Dear Max,

After you recovered from the skunk incident, we continued our outdoor adventures. The first order of business was to tighten the harness. With cats, we have to make the harness much tighter than you would with a dog. Cats have a more flexible back and rib cage, so they can get out of the harness and get sprayed by a skunk (for instance) more easily.

You had discovered the joys of the great outdoors, and you would wait by the door, ready to dart out if someone didn’t notice that small black puff of fur.

So we started our outings again. This time, you were quite content to wear the harness and I was careful to tighten it.

One day something, and I don’t recall what it was, scared you (again). You started to back up, to pull and then to wriggle and writhe in the harness. I couldn’t get you reeled in with the leash quickly enough to pick you up. Remembering our last adventure, I was afraid to hold onto the leash too tight, for fear you’d slip away again.

So I let go.

You headed right to the foundation of the house, and followed it along around the house. Across the lawn, and about ten feet up an ancient apple tree in my parents’ front yard. Yes, that’s a photo of you in the tree, trailing your leash.

And then we had a cat in a tree. And you weren’t interested in coming down. No amount of calling, begging, pleading or offering of treats could make you climb down to where I could reach you.

Until . . . my brother-in-law came out with the ladder. The noise and vibration of the ladder up against the tree beside you was enough to convince you to make a run for it, and you jumped down and came right to me.

One thing I learned that day – the cat up the tree most often could climb down if properly motivated. There’s just too much scary commotion going on down there, and staying put seems like the safest course of action.

If I had just sat quietly at the base of the tree and been more patient, I bet the whole thing would have been less traumatic for both of us.