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Kittens: Deadly minions of the Dark Side, or Cuddly Agents of Evil… You decide.
Today, I faced my own mortality in a daring, high-stakes, high-angle rescue. A life was on the line and my truck company was assigned to respond and snatch it from the jaws of death. We had been requested by the local animal control officers to rescue a cat stuck in a gutter on a steep roof about 14 feet of the ground.
Yea, a freakin cat. At least it wasn’t in a tree, that would have been too cliché.
We brought the tower ladder out of our station with a six man crew for this dangerous rescue and met with the Animal Control Officer on Scene.
“There’s the cat” He said.
The roof was pretty steep, and covered with asphalt shingles. With the sky just starting to let loose with a few sprinkles of rain, the 20 foot drop off the side into a rock garden was starting to concern me. Yes… I know that us firefighters are supposed to be good at working on roofs, but when a building’s on fire we don’t have to care how we may harm the roof by gaining traction. I really didn’t want to harm this nice lady’s roof, so sticking an axe in it to get a foothold was going to be a no-no. We pulled out a 24 foot extension ladder to reach the roof and a roof ladder to keep from falling to our deaths.
Or I should say, my death… because Captain Mike looked at me and said “Since you like cats so much CK, you go up there and get it”.
At this point, you might wonder why I’m being so dramatic about this.
Because cats on emergency scenes are evil death killers of doom and are more dangerous than ninja bunnies carrying lasers.
That, and well… I’ve never had good experiences when there have been so-called “cute little kitties” on my emergency scenes. I always end up flat out on my back. Literally.
You should know that I like cats. Really, (thanks to Gkemtb –my wife for my new readers) I’ve got three of them. However, when there’s a cuddly kitty on one of my scenes, ominous music starts to play and shenanigans ensue.
I learned the horrible truth about cats some years ago. My Paramedic/EMT-Basic ambulance had been called out to a “sick woman” at a local residence. When we arrived on scene shortly after fire and police we found an obviously grieving family huddled around a hospital bed where a frail elderly woman was laying. She was crying as forcefully as her frail body would let her. We learned the sad truth soon enough. The patient had been referred to hospice care a few weeks prior to this when the cancer that she had was deemed to be beyond hope. Her last wishes were to convalesce at home with her beloved husband and her beloved cat by her side. Unfortunately, her husband had passed away suddenly a few days before and she was at home, in her bed, too sick to attend the funeral which was in progress. Her family had become concerned and had decided that a trip to the hospital was necessary. I agreed, even though there was nothing that any paramedic or hospital could do to alleviate this poor woman’s suffering.
So it was a sad scene all around. We loaded her up on our cot and wheeled her into her living room when she became concerned and would not let us leave the house until we locked her beloved cat in the bathroom to keep it from, I don’t know, shredding the curtains or something. I was picked, because as is well known in my region, “CK likes cats”.
I found fluffy hiding behind a couch, pretending to be scared from all of the bodies in the room. Little did I know she was just pretending to be scared, and was really plotting our ultimate destruction. She came to me after a little bit of coaxing, and I picked her up and carried her from the living room, down the short hallway, and entered the bathroom.
The cat, who had been waiting for his minute to strike once I had been thinned from the herd, realized that I was planning to lock him in the bathroom and deployed his needle-sharp, slashing claws of doom and wrestled himself from my hold. I tried to grab him as he got to the floor and began running towards the bathroom door which was towards my back. I reached down and backwards for him, catching hold of him on his back. He slashed and squirmed towards the door, pulling me down and backwards with every razor sharp undulation.
So here’s the scene, I’m bending over backwards for this cat and was falling for his evil plot. Finally I lost my balance and fell. I rolled out of the bathroom backwards, head over heels into a perfect back flip. The fire crew, my partner, the police officer, and the family heard the commotion and witnessed my epic fail which I punctuated by crashing forcefully into the wall of the hallway. For his part, the cat sauntered back into the living room, sat down, looked at the rest of the people there, and licked his chops in a dare to any other would-be hero that would dare to try and cage him again.
No one dared. He stayed out and the patient went to the hospital.
