Hair-raising rescue is Christmas miracle, sort of
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.
Cleo the Christmas cat seems unconcerned as Chestertown volunteer firefighters Robbie Spry, left, and Dave Eason Jr. approach in Tower Truck 6.
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.