Sonya is Chris's three-year-old torbie in Gonzales who got stuck 30 feet high in a tree in a jungle behind the house, and, if she had not been such a sweet, friendly and cooperative girl, I would not have been able to rescue her. She had been stuck in the tree for three nights, and she was anxious to be rescued and was happy to see me coming for her. If she had been afraid and climbed up higher to get away from me, however, I would not have been able to reach her.

The tree was dominated by vines, and, because of all the foliage, I could not even see a single limb on the tree, much less find one suitable for installing a rope. I thought about shooting my weighted bag into the mass of vines and hoping to get lucky with sending it over a suitable limb, but that would have been risky. The weighted bag would very likely get tangled in the mass of vines, and I needed it to go through them and fall all the way down through more vines to the ground on the other side before I could use it. The probability of that seemed very low. If I had spikes, I could have considered using those to walk up the tree, but the trunk was surrounded with the large stalks of the vines, and there was very little clear space on the trunk where a spike could go.

The only other option I had was to use a pole-climbing technique which is a very slow, tedious and strenuous method of climbing, especially on a vine-covered tree like this. This technique involves alternating between two ropes which are cinched around the tree trunk while a third cinched rope, which is connected to foot loops, is used to allow me to stand up to advance up the tree in small increments at a time somewhat like an inchworm. When I stand up in the foot loops, I advance one of the other ropes as high as I can reach, transfer my weight to that rope, and then advance the foot loops. That may not sound so bad, but, in this tree, each time I advanced any of the three ropes, I had to disconnect it and manually feed it through the vines while hugging the tree where I could barely reach the rope with the other hand to pull it around the trunk. In an ideal tree, I could advance at least a foot of height at a time fairly easily and quickly, but, in this tree, each advance gained only inches and required much more time and energy.

The vines were an assorted mix of varieties including Virginia Creeper and, of course, the ever-present Poison Ivy. I always wear long-sleeve shirts for this reason, but, with the way I had to hug the tree to advance the ropes, I rubbed my sleeved arms on the Poison Ivy and pressed the irritant oil through the fabric. To add to the joy and ambiance, there were numerous snakes in this area which was next to a large pond. You won't be able to see them in the first picture above, but there was a two-foot snake at chest height in the vines at the bottom of the picture, and there was another four-foot snake that fell out of the tree onto the vines at eye level off to the left side. They did not bother us, and we did not bother them.

Even before I began to climb, I was sweating on this warm, humid morning, and, once I started climbing up the trunk, I was quickly dehydrated. I was pretty well exhausted before I climbed half way up the tree, and, at that point, progress went even slower because I needed to rest often. By the time I reached Sonya, I was pretty well spent and could not have gone any higher if she had climbed higher to get away from me. I was delighted to see that she was so anxious to be rescued. She tried to come down toward me but couldn't do it. Still, she reached down just far enough that I could grab her and pull her down to me. I put her in the bag and held her in my arms for a few minutes to make sure she understood that I was friendly and she was safe. Then we went down to the ground where Chris was waiting. I felt sorry for Chris having to wait all this time for me finally to bring Sonya down. He stayed on the ground in the humid heat waiting while swatting bugs, avoiding the Poison Ivy, and watching for more snakes to fall out of the tree. That was not an enjoyable way to spend a morning.

On the ground, I was so exhausted that I did not have the energy to pack up my gear. I moved slowly, resting often, and was very grateful that Chris graciously helped me get it all done. Then he hauled the heaviest of the gear out of the woods, across the ditch and back to the truck for me while I dragged slowly behind him. He let me use his water hose to wash as much Poison Ivy as I could off my face, neck and arms, and then I went home for a shower and some rest.

This is not the kind of rescue to talk about when trying to recruit others to become cat-in-tree rescuers, but, in spite of the difficulties, this was still a very rewarding rescue for me. It's a wonderful feeling to know that this sweet, cute kitty is no longer suffering alone in that vine-infested tree and that Chris and, especially, his two small girls are no longer worried about their sweet cat. Plus, I love seeing this image that Chris sent to me later of Sonya getting some rest in her favorite, comfortable chair. So, yes, it was worth it.