The great flood of August 2016 displaced thousands of people and their pets.  It is a very difficult and stressful experience for people, but at least they can understand what has happened and know how to adapt.  Thousands of cats, however, have been disoriented by this sudden, drastic and unexplained event which made their territory unrecognizable and removed all traces of their scent and objects that defined their ownership there.  Many cats have been lost as they tried to escape the rising water.  Others survived the flood only to find their own home unrecognizable as all the things inside, including the walls and floors, are removed and piled in a huge heap in the yard.  Suddenly their own home is a strange and foreign place with no trace of their own scent to tell them that they belong here.  For a cat, that is a scary thing, and many have been lost as they wandered off looking for something familiar.  Such may be the case with Dawson, the friendly orange and white, 13 year old boy tabby that belongs to Karen.  Dawson was missing, but his orange tabby sister, Buffy, also 13, was still at home trying to adapt to the upheaval. We don't know why she climbed the tree in her back yard one night, but she was stuck there, and Karen wasted no time in finding me to bring her down the next day.

When I arrived at the site, I was a bit dismayed at what I saw.  Buffy was in some kind of multi-stem pear tree where each stem rose from the ground in a long arch reaching far out in all directions.  Buffy was only 20 feet high, but she was near the end of one the highest arching stems.  Some of the stems had already broken off during the storms that cause the flooding, and it was clear that I would not be able to go out very far at all on any stem without breaking it.  I had to study the tree a long time to figure out a way to get myself at least close to Buffy.  Making the tree even more challenging was that every branch emerged from the stem in a steep angle that created a very tight crotch.  I rely on those crotches to hold my ropes in place, and tight crotches like these cause the rope to get stuck.  Further complicating the matter, Buffy's position was directly over a metal fence, and I was worried that she could be badly hurt if she fell.

Karen found a mattress that we placed on top of the fence below Buffy.  Now I felt better at least about that problem.  I picked out a spot to tie my rope that would put me in position to stand on the stem below Buffy.  I could not go very far out toward Buffy, however, without risking breaking the stem.  I climbed up and tied myself into multiple stems and positioned myself as close as I could to Buffy.  It was a warm sunny day, and Buffy was panting as she was exposed to the full sun.

Karen had already told me that Buffy was a bit skittish, so I was not expecting her to cooperate and make this easy for me.  But I still wanted to give her a chance at an easy rescue, so I offered her some food.  Not surprisingly, she was too nervous to have any interest in the food, but she maintained her position facing away from me and did not walk any farther out the branch.  Just to be thorough, I put the food in the carrier and positioned it next to her thinking she might at least be interested in a more comfortable and shady place to rest.  Again, she balked.

The only option I had at that point was to use the rescue pole.  I positioned the noose around her neck and then pulled her gently toward me to get her to pick up one of her front feet.  When she lifted her left leg, I pulled the noose under her foot.  I still needed to get the noose behind her other front leg, so I gently pulled her toward me again.  When she lifted her right leg, I slid the noose behind it and tightened it around her upper chest.  I pulled her off the branch and brought her to me so that I could place her in the net.  She handled this indignity very well and did not struggle or fight.  I placed her securely in the net and brought her down to the ground where I handed her off to Karen.

Karen took Buffy inside the house to release her.  The house, which had flooded, was now thoroughly gutted.  The only walls were bare studs, the only flooring was the concrete slab foundation, and the only fixtures were the fans and dehumidifiers running to dry out the structure.  There was no furniture, and there was nothing familiar about this house to tell Buffy that this was her territory.  With no familiar scent or sight, Buffy did not feel safe, so she hid behind a bathtub, the only hiding place in the entire house.  Buffy did eventually come out and sit with Karen and get some water and food.  She is beginning to feel safe and better there now.

When I contacted Karen the next morning to see how Buffy was doing, I was happy to hear she was doing just fine.  But there was more news.  Dawson, Buffy's lost brother, had been found dead in the front yard.  The cause of his death is unknown, just as his whereabouts in the past few days are unknown.  Dawson is one more victim of the flood, even though the water went away a long time ago.  And Karen is dealt yet one more loss in a string of losses, even while she celebrates having Buffy down and safe with her again.