Squash is a one-year-old orange tabby boy who lives with Hailey at her rural home near Bogalusa, Louisiana. Squash is strictly an inside-only kitty, but lately he has been perfecting the art of dashing out the door whenever he finds an opening. That is what he did one recent night, and he dashed out into the darkness where Hailey could not find him. The next day, however, she found him, but he was stuck in a Pine tree deep in the woods behind the house. Squash, like his feline and canine siblings in the house, is not just a pet. In this house, pets are family, and preservation of the family is paramount. Hailey would do anything in her power to help get her beloved Squash down, but, even though she tried, climbing the tree was beyond her power. After fruitless calls to tree services and others, she finally found me with an internet search, and I agreed to go there the following morning after Squash's second night in the tree.
When I arrived, Hailey led me along a vague, obstructed path through the woods toward Squash. Once we were close, we could hear him, but even Hailey could not find him. Anyone who has ever tried to locate a cat by meow alone knows how difficult that can be, especially when the cat is up high or hidden behind or under obstructions. The sound seems to come from every direction, but Hailey found him first. He was in the same tree as before, but he had climbed much higher. He was now about 40 feet high in a small Pine tree, and he sounded pretty desperate for a rescue.
I have quite a bit of heavy gear to bring with me to a rescue, and I usually pull much of it behind me in a two-wheel cart. Getting that cart over fallen limbs and logs, through a shallow, dry gulley, and into snagging vines and thorns is not my idea of enjoyment, especially on these extremely hot days with high humidity and absolutely no air movement. I tend to sweat like a soaker hose even on mild days, so I pay attention to getting dehydrated and do my best to avoid it, but it's just a given. It's going to happen, and I had already soaked my clothes just getting to the tree.To make matters worse, there was no way to install a rope up high in this tree. The understory of the woods did not give me a clear path to shoot a line up high into the tree, and vines dominating the upper part of the tree would have made it very difficult anyway. This meant I would need to climb the tree using a more strenuous, slower, and sweatier technique of alternating between two ropes cinched around the trunk and advancing one past the other incrementally. It takes time to move from one rope to the other because the second rope needs to be advanced up the trunk and cinched in place and then two devices at foot and knee level need to be disconnected from the first rope and then connected to the second rope one at a time. I mention this only because this changeover process became unexpectedly important at a critical time in this rescue.
Squash is a friendly and sociable boy, so I was expecting him to be cooperative on this rescue. In addition, he was very motivated to cooperate because he hated being stuck in that tree. He was very happy to see me approaching, and, when I was about 10 feet below him, he got so excited that he decided to come down a bit toward me. He stopped on the lowest significant limb in this tree, and I began to advance my rope up the tree closer to him.
I was looking down when I heard a commotion above me, so I did not see if he was trying to come down to me or if he just slipped off the limb due to the loosely connected bark chips. I looked up to see him hanging from the limb by his front paws and struggling very hard to right himself. Cats often do manage to right themselves from that perilous position, so I thought at first that he might be able to do so as well. He struggled mightily over and over to get his body above the limb, but the loose bark and shape of the limb was too difficult to overcome for his tiring, dehydrated body. He hung there without moving, too exhausted to struggle any longer, and I knew then he was definitely going to fall. I just didn't know when.
If my rope had been installed high in the tree, I would have climbed up to him very quickly to help him. Instead, I had just cinched my rope higher, though not high enough, and I had not switched over to the higher rope yet. I mildly panicked as I debated trying to climb higher to help him or just pull out the cat bag and try to catch him when he falls. The bag stretched between both hands would have given me a larger "glove" to catch him while also giving him a larger area to grab more effectively with his claws. That was the best I could do with what I had with me at the time. Unfortunately, I had trouble getting the bag stretched out and untwisted, so I spent much time just trying to straighten it. At the same time, I was trying to look down to connect my climbing devices to the higher rope. Eventually, I looked up just in time to see Squash falling in front of my face. I had no time to react or try to deliberately catch him. Instead, he plopped squarely and solidly on my lap with a single thud as if he had accurately aimed for it. He was facing me as if settling in for a little snuggle session. He didn't move; he was too exhausted for that. I just held him and reassured him as best I could for a minute. He seemed to be fine, both physically and psychologically, though I noticed a small scratch on his head, and I knew he was exhausted.
After a moment of reassurance and visiting on my lap, I secured him inside the bag as gently as I could. I needed to reset my rope so I could retrieve it from the ground, but I decided to skip that and get him down as soon as possible. After I gave him in the bag to Hailey, I climbed back up and took my time resetting the rope while Hailey took Squash back home. Once I was back on the ground, I retrieved the rope and packed all the gear. Getting the gear back out of the woods was another chore, and, by the time we exited the woods, I had to stop for a rest. Hailey very thoughtfully made a tall glass of iced tea for me, and, with that, I was able to recover enough to get all the gear back inside the van. I am very grateful to her for also helping carry some of the gear for me.
Squash is all settled back inside now and looking fine except for that small scratch on his head, and the Hailey household is very relieved and happy to have their family back intact again. New efforts are being made to make sure Squash does not escape again, but, I have a feeling that Squash will figure out a way. After all, he figured out how to fall right into my lap.