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Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Six: Case File No. 38-298

Gus walking across a fallen tree

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Where We Left Off:

The Grumpy Old Man reported that he saw Virginia Doe, a neighborhood animal we know to be deceased. Does the Ghost Deer legend have any connection to this sighting?

How to Train Your Dragon (or Cat):

As the backyard gets boring in the winter, Gus is more inclined to want to explore. Plus, it’s so much easier to play in the woods when the leaves are dead and dropped. As of today, I have not heard a thing from our new neighbors who now own the woods around us. I left them a welcome gift and card too. They have not moved in, but they show up to do work. The package included a collage of photos of what “their” front yard looked like in spring where the old couple had been cultivating hundreds of daffodils. I didn’t say anything other than, this is what your new yard will look like, because obviously they would have no idea since they bought in winter. Wouldn’t you be upset if there was a field of treasured flowers and you accidentally dug it up?


When I left the package on their back porch, I didn’t look around the way I used to do with Gus when no one was there. Now that there are security cameras in different places, I kept my visit brief and on task. All I could tell was that one of the big, magical trees had been cut down. The one I called the Fairy Tree because of it’s vulva-shaped door opening. That opening and stump are still in tact. I doubt any critters want to live there now.

the base of a tree with a vulva-shaped opening
2021 Fairy Tree

The “Gus Superhighway of Trees” is in a part of the woods right next to Fort Winchester. It’s not near the neighbors’ house. I don’t know if they intend to put up trail cameras, but for now, I’m still going over there to climb trees with Gus. I noticed a few of the birds following us and watching me since I had the can of birdseed. Even if it’s empty, they keep watching me to see if I’ll set up another snack bar for them.

Gus doesn’t pay attention to the birds here which is an interesting note. He’s all about the underground critters and the bigger creatures who leave scent trails. If he’s not hunting, he’s tracking and gathering intel. We know the volepyres are still active under their precious soil and blanket of leaves. Even I can hear them with my limited sense of hearing compared to Gus.

We also discovered tiny moles popping out of the rock wall to steal peanuts from the birds’ snack bar. It’s a daring maneuver considering some of the larger birds like the jays could take a small critter for a meal. They’ve created a real world Whack-a-Mole situation. There’s some footage of it in the video including slow motion replays.

When you see Gus as an adventure cat and wonder how it’s possible that he’s smart enough to return to me or home, remember this took time. He went through a training process. The hardest part was getting him to wear a harness and collar because Gus loves to be naked! These are the steps I tell people when they inquire about adventuring:

  1. Indoors – lay the harness on him while he’s relaxed and lying down (tired out) for only a few seconds.
  2. Repeat step 1 gradually adding more time until you can reach the point where you can buckle the harness.
  3. Once you’ve achieved buckling, the cat may feel restricted and uncomfortable. Unbuckle after a few seconds.
  4. Repeat previous step until you’ve gotten the cat keeping the harness on and walking around indoors.

This next step I recommend because cats need to be in a safe, confined space before bigger expeditions. If you have a relatively private yard, you probably don’t need this part but you never know when a loud machine will be turned on and scare the hell out of your cat.

  1. Get a stroller or backpack. Follow similar steps to get the cat comfortable. Oliver enjoys having buggy rides around the house. He gets to feel even more like a king.
  2. Once the cat realizes the stroller is a supercool place where they can see the outside world and still get treats, try small trips. I walked Gus back and forth over and over across a porch. I also did this when I was injured and needed to do required walking for physical therapy. Having the stroller helped and served to get Gus comfortable.
  3. As soon as he mastered being in the stroller, I started letting him out of the stroller to walk on his leash. If you have a young cat, this will always be an energetic over-stimulated time. Again, be aware of loud things starting up at any moment so that you can scoop up your best friend and get them back into the safety of the backpack or stroller.
  4. After a while, you’ll realize that there are useful training techniques like clicker and treat training that can make all of this better.

I began letting go of his leash in order for me to back away enough to get a photo quickly but calmly. He was better behaved in his earlier days or maybe I was just more of a helicopter parent. Now, he escapes and goes trespassing where he shouldn’t as soon as I try to do any like photograph a bird or tackle weeds. Nonetheless, when we are in a zone that he likes, in our case the woods, I have to unlatch him because he would caught in thorn bushes immediately if I didn’t.

You’ll notice that Oliver is always in a stroller aka, his buggy. Oliver is incredibly sensitive to touch. I was slowly training him to wear a harness and I truly believe he would have enjoyed it given enough time. The problem is they are used to their roles. Gus gets to be on the ground and doesn’t want Oliver coming down there. When Oliver becomes stressed, the demon inside him comes out and will destroy a bitch.

Gus discovered his love of climbing on trees all on his own. Gus is thrilled when a storm knocks over another tree! In his Superhighway zone, the trees are thick enough that I can walk on them too.

Case Findings:

Gus hasn’t caught any rodents lately which surprises me because he clearly knows where they are under the ground and in the rock wall. There are likely mice getting fatter inside the walls of the house and the hangar, but none have been captured all winter. Looks like we’ll have to wait a couple months.

If you’re thinking about adventure training your companion, I highly recommend it. Remember that some take to it quickly. For others, it’s a long process. And still, others have no interest in being in the scary outdoors. You have to respect your companion’s signals.

Case Status: Closed

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