Many of you have probably already heard we have a new team member here at BIKES@VIENNA, and some of you have met him face to face, but for those who haven't, we'd like to introduce Chester!
Chester joined us just after Thanksgiving of 2022, and most days we're open, you'll find him here, at least until we get to the season where we keep the doors wide open.
So, how did the little guy come to us? Well, that's an interesting story. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I (Tim) drove up to Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania, to stay in one of their cabins. It's become something of a regular thing for me, a nice escape during the slow season, with simple, comfortable cabins and very few people around. Plus, the park is convenient to the Great Allegheny Passage trail, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, the town of Ohiopyle, and lots of good hiking as well.
Monday morning I was sitting on the porch of my cabin, sipping some hot coffee, when I suddenly saw a small, grey shape hop up onto the picnic table at the next cabin. At first I thought it might be a raccoon, but quickly figured out it was a small tabby cat! There were no other people in that part of the campground, which is the "pet friendly" area, so I knew he didn't belong to a current camper. Eventually, he vanished around the far side of the other cabin.
I soon decided I couldn't just ignore him, so I opened up a can of tuna and put it in a bowl and set it by the porch of the other cabin. I returned to my cabin, and waited. Sure enough, he eventually came out of hiding, and started eating, now and then stealing glances my way. Over the next couple of days, I kept putting out tuna, and gradually moved it closer and closer to my cabin, and then onto my porch.
Wednesday came, and it was a cold, wet morning, and no sign of my furry friend. I waited until around noon, and then decided I'd get ready for a hike, as the weather was clearing. Just as I was all packed up and ready to go, there he was, at the edge of my porch, eating the tuna.
The next two hours were all about refilling the dish, gradually moving it closer and closer to the open door of my cabin. I stayed inside, sitting on the floor, watching him. Ultimately, I brought it inside the cabin and waited. He was cautious, but did eventually come in and eat, while I kept my distance. Once he got to where he started to look around the cabin a bit, I quietly went to the door and closed it.
His first reaction was to run to each of the windows to look outside, then racing up to one of the top bunks, where he just lay down looking very unsure. He stayed there a good long while, so I went to the park office to find out if they had any missing cat reports.
Now, at this point, I have to add an interesting twist to the story - exactly one year earlier, at the same park, in the same group of cabins, another cat appeared. So this wasn't my first experience with luring a cat into a cabin with tuna. That cat had a collar and tag, so I was able to reunite her with her family, who drove all the way up from Lynchburg, VA, the moment they got word their Brigita had been found. She'd gone missing on a camping trip Memorial Day weekend, so the dear little girl had been out there for six months! I was so glad to be able to reunite them.
So, when I went to the park office, I explained that I was "the guy that found the cat last year" and we chatted briefly about Brigita. I then told them I had yet another cat in my cabin, and they were both surprised and amused. They checked for missing cat reports, and came up with nothing, so I asked if they knew where I could take this cat to get scanned for an ID chip. Well, it turns out the park has a scanner, which they loaned me as I headed to a store to get cat food, a litter box, and litter.
When I got back to the cabin, he was tucked into a far corner, where I couldn't easily get to him, and meowed sadly now and then. He came out for food, but then returned to his corner. Since I couldn't get him to come out of his hidey-hole, I finally went to bed after leaving some food out for him.
Around two am, I was woken by VERY loud meowing, and got up to find him by the front window, very agitated about something outside. My best guess is a raccoon, but when I looked, I didn't see anything. He seemed to calm down, and when I sat down on one of the bunks, he hopped into my lap! Before long he was curled up purring, and eventually fell asleep. I managed to slowly reposition myself to a position in which I could sleep, and we both fell sound asleep.
After that, he clearly decided I was okay, and hopped into my lap at every opportunity. I was concerned he might try to get out, so I was very careful going in and out of the cabin. As it turns out, whenever I went back in, he was comfortably curled up inside, and made it very clear he had no desire to be out in the cold again.
When the time came to leave, I packed the little guy up in a carrier I'd bought the day before, and loaded him in the car. There was some fussing and meowing for the first hour or so, but he ultimately settled down comfortably for the rest of the ride. After a check up at the vet, a basically clean bill of health, neutering, and a chip implanted, we got him settled into the shop. After a lot of thought and input from others, I finally settled on the name Chester Proudpaw, a play on a character name from the old radio version of Gunsmoke. And his nickname Chessie is reminiscent of the mascot for the C&O Railroad many years ago, a tabby by that name. Over time, I introduced him to my other two cats, Jinx and Zero, and they all get along great now.
So now Chester commutes with me, and is very mellow about the whole thing. Unlike my other two cats, he does not fuss about getting into the carrier, and seems to genuinely like being at the shop during the day. He and my other cats play and groom each other at home, and Chester gets lots of attention at the store.
Next time you're in the area, why not come by and say hi? He's a very sweet little boy, and generally very friendly with strangers. It might take a minute or two, but he generally warms up quickly.