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SOLVE THIS MYSTERY! WHERE’S WALDO? CASE 23-001, PART 2
What species of pet was hidden in this tree and where in the photo is he hiding?
The answer: The missing pet up in the tree was an iguana named Don Julio. The winner of our first mystery to be solved (and the only person who guessed iguana and the correct area where he was hidden) is fellow Substacker and friend Holly Starley fromwho guessed “iguana” and who guessed that the correct location of the hidden iguana in the posted photo was “slightly left of center and 1/3 of the way down from the top.” Nice job Holly!
Here’s the photo with the area circled. You can see only a smidge of Don Julio’s scale-patterned side.
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And here’s a second photo with a closer view so you can see it more clearly.
Here’s the full story of this case and how it was solved.
I responded to Beacon Hill (outside of Seattle, Washington) on October 20, 2009 at the request of Peter, the owner of Don Julio. By the time I arrived, it had already been three days since Don Julio had left his outdoor perch and scooted out an open gate. Back on October 17, when Don Julio first escaped, Peter launched an immediate search of the neighborhood. It was pouring rain but ten minutes into searching the area Peter saw an Animal Control Officer. Sure enough, someone had reported seeing an iguana leaving the roadway and walking north on the sidewalk directly across from Peter’s home, going toward the I-90 footpath near 17th Ave. South. This sighting was just 1/2 block north of Peter’s home.
Peter spent the next three days searching the trees in that immediate area. This wasn’t the first time that he had to hunt down his prized lizard. On the first escape, Don Julio had climbed up a tree in Peter’s front yard. On the second escape, he climbed a fence and ended up inside a tree one block west of Peter’s home. But after scouring the area trees with no luck, Peter found me on the internet. He wanted to know if I could bring a tracking dog out to track his lost iguana.
I responded with my bloodhound Zeke but I didn’t hold out much hope that he could crack the case. Zeke was dynamic on lost dog scent but I had never trained him on iguana scent. But anyone who trains scent discrimination trailing dogs can tell you that scent is scent, and most of the time when you present a scent (human or animal) to a trained dog, they will look for and follow only THAT scent. So, I reasoned that using Zeke was worth a shot. I took a sterile gauze pad and crushed up shed iguana skin (from Don Julio’s giant aquarium home) and used this as Zeke’s scent article.
I started Zeke in the backyard where Don Julio was last seen and let him sniff the iguana skin-flaked-gauze pad “scent article.” Zeke picked up a scent trail and worked north up to the area of the sighting. He continued past the sighting, heading in the same direction that the witness saw the iguana waddling. But a short distance later, on the I-90 trail, Zeke seemed to lose the scent. Right in the area where Zeke seemed to lose the scent and stopped working, we were next to two giant trees. I switched tactics. I loaded Zeke back into my truck and pulled out my binoculars. Peter and I spent the next hour searching the treetops in the immediate neighborhood. Peter had looked in these trees without binoculars and without a lot of confidence. Zeke gave Peter more confidence to keep searching the trees. We didn’t have any luck finding Don Julio while I was there, but I recommended that Peter purchase binoculars, make and hang giant fluorescent LOST IGUANA LIZARD posters along the path that Zeke had tracked, put an alert on social media, and keep searching the trees.
Four days later, Peter e-mailed me that he had found Don Julio! Peter had invested in a pair of binoculars and continued to search those same trees in his neighborhood over and over. On October 24, Peter was looking up in a tree with his new pair of binoculars when he spotted what looked like a tail. Peter took these photographs when he first saw Don Julio. Perhaps this will give you a better appreciation of how difficult it was to find an iguana in a tree! The second photo was taken with a zoom lens, enabling you to see some of the pattern on Don Julio’s body.
But still, it is pretty amazing that Peter was able to see the iguana—at least until you understand the concept of “Search Probability Theory,” a principle used in finding lost people. I teach this theory to pet detectives in my online pet detective academy and it goes like this: You’ll have a higher probability of finding what you are searching for (missing person or missing pet) if you only focus your search efforts in the locations where the subject (missing person or missing pet) is most likely to be. Since Don Julio had been found in trees twice before, and since Zeke’s scent trail ran out near some prime candidate trees, I suggested that was where Peter should have focused his search efforts. And I’m glad that’s what he did!
Peter conducted a sustained, patient search of the high-probability search areas (the treetops in the immediate area) with his binoculars. Don Julio was in a tree that was only 20 yards from where that witness who called Animal Control last saw scampering down the sidewalk. It was a tree that Peter and I had searched. In spite of the fact that Peter had already searched that tree several times, he searched it again and again with an understanding that his iguana could very likely be up there. A positive mindset is critical to the success of recovering a lost pet. Just ask Peter and Don Julio!
Congratulations to my very first Solve This Mystery! game.you have a choice of prizes to pick from: an autographed copy of either my PET TRACKER or DOG DETECTIVES book, a 30-minute Whatever Consultation with me where I likely teach you nothing useful, but we will laugh and have fun, or a small string of CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS tape that you can use to prank someone in all of your travels! Let us know which prize you’d like!
The next mystery will be released on Monday Nov 13th so please tell your friends by clicking the share button here, because with all the stress in the world right now we need more FUN in our lives with arm chair detectives like Holly who can solve these mini mysteries!
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.