Bay Life

Vol. 8, No. 21
May 25-31, 2000
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My 48 Hours with Kirby
By Christy Grimes

I first met Kirby in Eastport, where I was working the neighborhood as your friendly local census taker. I was making pretty good time until I saw the little dog who would rule my universe for the next 48 hours. He was a fluffy little Oriental breed with a pushed-in face and tail curled over his back.

To make a long story short, I rescued him from a trio of unwholesome-looking kids imagining they were about to catch a $200 reward. I didn't like having my work stride disrupted, but I didn't want the dog to be hurt. If - when I found his owners - any reward was offered, I planned to nobly decline.

Meanwhile, the little dog was quite casual about riding around in a Ford Falcon with a complete stranger.

He had a collar with a tiny tag that I assumed would have his name and address. It didn't. It was a license tag. From Wisconsin. It also said 'Pepin'. Maybe that's the dog's name, I thought. "Hey Pepin," I said. The dog didn't flinch. So much for that theory.

Meanwhile a guy in the neighborhood was showing off his antique car to another guy from across the street. They didn't know the dog.

By now it was 8pm, too late to bring the little fellow to the SPCA. Anyway, I'd swallowed the $200 reward story, and I assumed anyone who'd post a reward notice would also report the dog missing. So I finished my census work with the dog whose name, I discovered two days and many phone calls later, was Kirby. As I worked, I checked telephone poles for any 'Missing' or 'Reward' posters. There were none.

Next morning I put in my call to the SPCA. A nice woman checked her files on missing animals to see if anything matched: No small dogs reported missing. So much for Plan A.

The SPCA lady told me to check Animal Control about the license number. I checked, but when I mentioned to animal control that the license was from another state, they said, sorry, we can't access out-of-state records.

Where is this information age everybody keeps talking about? I'm looking for Wisconsin, not a Third World country.

"Be glad states don't share certain information," said Diana of my web design class. "My driving record in North Carolina is atrocious. Here I've got a clean slate."

Wisconsin loomed huge before me, even before I discovered that - despite popular fears - not everybody has huge databases that intersect a hundred ways. I asked 411 for the state area code. "Which one?" the operator asked. "There's five."

The one thing I knew about Wisconsin was the name of the capital: Madison. Then I looked for any agency with the words 'animal' and 'state' in it. After about six long-distance calls, I learned that in Wisconsin, they do their animal business on a county level. I got this education from an annoyed police and fire dispatcher on whom an annoyed Madison animal control worker had fobbed me off.

Time to do some research about this "Pepin." On the theory Pepin was a county, I looked up Wisconsin in my road atlas. That state must have 50 counties. And one of them is Pepin: I finally found it, on the western edge of the state.

Pepin County seemed to have no cities with more than 10,000 people. This was a problem when I asked for numbers for the Pepin county seat, a town called Durand. The 411 operators kept giving me numbers for agencies in nearby counties with more people. But without telling me. "This is Eau Claire," annoyed people kept correcting me.

By day two, I'd learned something important: When you're looking up a dog license number, you don't call animal agencies. You call the county clerk's office. That's where all the records are. Eventually I found Betty, the Pepin County clerk, who looked up the number and turned up a Shih Tzu named Kirby, with no reward.

"Hey Kirby," I addressed the little dog who was snoozing on my bed. He snapped to attention.

Betty traced the owner, who had moved from rural Wisconsin to Annapolis. Even though Kirby's owner had crossed a state line, Betty was able to find her. She called me at Bay Weekly to give me the news.

At almost the same time the Anne Arundel SPCA called in my chip: The dog's owner had, after two days, called them. With a name and number given me by both Betty and the SPCA, I called Kirby's owner.

My long journey ended about two blocks from where I found Kirby.

Now, next to my toaster lies a little red rubber Tuff Toy - "Hours of chewing fun for your small dog." I'll never get to test that hype now that my little dog's gone.

I'm happy to have the case solved. I learned a few things about finding public information. But I miss Kirby.

Did I mention the freeze-dried beef treats?

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly