Cat goes up, has help coming down

Kenai man rescues frightened feline stuck at top of spruce tree for 3 days

Posted: Monday, April 11, 2005


  Beverly Close stands with her nameless cat under the spruce tree that was the cat's temporary home last week. "We call her kitty, kitty, kitty and she comes," Close said. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Beverly Close stands with her nameless cat under the spruce tree that was the cat's temporary home last week. "We call her kitty, kitty, kitty and she comes," Close said.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Steve Judge, a local Good Samaritan recently did something that several professional agencies either couldn't or wouldn't do — he rescued a cat that had been stuck in a tree for more than 73 hours.

Kitty, an all black 10-month-old kitten, used up one of its nine lives in a saga that began March 31 when the indoor animal slipped past its owner.

"She was pretty scared. She doesn't normally go outside," said Beverly Close of Kenai.

Close said Kitty was found as a stray, wandering outside the VFW post in Soldotna just minutes after New Year's. The kitten has lived in her home on Ash Avenue ever since.

But after living indoors for the last few months, being outside frightened the young animal and Close said before she could catch the kitten, it bolted across the street and up to the top of a spruce tree in a neighbor's yard — a height of more than 60 feet.

Close called to Kitty and gave her pet time and privacy, hoping she would climb down on her own. As more time passed, Close became increasingly worried.

Close continued calling out her pet's name in a calm, reassuring voice. She tried to lure the cat down by rattling a can of her favorite food underneath the tree. Nothing worked.

To make matters worse, several magpies began to swoop and peck at the young cat. Hypothermia became a possibility as it snowed overnight when temperatures dropped below freezing.

"She bawled all night long. When it started snowing, she bawled so loud I could hear it through the closed door. It was awful," Close said.

Fearing the kitten could be too injured or weak to climb down on its own, Close began making calls.

"I called everybody I could think of," Close said.

She called the Kenai Police Department, but they directed her to the Kenai Animal Control Shelter.

Bill Godek, chief animal control officer at the Kenai shelter, said that although he was willing to help, it was more a matter of not being able to help.

"We'll do it. We've rescued cats from trees before. I've got an extension pole that's 15 feet long, and standing it will reach to about 20 feet, but 60 feet — we just don't have the equipment for that," he said.

From there, Close called the Kenai Fire Department, since firefighters often are portrayed rescuing cats on television and in movies.

However, she found out real-life firefighters follow a different protocol than their fictional counterparts.

"I called the (Kenai) Fire Department, but they wouldn't help. They told me they don't do cats," Close said.

James Baisden, fire marshal with the Kenai Fire Department, said, "We don't take out $500,000 pieces of equipment for cats."

He argued it could potentially cut down on the department's response time to humans if they got an emergency call while attempting to rescue a cat.

"I've never seen a dead cat in a tree before," Baisden added, believing that, given enough time, the kitten would get hungry and come down on its own.

Close disagreed, and the longer Kitty was in the tree, the more worried she became. She continued calling every agency and business she could think of that had access to a tall piece of heavy equipment.

On Sunday afternoon, Close found help when she called Cook Inlet Sign and Lighting in Kenai and shared her plight with owner Steve Judge.

Judge had never met Close before, but decided to help anyway.

"It was the right thing to do. The lady needed help," he said.

Utilizing a bucket truck typically used for maintenance on parking lot lights and electric signs, Judge extended the bucket to 69 feet high — nearly the maximum height available — grabbed the kitten, stuffed it in his jacket and brought it down to safety.

The whole procedure took less than an hour of his time, and he said he didn't think that was too much to give a fellow community member.

"I've always believed the Kenai Peninsula is a tight-knit place to live. All we have is each other and I think we should be able to depend on people when we're in a bind," he said.

Close was relieved to finally have her kitten back in her arms.

"She was in rough shape. She was thin and weak and had plucked hair where the birds were harassing her, but she's doing better now," she said.

Kitty has been eating and drinking almost nonstop since she got down, Close said.

"She making up for all the lost meals," she said.

As for Judge, Close said he's a real hero in her eyes.

"He's a very nice person — very nice. I tried to give him a check for $100 dollars, but he wouldn't take it," she said.

Close said no good deed should go unrecognized, though, so she devised a plan in lieu of paying Judge a reward.

"I just have to keep telling everyone how fantastic he was, and keep telling everyone to shop at Cook Inlet Sign and Lighting for anything they need," she said.

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