It took five months, but Wayne Klinkel was reimbursed $500 Monday by the federal government for his dog’s expensive taste.
“It all comes out in the end,” Klinkel said, laughing. “It was great to get the check after all the crap I went through.”
The saga of Sundance began last Christmas, when the elderly golden retriever and his owners, Wayne Klinkel and his wife were on a road trip from Montana to Colorado to visit their daughter and her husband, Amy and Coty Church, in Denver. The Klinkels stopped at a restaurant for dinner, and left Sundance in their locked vehicle. They also left five $100 bills, and a $1 bill, in a cubbyhole.
When they returned about 45 minutes later, the doors were still locked and Sundance, then 12 years old, was still inside. The $1 bill was lying on the driver’s seat. About half of a $100 bill was next to it.
The rest of the money was gone.
Wayne knew exactly what happened. Ever since they picked up Sundance at a Wyoming animal shelter, they learned he would eat just about anything in sight.
Based on his previous experiences, Wayne also knew paper wouldn’t fully digest. So for the rest of his vacation, whenever Sundance went outside to take care of business, Wayne donned rubber gloves and followed his dog, hot on his “trail,” so to speak.
Wayne retrieved quite a few fragments, but it wasn’t until his daughter visited Helena in March that she was able to give him enough remnants for him to piece together portions of all five bills. He thoroughly washed them — again with gloved hands —and let the pieces soak for about a week while he tried to get in the right frame of mind for the task at hand.
Eventually, he drained and rinsed the pieces, using a screen made for panning for sapphires. Once the bills were dry, he painstakingly pieced them back together, taped them and put each individual bill in a plastic bag. On April 15, the Klinkels submitted them in plastic baggies to the Federal Treasury hoping to be reimbursed.
“Ten days later I got a receipt back saying my letter was received, but that’s the only communication I had during the whole process,” Wayne said.
A Federal Reserve spokesperson said that it could take up to two years and nothing was guaranteed; but if more than 51 percent of the bills were there, the Klinkels could get at least some of his $500 back.
Late Monday afternoon, when he picked up his mail, Wayne noticed an envelope from the government. Inside was a green and gold check for $500.
“I opened it and thought ‘holy s—t,’” Wayne said on Tuesday. “I gave Sundance a pat, showed it to him and told him not to eat it.”
He said there wasn’t any correspondence accompanying the government check, but in small letters typed in the bottom left it said “MUT.CURR REFUND.”
They deposited the check with their bank the first thing Tuesday morning, since the government had shut down due to the budget impasse in Congress, and the Klinkels weren’t sure it would be accepted. They also didn’t want to leave the check anywhere near Sundance.
The bank readily accepted the check, to their delight, especially since they recently paid about half of its face value to a veterinarian to remove a growth in Sundance’s eye. The surgery left Sundance blind in that eye, but he’s still just as adorable as ever to the Klinkels.
And even though they had to jump through quite a few hoops to get reimbursed — including grossing out a couple of bank tellers — Wayne said it’s been an interesting experience. After the story first appeared in the Independent Record, where Wayne is a graphic artist, Sundance’s saga has been printed in publications throughout the world, including the Huffington Post and the London Daily Mail. A Google search Monday turned up 9.5 million results.
Wayne also was interviewed on numerous radio shows, including Canadian and Seattle stations, and exchanged emails with a woman in a similar situation, whose dog figured out how to open the zipper on her purse and eat $20 bills.
“She never did recover her money,” he said.
Wayne still doesn’t carry a billfold — years ago his chiropractor told him it could be contributing to his back problems — but he also no longer keeps his cash in a cubby hole in his vehicle.
“It’s locked in the glove box when we travel,” Wayne added.
Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Eve on Twitter @IR_EveByron