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Mugsy, Case 23-002 – Part 1
You’re the pet detective assigned to this lost cat investigation.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO RECOVER THIS CAT?
On August 29, 2010, while driving in a small RV on I-90 through the beautiful Cascade Mountains, an hour east of Seattle, WA, an 82-year-old man had a sudden heart attack. His horrified wife was in the passenger seat and their two cats were in the back of their RV when it veered off of the Interstate, went airborne 160 feet, and crashed-landed and broke apart down onto the highway, near an underpass. The husband died of his injuries. The wife was severely injured.
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One of their cats sustained a spinal injury and was taken to a nearby veterinarian, but their second cat, a 17-year-old longhaired calico named Mugsy, was missing. Mugsy was not wearing a collar but she was microchipped.
I responded to the scene the day after the accident and met with the daughter of the elderly couple. She told me that a paramedic on the scene actually saw Mugsy hiding up under the cement interstate underpass immediately to the left of the crash site. Unfortunately, that paramedic tried to grab Mugsy but the skittish cat bolted and ran past the wreckage and straight into a forested, marshy area right next to the interstate on-ramp. We discussed displaced cat behaviors and lost cat recovery strategies. I left two humane cat traps with the daughter and gave her instructions on how to try humanely trapping Mugsy using smelly cat food inside of the traps.
We knew that because she was panicked, Mugsy would not be traveling far and was most likely still hiding within the marshy area. But a rain system was moving into the region the following day and, against my advice, the daughter and friends conducted a “grid search” of that marshy area. They insisted on doing this because they didn’t want Mugsy to be out in the cold downpour. They hoped they could hand-catch her. I had advised against this method for two reasons: First, trying to catch a running cat by hand is nearly impossible, and second, I had concerns that they just might flush Mugsy out of the marsh and into traffic, either onto the interstate itself or in the opposite direction and across the interstate on-ramp.
The daughter called me the next day with an update. They had indeed conducted their grid search, having family and friends walking side by side as they systematically swept, in unison, the marshy area and yes, they flushed Mugsy out. She bolted from her hiding spot in the marsh and across the interstate on-ramp (thankfully, no cars were coming!) and then vanished down into a steep, wooded ravine.
So, this brings us to your part: If YOU were the pet detective on this case, which of the following six recovery strategies would you try next to try and recover Mugsy? Most of these would be advisable to do at some point in a case like this, but we’re looking for the most effective next step that could likely break this case wide open.
(1) Strategy #1 - Bring a cat detection dog to the top of the ravine to see if the dog would pick up cat scent and verify that Mugsy was still in the ravine.
(2) Strategy #2 - Rappel down into the ravine and set baited humane traps at the bottom along with game cameras to verify that Mugsy was still in the ravine and to set up for a trapping operation.
(3) Strategy #3 - Advise the owner to find a safe route to go down into the ravine and alternate between shaking a bag of cat food, banging a spoon on a can of tuna, and calling Mugsy’s name.
(4) Strategy #4 - Set out dirty kitty litter boxes at the edges of the ravine so the litter scent would blow down the hill and attract Mugsy to come up the ravine to another strategically placed litterbox.
(5) Strategy #5 – Contact the microchip company and report that Mugsy is lost, making certain that the company has your current contact information on file.
(6) Strategy #6 – Get on social media and post Mugsy’s photo all over Lost & Found pet pages, notify all animal shelters, rescue groups, and veterinary clinics in the area in case she is found.
The third person who posts the correct strategy WILL BE OUR WINNER for this weeks mystery! The winner (along with the “rest of the story”) will be posted this Friday Nov 17th. In the comments below you can either post just the Strategy #, or you can post the Strategy # plus your reason for picking that strategy.
WARNING: These mini “Solve This Mystery!” games are both educational and entertaining. They are mostly based on actual lost pet recovery investigations that either I worked, my students worked, or other search dog handlers worked with their search dogs. While I will never show extremely graphic photos, I will be very descriptive in my writing. The content of some of my cases may be upsetting, especially if you’ve experienced the loss of a pet or are easily triggered by death. If you want to compare my mini mysteries to standard mystery writing, my cases are more “police procedural” and “true crime” based and only sometimes are they “cozies.” And, in many cases, there have sad endings or have no closure because, frankly, that is often the nature of lost pet recovery. In many cases, lost pets are just never found.