Feline dilemma dictates unique rescue effort
It's all in a day's work.
Or so Tonganoxie Fire Chief Dave Bennett says.
But sometimes the calls come a little late at night.
About midnight last Thursday, firefighters were called to First and Pleasant, where a cat was stuck in the attic of a duplex.
"They were getting a new roof and, somehow, the cat had gotten up there," Bennett said. "It had been up there a couple of days. They finally heard it, and they called dispatch, and they called us out about midnight."
Three firefighters, along with Bennett responded to the distressed gray and white kitty, who actually lives across the street.
They pulled a vent off one side of the outside of the building's attic.
"We could have gone into the other part of the duplex, but we didn't want to disrupt that tenant, and she wasn't comfortable with us rummaging through her closet," Bennett said. "We sent firefighter Curtis Newman up and the cat would not come to him. We actually had the owner of the cat go up the ladder, with the assistance of firefighters, and she got the cat to come to her."
Although Tonganoxie firefighters train to extinguish fires and perform rescues, usually those rescues are intended to be of the human variety. But firefighters have gained experience in recent years with animals.
There were the puppies that were stuck in a culvert near the Florence Riford Senior Center. And then the cat that had crawled up into the traffic signals along U.S. Highway 24-40 near Tonganoxie High School.
And who could forget Tootsie Pop, the tree-climbing cat?
"We had one cat that we knew by its name because we had to get it down a couple of times," said firefighter John Callaghan. "That's part of the job, I guess. We've gotten animals out of people's houses before, squirrels. Who do you call?"
Bennett said he understands that, sometimes, his crews must help wherever they're needed.
"For some people, it's an emergency," he said. "The other night, it was the people's family pet and they were concerned about it. We don't mind. It's another service that we provide for the community. And there are times we get a pretty good chuckle out of it."
And while Bennett considers himself a dog person, he's an equal-opportunity animal-rescuer.
"I'm not going to discriminate against cats if they need to be rescued," he said, with a chuckle. "They're citizens of Tonganoxie, too, and we'll take care of all of them. Cats and dogs are our limit. Any larger livestock, we're probably going to have to call in help."
But Bennett isn't interested in handling any creepy-crawly critters.
"That is where I, personally, will draw the line," he said. "I won't deal with snakes. Now, if somebody has an emergency in their house and they have pets like that, they need to let us know, and we will, hopefully, have firefighters who will be able to go in and retrieve them.
"That will probably come in the form of an order for a lower-ranking firefighter to retrieve a snake or anything in the reptile family. I'm a big chicken about that."