HELENAIR.COM - Wayne Klinkel has taken the old "my dog ate my homework" excuse to a new level.
Klinkel's dog ate his $100 bills. Five of them.
"I thought ‘You dumb SOB,'" Klinkel recalled with a rueful laugh. "I couldn't believe he did that."
The story of the $500 dog started around Christmas, when Klinkel and his wife took a road trip to visit their daughter and her husband, Amy and Coty Church, in Denver. Along the way, they stopped for dinner and left their 12-year-old golden retriever, Sundance, locked in the vehicle. They also left the five $100 bills and a $1 bill in a cubbyhole in their rig.
When they returned to the car, the doors were still locked and the dog 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 was gone.
"Sundance is notorious for eating anything and everything, so right away I knew what happened," Klinkel said.
He added that cleaning up after Sundance for years taught him that paper doesn't digest. So for the rest of his vacation, Klinkel followed the dog around outside as he went about his business. Wearing rubber gloves, he picked portions of the five $100 bills out of the dog poop.
"I pretty much recovered two fairly complete bills, and had some other pieces," Klinkel said. "But it wasn't nearly enough there to do anything with it."
Recently, however, his daughter came to Montana to visit. She brought a small baggy with her that held more pieces of $100 bills.
"She said ‘Oh, Dad, look what Coty found in the back yard,'" Klinkel said. "They found it after the snow had melted. She said they were shocked it hadn't blown away. Good thing it's a fenced yard."
Klinkel first put the hundred-dollar remnants in a five-gallon bucket of water and dish soap — a lot of dish soap — and let it 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.
Now Klinkel needed to figure out what to do with them. So he searched online and decided to take the bills to the Federal Reserve Bank in Helena.
He was stopped at the gate by the guard, who told him the Federal Reserve "is the bank's bank" and that he needed to take the bills to a bank. Klinkel went to one local bank, where three tellers gingerly picked up one of the baggies and examined it.
"Eww," the teller said. "We can't take these because we would have to give them to another customer."
Klinkel tried to explain that the banks give mutilated or worn out bills to the Federal Reserve, but the tellers refused to believe him.
So he went to a larger local bank, where the tellers this time broke out in hearty laughs when they heard of his plight. Their bank policy is to tell the customer to "send the mutilated currency, at their own expense and risk" to the Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, along with a letter explaining how the currency was destroyed and the customer's name and address.
"The Department of the Treasury sends a check directly to the customer when they deem the currency redeemable," the bank policy stated.
But the bank staff noted that since none of the bills had the entire two serial numbers on them, they didn't think the bills were redeemable.
However, a federal government employee, who declined to be identified, said that all Klinkel needs is 51 percent of the bills to be reimbursed. Information from the Treasury website adds that "each case is carefully examined by an experienced mutilated currency examiner" and if they decide that Klinkel's tale of woe is true, they just might send him a $500 check. That could take anywhere from six months to two years.
That's fine with Klinkel, since he's obviously is a patient man.
"Guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens," he said.'
By Eve Byron