect gentleman on the leash, trotted around the ring like he had done it all his life. Breed class was fun, and there were treats involved. Group was fun too! More treats! Riot was truly enjoying this day. Best Veteran in Match was called —Riot. He trotted around the ring, now that he had the hang of it. One additional class was called: Best Overall in Match.
The Junior Puppy, Senior Puppy, Adult, and Veteran winners were called to the ring.
I was just proud to be there. All I kept thinking about was the luck of a little piece of electronic gadgetry — the microchip. Thirteen years ago, this was new technology. Our kennel club had participated in a program, and I had purchased a pack of chips. Every puppy I owned got one. A silly thing, the size of the grain of rice. I wouldn’t have had the chance of trotting this wonderful old dog around the ring if it wasn’t for that gadget. And at an animal shelter, what was the chance for a 12-year-old dog? That grain of rice saved him too.
Around the ring we went, and I was his biggest cheerleader. It was time for the judge to choose a winner. The judge walked to his book. I kissed Riot on his forehead and thanked him for being such a good boy, giving me another chance for a piece of Rugby, and giving me the companionship of an amazing dog.
Then, the judge walked up to us and presented us with Best Overall in Match. It was the prettiest pink and green ribbon that I will ever own. It might as well have been the most elaborate ribbon that is presented at the AKC National Championship — that’s how much it meant to me.
To this day, I think about the choice that I made as a breeder, to microchip all of my puppies. Microchips came out in 1996. Back then, it wasn’t the norm, it was just something that we, as club members, were promoting to dog owners. And because of my choice to microchip, not only did I save an older dog from the shelter, but I brought him home to have a comfortable life. He wasn’t just a seed in the wind.
On a final note, what is Riot’s registered name?
Sunswept’s Mission Approved
Also known as Microchip #093895588.
It’s never too late to microchip your puppy. Anyone can microchip their puppies or dog through AKC Reunite.