Rescuing isn’t really what we do.

tree“Waah! OooRaaaah!” A lost child was crying somewhere near our bus stop. 

My daughter’s head was swiveling. I wanted to keep walking. I didn’t want to get involved. These situations are never what they seem.

“There! In that tree!” She pointed to a thick branch about thirty feet overhead in a fir tree. A cat, grayer than the bark it rubbed itself against, stared down at us with giant eyes. “OoooRaaah!”

“We have to save it!”

Why? Why do humans feel an obligation to save everything we see in trouble? Maybe trouble is a learning experience that the thing in trouble needs to figure out.

“Let’s let the cat figure out for itself how to get down,” I said. “Let’s just wait and see.”

If you look hard, you can see a gray cat in the leaves...

If you look hard, you can see a gray cat in the leaves…

My daughter kicked at the dirt as we walked home.

At eight-thirty, it had grown dark, and I was ready to sink into eight hours of unconscious escape. See, I’ve been doing lots of rescuing lately. And it hasn’t turned out well.  I’m starting to think, Who am I? Isn’t it arrogant to believe I have the god-like power to save someone?

I’m not even a nice person: I kicked my rooster in the head the other day so hard he ran around in circles for five minutes.

Because he pissed me off, and I didn’t want him in the first place, and I was feeling angry at the world. So I kicked him. Now he may have brain damage. I’m the wrong person for the savior role. I’m not even that compassionate.

rooster - Copy

My brain-damaged rooster.

But look, I do believe in responsibility and generosity, and yes, even compassion. I’m as human as anyone. When my daughter wanted to check on the cat at eight-thirty, I grabbed the flashlight, and we made our way through the dark.

“Waah! OooRaaaah!” The cat’s eyes were even more luminous, more desperate, in the spot of our flashlight. It sidled to the edge of the branch and reached out toward us with its paws, as if it wanted to jump. But it was too afraid.

Watching another creature in terror isn’t easy. I guess it shouldn’t be. I wanted to do something.

“We have to help it, Mom.”

“It’ll come down.” I didn’t know what to do. “Let’s just wait and see.”

More dirt-kicking as we walked back home. I did call the fire department, though–just to see.

“Rescuing cats isn’t really what we do,” said the woman who answered. “What if someone was having a heart attack while we were rescuing a cat?” The thought had occurred to me before I called. I felt stupid. “They come down eventually,” she said. “Just wait and see.”

The next morning the cat was still in the tree. “OoooRaaah!” The tree was beginning to reek of cat piss, and I was starting to hear the cat crying in my sleep.

The third day the cat barely made a sound. It was weak, dehydrated, probably in shock or something. “Mom, please. Do something.”

Do what? Why had this cat become my responsibility?

That morning we missed the bus. On the drive to school, there was talk on the radio about military action against Syria. “Please,” said the man speaking from Syria, “Do something.”

“I say,” said the other man. “We should just wait and see.”

That stupid cat was still in the tree when I turned back onto our road. I assessed the two ladders we owned, but both were too short. And anyway, what if I died rescuing? Who would take care of my daughter?

I called the fire department. Again. “It’s been three days,” I said. “The cat’s not coming down. I don’t want my daughter coming home to a dead cat. Is there anything you can do?” I sounded as desperate as the cat.

“We can send someone out to evaluate,” the man said. “If–and I mean if–we can extricate the animal, who will take responsibility?”

I sighed. “Me.”

A lone fireman came out in his administrative vehicle. He looked at the branch. And the cat, who made a few half-hearted OooRaahs.

“The branch is secure,” he finally said into his phone. “Bring out the engine and your gear.”

recue3Two more firemen arrived in their big red engine. They climbed into the tree with their tall metal ladder. They rescued her.

I didn’t want the cat, but I took her home and fed her. My daughter was thrilled. We’ve been calling her Betty.

Betty Bumbles, actually.

Apparently, I have nothing better to do with my life than try to save stuff. 

I posted the rescue on Facebook as a way to thank the firemen. I felt obliged for what they did.

And now, unless we can find her real owner, I’m responsible for this cat. Until the end of her days.

This is the beginning of my crusade to find Betty’s real (7) - Copy

This is Betty Bumbles.

This is Betty Bumbles.

10 thoughts on “Rescuing isn’t really what we do.

  1. Maybe you’re meant to rescue animals and not people. The people rescues generally land me in trouble too. I think Betty just looks like you belongs with you guys… just sayin’. Nice to have you back, friend. Don’t forget, you have a trip to B’ham to make. 😉

    • Hi there, friend. I’ve been dealing with some stuff here, so yeah, been a bit under the radar. Trying not to embroil myself in any more kitten-in-tree emergencies, be they real or metaphorical . A trip up north sounds good…likely a ways in the future, though. Thanks for not abandoning me!

  2. What an awesome story. I had no idea fireman saved cats from trees in trees in real life! 😀

    I love the way you connected “Do Something” with the military action in Syria. Makes me think twice about all the times I “wait and see”.

    • I was as surprised as you about the fireman/cat rescue. A friend suggested I call and I was like, they don’t do that. But she assured me they do, so here I am. With another cat.

      On the front of “wait and see,” I think it’s still a good idea. Until it isn’t. I’m still trying to figure it out…When I can’t handle my own inner analysis one second longer, I make a smoothie and play Words with Friends. Which I’ve been doing a lot lately. 🙂

  3. “I still think it’s a good idea. Until it isn’t.” I think that applies to just about everything. Thanks for sharing this story. Would you actually be able to tell if a rooster had brain damage?

  4. What an adventure. I hope you find a home for Betty soon. On the other note, I kicked a dog before because it pissed me off and felt quite bad about it afterwards. Losing my temper is always a prideful lesson for me. sigh…

  5. Pingback: Finding a way back | Hot Pink Underwear

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