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Other People’s Drama

I have two stories today: one has nothing to do with me, but is a doozy; the other concerns a neighbor’s drama into which I insinuated myself.

Tube Trama

My first story comes compliments of my niece Maddie, via my mom. Maddie (10), her sister Olivia (12), and brother Ben (8), just returned from a ten-day trip to the UK with their parents, my brother Steve and sister-in-law Stacy.

On their last day in London, they took the Tube to Heathrow to get a rental car for the rest of their stay. As they approached the station, the train they wanted was waiting for them. Eager to not lose time waiting for the next train, they made a run for it. Maddie was at the front of the pack, ran her guts out, and hopped right on. At which point the doors closed, and the rest of the family looked on in horror as she was whisked away on the Underground all alone.

Thankfully, if this had to happen at all, it happened to Maddie. Sensitive, artistic, and very attached Olivia would have been very scared I think. Fearless, sweet, bull-in-a-china-shop Ben wouldn’t have known what to do. But Maddie is pretty together in most respects, and isn’t one to panic. She remembered that the stop was Baker St. and planned to get off and wait for the family. And just in case she needed help, a group of teens saw what happened and offered to wait with her at the station.

The rest of the family, as you can imagine, was less stoic. A station agent was notified, A description given, and staff notified to look out for and place in safekeeping a certain 10-year-old tourist from across the pond. As Maddie tells it, once the family was reunited, Maddie was somewhat surprised to find herself the only one not crying.

“I knew where to go, Bubbie,” she stoically. “It wasn’t a big deal.”

Just like all 10-year-olds would have felt. Like I said, it’s a good thing this happened to Maddie.

Feline Fright

Yesterday, my neighbor Lin asked if I could come into her yard and help her look for Scarletti, her adorable orange and white cat of not quite one year. She had heard him for the last day or so, but had not been able to locate him in her yard. Had he found a new hiding spot?

So I hear a meow, look up, and spot him right away: About 30-40 feet up in a ginkgo tree.

Oh, Scarletti, what have you done?

Matt and Simon walked over, and we all watched helplessly as Scarletti mewled plaintively and walked in circles in his unhappy tree house. This was Monday night, and by our best guess he had been up the tree nearly 48 hours. Like many a young cat, he had run further up than before, and found himself too scared or inexperienced to make his way down. To make matters worse, Lin’s tree is very nicely limbed so that the lowest branch is about 20 feet up.

We called to him. He cried. We brought out food. He cried. We stupidly sprayed him with water. He climbed another 5-10 feet.*

The fire station reported that they couldn’t do animal rescues any more and referred me to Metro Animal Services. Metro Animal Services also will not rescue cats from trees and advised me to “let nature take its course.”** I went to bed with a lump in my throat and dreamed of rescue. Lin went inside resigned to the fact that Scarletti was going to have to figure this out for himself.

Working from a tip I found online, I set out to Target this morning to purchase a round laundry basket, a cat bed, tins of food, a tennis ball, rope, and the atlatl-like devise people use to throw balls for their dogs. The rope was secured at three points to the basket to keep it level at one end and to the ball at the other. I baited the basket with the bed and food, and Matt and I set out to throw the line over the highest branch we could reach, then hoist the basket up to that level so that Scarletti could hop in. Assuming all went well, we would then slowly lower him to safety.  Assuming it did not all go well, I had an arborist lined up.

It took a few tries to get the line in place. Matt’s got a fine arm, but our line kept getting stuck on small twigs and/or branches too small to support the weight of the basket with a cat in it. Then he scored a smooth, sturdy branch, about 5-10 feet below where Scarletti was perched. The basket sailed up nice and level, and once it reached the branch, Scarletti grew more vocal and began moving about. But he still looked uncertain, and after a time we decided that our presence was making him nervous. So we tied the line to a heavy bench, went inside, and planned to give kitty 45 minutes before I called the team of tree walkers.

Just before one, I peeked out my window to see if I noticed any new tilt to our basket. I thought I saw a motion. So ran out to the deck and shrieked with delight as I saw a little orange and white tushie shimmying down the trunk. He was already halfway between the ground the lowest branch, and in a mere seconds he made it the rest of the way. It looked like a controlled, skilled descent.

He then ran off under Lin’s deck, a favorite hiding place. Did the food in the basket give him ideas? Did he make a jump for the basket, miss, and scamper the rest of the way down once he realized he could? I’ll never know. But it seems like more than pure coincidence that after spending nearly 60 hours up a tree, Scarletti finally made his move within 45 minutes of our rescue attempt.

Anyone need a very slightly used atlatl or laundry basket?

*First thing I read online: Spray water at cat or otherwise bother it to get it to move down. Second through one-hundredth thing I read: For God’s sake, don’t spray water on the cat or otherwise bug it; it will just climb higher. Why did I find the idiot first? And why did I not realize that this person’s advice was so idiotic?

**Given the number of days Scarletti had been away from food and water and the heat index, “nature taking its course” likely means one of the following: (1) cat attempts descent when too weak to pull it off, falls, and is injured or dies; (2) cat dies in tree and falls out; (3) cat nearly dies in tree, falls out, then dies. I know nature is cruel and that I can’t save everything. But damn if I was going to “let nature take its course” while I had a front-row seat to the suffering.

3 Responses to “Other People’s Drama”

  1. Amanda says:

    I called the FD in Kent when a kitty was stuck up a tree in the bitter cold winter. The FD told me they didn’t rescue cats anymore, and “he’ll come down when he feels like it–we’ve never seen cat skeleton up a tree.” Some wisdom in that, I think.

  2. christine says:

    Couldn’t help but laugh at both stories. Of course, only because they had happy endings!

  3. blg says:

    The subway story reminds me of my strategy of taking the tube with my goddaughter…I always told her the name of our next stop (whether our final destination or where we would change).

    I never really said, “in case we get separated…” but years later, she remembered that I had done that and said she had figured out why.

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