Rosie, a recently adopted Yorkshire terrier, doesn't even flinch when veterinarian Lena Wensel pushes a syringe between her shoulders.
At the end of the needle is a microchip that will be used to track Rosie if she ever is stolen or runs off from her new home in Monkton.
The microchip, which is about the size of grain of rice, is encoded with a serial number. Using a scanner, Baltimore County animal control officers can read the serial numbers on the microchips and trace the pets back to their owners.
Collars are old school. In Baltimore County, dog tags are going digital.
Baltimore County's animal shelter started offering to install the pet microchips earlier this year to increase the number of pets they're able to return to owners. They're not just for dogs, though. The microchips are routinely used to track cats and birds.
"Unlike tags and collars, the microchips won't fall off or wear out. They won't get lost," says Charlotte Crenson-Murrow, director of the county animal shelter in Monkton.
The Humane Society of Carroll County has been putting microchips in all the pets it offers for adoption for about five years, says executive director Nicky Ratliff.
"My main reason for doing it initially was to help get cats back to their owners," she says. "If you lose a beagle, we might only have two. But if you lose a tabby cat, we may have 15."
Since May, when Baltimore County launched its program, more than 200 pets have been microchipped. And since June, the shelter staff has reunited nine microchipped pets with their owners, says Crenson-Murrow.
Pet identification microchips were put on the market more than a decade ago, but in recent years they have become a standard security measure offered at veterinarian offices and animal shelters. The chip manufacturers keep registries of the pets with microchips and can track the serial numbers 24 hours a day.
For years, Baltimore County has scanned strays to check whether they had microchips.
"We would always get excited when a [lost] pet had a microchip because we know that animal is going home," Crenson-Murrow says, explaining what prompted them to start offering to insert the microchips.
The cost of installing a microchip is included in the fees for adopting a pet from the Baltimore County animal shelter. For others, it costs $20. A veterinarian is available to install the microchips during weekly Thursday morning rabies vaccination clinics or by appointment.
Anthony Barbieri brought Rosie into the shelter on a recent Thursday. "We live near the woods, so there's a lot of temptation," says Barbieri, who adopted Rosie for his 5-year-old son. "I thought it was better than tags. It's more reliable."
Baltimore County animal shelter staff say they can't count the number of times people have told them their pets weren't wearing collars when they strayed because they'd recently had baths and the tags somehow got forgotten. That's one more reason they say they like the microchips.
Although microchipping pets probably won't eliminate the need for the missing pet bulletin board at the shelter in Monkton, Crenson-Murrow says the technology already is making it easier and faster to reunite pets with their owners. They also eliminate questions about who is the pet's real owner, she says.
Among the recently returned pets is Lucky, a German shepherd-Labrador retriever mix who likes to wander from his home in Hunt Valley.
He'll take the shock from the electric fence around his yard and keep on going. He has ended up in neighbors' yards and veterinarian offices. Once he lived with a church secretary for two weeks.
His disappearances used to devastate the Briggs family. But they worry less about the 8-year-old dog these days, says Deborah Briggs, who had a microchip inserted in their wandering family pet several years ago.
Since then, Baltimore County animal shelter staff have traced Lucky back to his family more than once, Briggs says.
"It's remarkable," she says. "When your dog runs away, it's really hard, especially for a child."
Eleanor Bange, a retired secretary from Monkton, brought her daughter's Lhasa apso, Max, into the shelter recently to have a microchip inserted.
The day before, he slipped out the front door and ran down the driveway. "I was lucky to spot him about a half-mile away," says Bange. "We have ordered his name tags, but they haven't come yet. Anyone who would have found him wouldn't have had any way of identifying him."
If Max hadn't already had the appointment for a microchip, Bange says, she would've made one that day.