By Laila Kearney
(Reuters) - A Montana man who pieced together the remnants of five $100 bills eaten by his one-eyed dog last year is sporting a $500 check he says he received this week from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to replace the digested funds.
Wayne Klinkel said his dog Sundance, a golden retriever, sniffed the wad of bills out of a car cubby space while waiting for Klinkel and his wife to return from lunch, and the canine made the currency his lunch.
Klinkel, a graphic designer from Helena, Montana, who works for the local newspaper, the Independent Record, said he found Sundance had left nothing uneaten but one intact dollar bill and a small piece of a single $100 note.
"He's been notorious for eating paper products," Klinkel said about Sundance. "I knew right away what had happened."
Klinkel rescued Sundance as a puppy from a shelter 12 years ago and the dog later lost his left eye to surgery.
For days after the December incident, Klinkel followed Sundance around in the snow, collecting his droppings in a plastic bag, he said.
Klinkel kept the bag of doggy mess frozen in the cold outside his house, and after weeks of hesitation, he went forward with his plan for retrieving the soiled cash by thawing the droppings in a bucket of soapy water.
Using an old metal mining screen and a hose, he separated the $100 bill pieces from the rest of the matter, then washed and began to assemble the tiny paper fragments.
"It was sort of like putting the puzzle pieces back together," Klinkel said.
He then took the taped bills to a local bank and the Federal Reserve in Helena but was turned away, he said. Klinkel was eventually directed to the U.S. Department of Treasury's Mutilated Currency Division, where he mailed the digested bills with a notarized letter on April 15.
"There was no guarantee I was going to get anything back," Klinkel said.
The Treasury Department offers reimbursement for some proven cases of damaged currency, and a standard claim can take up to two years to be processed, according to the department's website.
"When mutilated currency is submitted, a letter should be included stating the estimated value of the currency and an explanation of how the currency became mutilated," the website says.
Klinkel said he didn't hear a word from the department until Monday, when he received a crisp $500 check in the mail from the Mutilated Currency Division to replace Sundance's midday snack six months prior.
The Independent Record, the paper that employs Klinkel, has posted a picture on its website of Sundance with the check dangling from its mouth.
An operator with the U.S. Department of Treasury on Thursday said department representatives were furloughed and unavailable for comment on Klinkel's reimbursement.
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sandra Maler)