Microchipping pets is crucial in natural disaster-prone areas and for owners whose pets spend any amount of time unsupervised out of doors. For all others (all twelve of you left over) it’s merely ‘strongly recommended.’ That was before this week’s tragedy unfolded in the mountains of North Georgia.

Straight from the headlines comes Ella’s story. She’s the black Lab mix who made it down from the Georgia woods to a grocery store after she and her owner, Meredith Emerson, went for a hike last weekend. Meredith never made it back. She was apparently stalked and killed by a sick f--- (sorry, I have no better description for him).

Ella had presumably lost her leash and collar in whatever transpired to separate her from her owner (I shudder to think of it). But she was positively identifiable by her microchip number. It was among the first in a long list of clues that would lead police to find Ella’s mom…albeit too late.

This is the first case I’ve ever heard of where a microchip was instrumental in a human forensics case like this one. And while it may not have made a difference to the outcome of this crime or its investigation, the implications are quite clear:

Microchips get pets home. They might even help you get home, too.

It was too late for Meredith. But who knows? Maybe next time, that lightning-strike-twist-of-fate that leads you into dark places might find you relying on your pet’s ID as the only beacon out. It’s worth thinking about.

(Thanks to Tom Dock of VNN for a heads up on this one.)