Bryan Tingey keeps a firm grip on Chip.
Chip is something of a Cool Hand Luke among canines, or, as Colleen Tingey puts it, "A real Houdini, an escape artist."
As a pup last year, he was a familiar sight on Helper streets, roaming around after breaking out of his pen again and again. His owner, Colleen's son Bryan, tried to keep the dog secure, but Chip was apparently born to escape and evade.
Then, in early October, six-month-old Chip disappeared for good. He was not on the streets and had not been captured and taken to the animal shelter.
"We gave up on finding him and we turned his pen mate in to the shelter," Colleen said. "We decided we'd live without dogs."
Then, late last month, they got a call from animal control: "We've got your dog."
Ironically, Chip was saved by a chip.
When Bryan bought Chip in April of last year, they had him implanted with an ID microchip. It was this electronic device that eventually sent Chip homeward bound.
As Colleen told the story, a cosmetologist at the Jalynn's Barber Shop in Helper spotted Chip wandering aimlessly on Main Street. She invited him into the shop and kept him until animal control arrived and took him to the animal shelter.
It was there that Chip was scanned for ID, and he was eventually reunited with the Tingeys.
But now there's a big mystery remaining to be solved: where was Chip hanging out for the ten months he was missing?
When he vanished he was but a pup, and now he is nearly full-grown and healthy.
"He knows a lot of tricks he didn't know before," added Bryan. "All he knew was how to sit, now he knows lay down and roll over."
To Colleen, it means that some humane person in Helper had found Chip and adopted him. Then, given his hard-wired instinct for escape, he apparently got away from the new owner as well.
"I wish I knew who it was so I could thank them," Colleen said. "But I feel sorry for them, too, "she added, "because now they probably miss Chip as much as we did."
It's better to get a pet from the pound instead of adopting off the street, she concluded.