Welcome home Harley: Micro-chip a key solution to finding lost pet

For months now, people all over the Seattle area have been following the case of a missing poodle-mix named Harley.

Harley's face has been plastered on posters and on social media since December 30, when she bolted from her home in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Her owner, Drew Varnes, says the dog was frightened by end-of-the-year fireworks.

When Varnes first contacted the Problem Solvers back in February, he was concerned about an online pet finding service he'd paid to help him find Harley. He charged $500 for the service online.

"I just think that they didn't deliver as they indicated," Varnes explained during the February interview.

Varnes says he was so dissatisfied with the lack of performance, he demanded a refund- then mounted his own search with the help of friends and volunteers.

After more than 3 months and dozens of dead leads, Varnes says he was on the verge of giving up hope. Then, out of the blue, he got a call April 4th from the Humane Society in Tacoma. Varnes was told two men from Joint Base Lewis McChord dropped the dog off at the shelter- more than 30 miles away from Harley's home.

"I don't know how she was found but ultimately it was the chip that got her home and I'm really glad that I did that when she was a puppy," Varnes said.

After 91 days and 34 miles, a a simple 20 dollar chip injected under Harley's coat was the ultimate key to her happy reunion.

Pet experts say fee-based pet finding services can be useful in helping you distribute a high volume of posters, and even make automated calls to people in your community to get the word out, but be careful. Some services generate a high volume of complaints and have questionable track records.

Your best bet for finding a lost a pet, is to get help from friends, neighbors, and local pet-related businesses. Like Varnes, make sure the posters have good, recent photos and are large enough for people to see- something bigger than the typical 8 1/2 by 11. Post good photos and pet descriptions on your social network sites and make routine updates. Distribute flyers to as many vets, shelters and pet stores as possible, and most of all, make sure your pet has both an I-D tag and a micro-chip. If the tags come off, the chip is always there. Experts say I-D tags and micro-chips are the top two ways lost pets and their owners get reunited.

"If the dog has a micro-chip and it can be picked up on a scanner, it's instantaneous. Every veterinarian has a scanner, every humane society has a scanner so certainly those dogs can be identified and returned home," explained Harley's vet Dr. Kevin Reed at Four Paws Veterinary Center.

Varnes says he's also glad he kept the contact information on Harley's micro-chip contact information up-to-date. Many pet owners who do get the chips, forget to update the information when they move or change phone numbers.