“What emergency are you reporting?” asked the 9-1-1 dispatcher.
“Uh, well, it’s not necessarily an emergency but I’m hoping the fire department can help me.”
“O.K. I’ll transfer you to fire and while I do that can you tell me what’s going on?”
“There is this big black cat stuck in a decorative cement block. The block is part of the foundation of our rental house. The cat’s head is underneath the house and its body is outside the house and its neck connecting the two is through the middle hole in the block.”
The cat was breathing and its tail was going up and down and the dirt around it was quite dug up indicating the futile struggle that had taken place.
The block was designed to be artistic I think but it was now, at this moment, serving as a most effective pillory – for public humiliation – only in this case the cat’s paws were through the two side holes and it’s head through the big one in the middle.
The middle one was the problem.
I think fortunately for the cat the face of humiliation was pointed the other direction.
Anyway, that’s what I was thinking while my call was being transferred, my thoughts interrupted by: “This is the fire department. We’re on our way.”
They were too. In the amount of time it takes to roll up the door and get in the truck and literally drive around the corner, Tillicum’s Engine 23 was on the scene.
A small crowd gathered as Captain Phil Hayden, Ryan Terhune and Steve Corey talked extrication options.
The first step was to prop up the main body of the cat so it wouldn’t choke further.
The second was for someone to crawl under the house and push from that side. I volunteered and wormed my way until the cat and I were face-to-face. With gloved hands I gently pushed on both its cheeks, avoiding the softly snarling teeth, but the poor thing’s head was somehow now much bigger than the hole.
“Casanova! What are you doing down there?” The exhausted cat, Casanova we now knew it as, moaned something and its owner, Denise Fabulae – who had been looking for Casanova when she suspicioned the fire truck might have something to do with it – was taken aside by Captain Hayden where a quiet conversation took place about what they were proposing to do.
Plan B, evidently, could prove fatal.
Terhune placed the prongs of the hydraulic spreader, aka ‘jaws of life’ – not available on all fire trucks I learned later but necessary for Tillicum’s truck as it patrols I-5 – into one of the side holes having first gently removed a paw. A chunk of concrete gave way and the linking concrete that formed the circle encasing the cat’s neck cracked perfectly. Just a tap of what was left with a chisel and hammer by Hayden and Casanova was but a black streak heading home across the street gone quicker than you can say “Wahoo!”
There were handshakes all around. Casanova wouldn’t pose for a picture. “Maybe later,” Fabulae said. “He’s hiding up in the attic.”
A bit humiliated probably from having chased a squirrel through a hole where the cat couldn’t go.
The firemen of West Pierce Fire and Rescue were all smiles though for their picture.
“We’re just glad this was Shift A on duty. Shift B would have really messed this up.”
“Can I quote you?”
Laughter all around.