Text © Robert Barry Francos
Until our house is ready, we are staying with a lovely woman named Lorna, and her beautiful and big dog, Tiva.
The day after having driven from Brooklyn to central Canada, Lorna gave us a call; it seems there was a cat way up in one of the majestic trees in her amazingly lush backyard garden. We guessed that Tiva may have treed her. Whatever the reason, we could not leave her up the tree, either literally or figuratively.
The tree is way back in the garden, near a work shed which separates the space from the alleyway filled with garages and huge city garbage bins. We walked into the garden and stood beneath the tall tree, one of many in the back. Sure enough, way high up, was the frightened puss. She was perched on a limb, facing the trunk, and her front right paw balanced on another, smaller branch. Even way down on the ground it was pretty obvious that she was scared.
Lorna has a huge aluminum ladder that is either 15 or 20 feet high (I’ll measure it one of these days), so I went to get it. Between the garden, the shed, the tree’s branches and the other trees, it was difficult maneuvering it, and then, with some help, planting it in position against the correct tree. Then I started the climb.
Precariously, I was able to get on the penultimate rung, holding on to the trunk with a tightly clenched arm hold, and with the other hand I could reach up and pet the Sylvester-type black-and-white adult kitty. There was definitely a collar so she was someone’s pet, and she meowed loudly to me, as if to say, “Do something, dammit!” I could see her shivering, and she’d occasionally pant in hyperventilation.
Still hugging the trunk for dear life myself, feeling the bark biting into my arm (proving sometimes the bark = the bite), I could not budge her. There were different methods I tried, such as picking her up by the scruff, but she was latched onto the branch with her claws, and it was also clumsy for me to grab her, as she was still a couple of feet over my head. I tapped my shoulder to tell her it was safe to jump, but she wasn’t having any of that, which was probably wise, since my balance was pretty weak at the moment.
Around this point, she actually turned around, with the support of my palm under her paws, facing away from the trunk and down the branch toward the top of the shed roof, which would have been reachable. Instead, she kept turning until she was exactly in the original position, yelling at me like it was my fault. If I wasn’t scared myself, I would have found it as amusing then as I do now.
My partner, who stayed around to steady the ladder, shouted up, “She wants to come down the branch to the roof! I have an idea!” She had me climb all the way down, and then she ran off to the porch, returning with a lounge chair cushion. It was one of those long ones with the bend in the middle, with the long part for the legs and the short one for the back.
I somehow took it and climbed back up all the way, again using my right arm as my trunk anchor. At first, I held up the cushion for her to jump on, and again, she didn’t take the invite. Considering I was using one had to hold the cushion, it probably would have flipped if she jumped on it, so again her kitty wits were wise. When this did not work, my partner suggested that I flatten out the long cushion on the branch below. She posited that it may give her a false sense of ground. I was not sure it would work, but I have long-time learned if she suggests it, there’s a chance it will.
About a minute after I laid the cushion out, the cat got up, turned around, and started cautiously walking down the branch. As she moved, I stretched the cushion as far as I could without either dropping it or myself. By the time she reached the end of the cushion below her, she was just a few feet above the shed roof. I figured she’d jump onto it, and then to the ground, as it was still about 10 feet up.
But el gato had other plans. When she reached the point past the cushion, she launched herself into the air over the roof and to the point beyond in the alley, where I could not see. Scared the crap out of me for her, as it seems such a height and distance.
Next thing I saw was the cat scurrying across a neighbor’s yard, assumingly towards home, none the worse for her experience. I slowly climbed back down the ladder, had a good adrenaline body shake, and then put back the ladder.
There were two large scratches on my left arm from a branch while I was balancing the cushion, and pockmarks and minor scratches on my right arm from my body-to-trunk hugging. The worst of it though were the spots of tree sap that stuck to my arm hair. Insects and bugs were buzzing from all over, attracted to the sweet stickiness, all the way back to the house. It took a hard scrub to finally get it all off.
The cat was safe though, and that was reward enough for me. Plus, I got this great adventure and story out of it.
For Shelley and Craig