It was only 45 minutes before sunset when Liz called me to see if I could rescue her cat, Pretty Girl, out of a tree. Liz had just learned about me from a friend on Facebook and called me right away. Normally, I would make arrangements to do the rescue in the morning, because I prefer to have enough light to see the tree well. This time, however, I was thinking about doing it that night. For one thing, the last weather report I had seen predicted a light freeze for the night. Also, when I first mentioned that I could do the rescue in the morning, I could hear a slight hint of restrained disappointment in Liz's voice. Then Liz told me that her 10-year-old daughter, Madison, had been crying off and on all day with worry about her kitty. Then the final dagger in the heart of my hesitation was the news that this was her daughter's birthday, and she had some friends over for a birthday slumber party that night. Okay, that's it. I'm doing it tonight.
I probably should have consulted the latest weather report before deciding, since, as I was preparing to leave, I saw a very surprising weather radar picture on the television. A cold front had just pushed through the day before, and the last I heard, we were expected to have two days of pretty weather, so I was puzzled by the storms I was seeing on the radar. Apparently, even the weather forecasters were surprised by this, but there the storms were: nearby, substantial, and moving from west to east mostly just north of the interstate. Fortunately, my destination in Ponchatoula was east and just south of the interstate, so I proceeded undeterred with my plan to go.
During the drive over there, however, I began to question both my decision and my sanity. I was only three miles from home when the rain began. Shortly after that, I ran into the first of two traffic delays, at least one of which was caused by an accident. The driving became stressful as the rain began to fall very hard, and I could see occasional flashes of lightning far to the north. The hard rain continued for about two thirds of my one-hour trip there. How can I even think about trying to rescue a kitty in a tree in these conditions? Why am I doing this? What is wrong with me? Still, I pressed on.
When I arrived at the site, I was pleased to see that the rain had spared the area thus far. I met Liz and her husband, Artie, and they pointed to the tree that held Pretty Girl captive. It was a substantial pine tree, and Pretty Girl was about 40 feet high crying to us below. I wanted to do this rescue as quickly as possible because I did not know if the rain was going to spare us much longer. Pretty Girl had already endured a serious thunderstorm with the arrival of the cold front the day before, and I did not want her to have to suffer through any more, especially now that the temperature was in the mid-30s.
I began working to install my rope in the tree, but I ran into some difficulties and spent much more time than usual. During this process, a light rain began to fall. By the time I was ready to put on my climbing gear, the rain was falling harder, so I took advantage of the covered porch to get ready. Fortunately, there was no sign of lightning, so I began to climb the tree while Artie and Liz held flashlights to help guide me. Because of the rain and darkness, I did not even bring my camera with me, so I have no pictures of my own to share. All pictures seen here were provided by Liz.
Liz had told me on the phone that Pretty Girl is a very friendly cat. That was one of the reasons I decided to do the rescue that night, since I expected her to be cooperative and not make me chase her all over the tree. Indeed, as I approached her, Pretty Girl watched me and stayed relaxed in her perch. She never looked stressed or uncomfortable with me, and I was very happy to see that. Once I was within reach, I stuck my hand out to her, and she readily sniffed it and gave me her approval. She was not disturbed even as I advanced my rope around the branch on which she was sitting. She had several droplets of water sitting on top of her pretty coat which sparkled with the reflection of the lights below. We took a few moments to make friends, and she let me rub her cheek and pet her. She seemed happy to have someone close.
I pulled up the carrier, opened the door and held it over my head in front of her. I assumed that she would be happy to step inside a covered box where she could spread out on a flat floor and be out of the rain. She looked inside, considered it and decided it would suit her. She very slowly stepped inside, and once I saw her back legs go in, I pulled her down to me to close the door. With her tail still poking out the front, I could not close the door completely, and every time I pushed her tail inside, she pushed right back out. We must have done this six or seven times before I succeeded in closing the door.
I brought Pretty Girl down to the ground and handed the carrier to Artie. By this time, the rain had stopped, though the tree was still dripping. Artie took her inside the house and released her there. Madison was very happy to have her kitty back home again. So were her friends, as they had all been very worried about her. I went back to the porch to remove my climbing gear, and, while I packed up, Madison came out of the house and, without a word, spread out her arms to hug me. I was still wet all over, but she hugged me anyway. Right behind her were two of her friends each lined up in turn to hug me as well. They all went back inside to visit with Pretty Girl and resume their party, this time without the gloomy weight of Pretty Girl's plight in the tree hanging over them. Now they had even more reason to celebrate.
So how can I even think of trying to rescue a kitty in a tree in these conditions? Why am I doing this? There was my wordless but clear answer right there: the happiness and gratitude of a 10-year-old girl on her birthday and the relief of her worried and now grateful parents.
Oh, and by the way, Pretty Girl is pretty happy about it too.