This third time he was chased up the tree by some loose dogs, and, again, it was during another terrible storm system that was flooding a large area of the southern part of the state. He had been in the tree for two nights when I got the call to rescue him, and he had already endured some of the worst weather this area has to offer. The rain had been heavy and almost constant, and the lightning storms had been violent and terrifying. Through it all, Hippy stayed up there near the top of the tree, holding on tightly while swaying with the wind.
When I got the call, I studied the weather radar picture, and the image was not good. Hippy was just outside Covington which was 75 miles away from me, and while the weather was reasonably calm enough at that moment, I could see that it would not be calm by the time I could get there. I debated about going and hoping for the best, but the reality was that there was little chance that the weather would allow me enough time to get him down. I hated to put off the rescue, but I felt I had no choice, and Hippy would have to spend another night in the tree while the relentless storm raged on.
Early the next morning, I was hoping for some good news in the radar picture, but I was very disappointed to see that it looked even worse. There was no way I could rescue Hippy in this weather. Even driving there in this weather was inadvisable. I watched the radar all morning hoping for an opening, and at lunch time, I saw that an opening was indeed forming nearby. I studied that small clearing over time and saw it slowly growing larger and moving very slowly toward Hippy as the rain began to weaken and slide away. I saw this as a good chance to make my move, so off I went.
While the weather was improving near Hippy, it was still horrible at my house and everywhere in between. The drive over there was pretty scary as the rain fell so heavily and without any break. Visibility was poor, so slower than usual speeds were necessary. Five miles before I reached Hippy, the rain began to let up, but it still did not quit. Still, there was no lightning nearby, and I would not let a light rain stop me. By the time I reached Hippy, there was hardly any rain at all.
Since I had tried to rescue Hippy once before, I already knew what to expect from him. I knew he would not be cooperative at all. I fully expected him to either jump or stay far enough away from me that the rescue pole would be the only feasible rescue option. But his human mom, Jennifer, told me that he has been taming up more lately and getting more affectionate. Still, I did not expect that to make any difference when a stranger approached him in a tree. But I always like to think positive, so I made sure to bring the carrier with me. If I could get him interested in food, then maybe a carrier rescue would work. The nice thing about a carrier is that it provides a sense of protection, isolation and hiding from that scary stranger that is approaching. Plus it just looks so much more comfortable than a rough, narrow branch.
With Hippy already very near the top of the tree, the best place to tie my rope was on a branch very near where he was. Shooting my throw-line into the tree scares the cats even when it is far above them, so I knew that Hippy would be very frightened if I tried to shoot it that close to him. Rather than do that, I decided it would be better to aim much lower below him to start, and then quietly work my way up the tree to him. I wanted to keep him as calm as possible, so the less commotion I made the better.
When I reached close to him, I could see he was not comfortable. He stood up, let out some stressed cries, and then he hissed at me. Yes, this was the Hippy I was expecting to find. As it turned out, that hiss was the only one he gave me, but he was still stressed and uncomfortable. After giving him a minute to settle down, I pulled out a can of food for him. He didn't make a move for it, but I did see him lick his lips once. He was interested, but just a little too stressed to go for it. I gave him a little more time, and then he calmed down enough to get closer to the food. Then he began to eat while I held the bowl. This was far more than I ever expected from Hippy, and I was thrilled.
I let him eat a little, and then I placed the bowl in the back of the carrier. I held the carrier up to him, and, after a few seconds, he slowly walked inside. Once he was all the way in, I pulled him closer to me so that I could reach the carrier door. Sensing that he might be having second thoughts, I quickly slammed the door shut just as soon as I could reach it. He lunged for the opening at the same time, but I had just beat him to it and had him safely inside. I was so happy that it had worked out this easily.
I brought him down and Jennifer took him inside to release him. After he calmed down and felt safe again, he ate and went to sleep. Later that evening, Jennifer interrupted his sleep for this picture and sent it to me. He wasn't happy to be disturbed, but that did not stop him from going back to sleep. He was happy to have a full belly, a dry, comfortable bed, and a safe place to call home.
I, however, still had 75 miles to go to get home. As bad as the weather was going, it was even worse going home. I saw overflowing rivers and water levels rising close to homes and businesses. I saw cars submerged in the water just off the road. I saw more rain than I have ever seen smash into my windshield with a deafening noise. When I finally reached my driveway and safely parked it there, I let out a big sigh. I was safe and sound.
The next day, the road I had traveled was closed in places due to flooding. The areas I had passed through are suffering the worst flood ever by far. This was no ordinary flood event. This flood will be THE flood that becomes the standard by which all others will be compared. It will be the reference point for everyone here in the future. They will talk about things that were before or after THE flood. Many animals and pets have been lost in this flood, and many have died. While Hippy suffered through a miserable experience in the top of a tree during much of this bad weather, there is no need to feel sorry for him. He is alive, and he is home while so many others are not.