Hair-rais­ing res­cue is Christ­mas mir­a­cle, sort of

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By TRISH MCGEE pm­[email protected]­coun­tynews.com

CHESTER­TOWN — It’s cliché, but makes good copy.

An early Christ­mas mir­a­cle played out Satur­day af­ter­noon for a cat that was res­cued from the top of a util­ity pole by two vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers in a tower truck.

For pur­poses of this tale, we’ll call her Cleo.

She’s a do­mes­tic short­hair, mostly black with white paws, a splash of white around her face and a white bib. Her pic­ture has been posted on the Hu­mane So­ci­ety of Kent County’s Face­book page.

Eric Reynolds, the an­i­mal con­trol of­fi­cer who played a piv­otal role in Cleo’s res­cue, es­ti­mated her age in the very broad range of 1 to 6 years.

She ap­pears to be well fed and cared for. “I def­i­nitely think she’s some­body’s pet,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds opined that a cat liv­ing in the wild would be too street savvy to get stuck on a pole. “From the ground, I could tell that it was a ‘nicer’ cat,” he said.

But Cleo wasn’t wear­ing a col­lar, isn’t chipped and she’s not talk­ing.

As of press time Wed­nes­day, the cat was half­way through her “stray hold” at the shel­ter while HSKC staff try to lo­cate the owner.

Reynolds said if af­ter eight days no one has claimed the cat, own­er­ship trans­fers to the shel­ter and Cleo will be avail­able for adop­tion.

“We will have a happy end­ing,” Reynolds as­sured a re­porter on Christ­mas Eve. “If no owner comes for­ward, she’ll be adopted,” he said con­fi­dently.

Kay MacIn­tosh, whose text mes­sage to HSKC of­fi­cials put the res­cue op­er­a­tion in mo­tion, con­sid­ered bring­ing home Cleo if no owner is iden­ti­fied.

That sug­ges­tion re­ceived a cool re­cep­tion from MacIn­tosh’s hus­band.

“Honey, don’t you think we should claim the cat if no one comes for­ward. Is that go­ing to be the end of the story?” MacIn­tosh said she asked her hus­band.

The an­swer: No.

That makes this story a half-mir­a­cle. To be con­tin­ued.

In a tele­phone in­ter­view, MacIn­tosh, who works for the Town of Chester­town, re­counted how she was driv­ing into Chester­town on Satur­day to beat the noon­time clos­ing of the farm­ers mar­ket when she saw “this thing that looked furry on top of a pole” in front of the for­mer Na­tional Guard ar­mory on Quaker Neck Road.

She turned around to get a bet­ter look, and it was in­deed a cat.

MacIn­tosh said she asked her­self, “Is this a cliché to call the fire depart­ment?”

In­stead, she texted three friends who were as­so­ci­ated with the HSKC, in­clud­ing Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor Jay Alexan­der.

Alexan­der then sent a text mes­sage to Reynolds, who con­tacted Chester­town Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany Chief John “Otis” Dar­ling, who then reached out to As­sis­tant Chief Dave Eason Jr., who called fire­fighter Rob­bie Spry.

Eason and Spry ul­ti­mately were the ones who res­cued Cleo from the top of the pole.

Dar­ling said he was tied up paint­ing the home in Ch­ester Har­bor that he had re­cently pur­chased.

“I started call­ing peo­ple I knew and thought of Davey, be­cause he has a flex­i­ble sched­ule and he is clear to op­er­ate the tower truck,” Dar­ling said. “I called Davey and said, ‘Can you take care of this,’ and he ran with it.”

Eason, who is em­ployed at C’town Liquor and Deli, called Spry, who was home work­ing in his garage on Christ­mas projects.

Dar­ling es­ti­mated the re­sponse time of Eason and Spry at about 30 min­utes.

Based on prior ex­pe­ri­ence — an­i­mal res­cues can be a lit­tle hairy, pun in­tended — Eason and Spry were dressed in their full turnout gear and gloves. “It’s SOP (stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure), to pro­tect our guys,” Dar­ling said.

Once Eason and Spry had reached the cat, the ac­tual res­cue was swift. Spry said he had done this kind of thing once be­fore, about 15 years ago when he was the fire chief in Rock Hall.

On Satur­day, Eason gen­tly grabbed Cleo by the scruff of her neck and Spry helped con­tain her in the cab of the tower truck.

One of the hand­ful of spec­ta­tors said they could hear a scuf­fle of sorts.

“She didn’t like the car­rier much,” Spry said of the cat. “She clawed and scratched, but we got her in the cage.”

This was an eas­ier and quicker res­cue than the one Dar­ling par­tic­i­pated in a cou­ple of years ago, what he de­scribed as “a two- or three-hour or­deal” of free­ing a kit­ten trapped in a drainage ditch in the heav­ily trav­eled 600-block of Washington Av­enue.

An­i­mal res­cues are not the norm, but also are not as un­com­mon as you would think, Dar­ling said.

“We try to serve the pub­lic in any way we can,” he said.

“As more new peo­ple move into the com­mu­nity and are un­aware of the vol­un­teer sys­tem, they call more and more be­cause they are used to get­ting a re­sponse,” Dar­ling said, list­ing “fire” calls that in­clude re­mov­ing snakes from bath­rooms and ducks trapped in drainage ditches.

“The clas­sic,” he said, “is get­ting a cat out of a tree” — or off a pole.

PHOTO BY TRISH MCGEE

Cleo the Christ­mas cat seems un­con­cerned as Chester­town vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers Rob­bie Spry, left, and Dave Eason Jr. ap­proach in Tower Truck 6.

PHOTO BY TRISH MCGEE

Kent County An­i­mal Con­trol Of­fi­cer Eric Reynolds, left, Chester­town VFC As­sis­tant Chief Dave Eason Jr., cen­ter, and fire­fighter Rob­bie Spry pose with “Cleo” af­ter she was res­cued from atop a util­ity pole Satur­day.

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