So back to my daring rescue, this call was in the forefront of my mind as I climbed the 24 foot ladder and hoisted the roof ladder onto the small roof. It only fit about halfway on, so I made sure that the hooks were firmly set in the shingles. I knew what cats were capable of. I eased myself onto the ladder and crawled up to the peak of the roof. The cat was on the other side, away from the protection of my roof ladder. I slowly eased myself down the slick, steep, rain-soaked roof towards the cat who was patiently waiting in the gutter at the edge of the roof. I wasn’t as concerned as I should have been, because there was only a 14 foot drop at this side of the roof. I eased towards the cat saying “here kitty” and “I’ve got cheezburgers in my truck and yes you can has one” to her as I got to the edge. I was just able to get my hand on the nape of her neck and was able to grab the scruff. I picked her up out of the gutter and…
No I didn’t fall off, but the cat wrested herself from my grasp and while I was grabbing for my balance she walked up the roof and down to the other side. She sat right down in the gutter on the edge in the furthest possible spot from my roof ladder. At this point of the roof, due to the slope of the yard, there was a sheer 25 foot drop onto a rock garden.
Because then I remembered another call, a fire this time. I responded 3rd engine in fresh from the scene of a mutual-aid brush fire. When we got there, we found the other two engines and a truck company had knocked most of the fire down on a single-story ranch type home. They had found a fully-involved attached garage when they arrived on scene and had made a good stop. Now, it was mostly overhaul that needed to be done. The homeowner however, was standing in the driveway begging the IC to rescue his cat that was still inside.
Cue the ominous music when the IC looked at me and remembered “CK likes cats”.
I went in the smoke-filled house with Lt. Tuna in full-gear and SCBA. We searched three rooms and located the cat in the far bedroom of the house. Lt. Tuna secured the doorway to the room to prevent the cat from escaping and I was tapped to go get the cat.
“Nice Kitty” did not like his house being on fire. He especially did not like alien-looking firefighters in full gear trying to grab him. I struggled and flopped around the bedroom chasing the cat. He finally made it to the headboard of the bed. I launched myself prone onto the bed and got a thick-gloved hand on him. He ran to the side, I rolled long ways on the bed onto my back and got another hand on him.
him! Then I realized that I was on a… a waterbed with my hands stretched out over my head onto the headboard holding a sharp kitty who was rapidly finding out new ways to penetrate my leather firefighting gloves with his sharp teeth.
I think that this would be a good firefighting drill. Wear your 70 pounds of firefighting gear and an air pack, sprawl out supine on a water bed, and try to self rescue while holding a cat. I call it the “Ckemtp” drill.
I was stuck, much to the amusement of Lt. Tuna who entered the room, wrapped the cat in a towel, and carried him out of the residence. He left me there to flop around on the waterbed for a while until I was able to roll off of it, hit the floor, and crawl out a broken man.
When I got out of the house, the owner was petting the *really pissed* kitty and was trying to stuff him into a waiting kennel. I did not intervene, I had had enough.
So now this call was knocking around in my brain as I edged ever closer to the sheer drop to rescue gutter-kitty. Joe, another firefighter, had climbed the ladder by this point and handed me a net that had been given to him by the animal control officer.
“The cat’s over there” the animal control expert called up from the ground.
“Thanks” I said.
Joe climbed onto the roof and Capt. Mike moved the ladder closer to the cat and then climbed up to help. The three of us edged closer to the kitty. I nudged him with the net, Joe prevented escape, and Capt. Mike reached over from the safety of the ladder, grabbed the cat by the scruff of the neck, and placed him in the net.
Mission accomplished. I think that the cat let himself get caught though. Probably because my promise of a cheezburger in the truck had sounded better to him than did lapping up freshly splatted firefighters. Man was he ticked when he got placed in the Animal Control Officer’s van and found out I didn’t have one. I could hear him squalling as the guy walked back up to us.
“Thanks for getting the cat” He said.
“Just doin’ My Job Sir. Just Doin My Job.”
But I know that the cat’s out there. He’s plotting his revenge. He doesn’t sleep… he waits.