Friday, June 30, 2006

And the raccoon laughed


I seem to have an odd karma thing going on with trees. Some of you may remember my ordeal with removing a couple of trees from the backyard of my old house about two years ago. It is chronicled in my archives beginning with Log Blog in August of 2004 and concluding with Finishing a beginning on June 21, 2005.

Ironically, here it is almost a year later and trees continue to mess with me. Last Sunday I was standing in my kitchen trying to remember why I was just standing there and I heard the plaintive meow of a cat. This is not unusual since we have three of them and two are quite vocal. I assumed that one was in the garage and now wanted to be in the house so it could then wish that it was back in the garage. If you have cats, this makes sense.

I opened the door to the garage and two of the cats sat on the hood of my truck staring at me indignantly. Neither was meowing. The third cat was upstairs in our bedroom. I now realized the meowing was coming from outside. By this time, Tess had joined in the search for the source of the feline cry for help. We traced it to a large pine tree in our backyard. There, in the crook of some branches about 15 feet above the ground was a beige cat.

One of Tess' endearing qualities is her compassion for all creatures. She immediately started talking to the distressed cat and told me to go get a ladder. Having dealt with cats in trees before, I wasn't enthusiastic as I pulled the ladder out of the garage and leaned it next to the tree.

"No good deed goes unpunished," I told Tess as I climbed the ladder toward the cat. The cat immediately stopped crying and started climbing. I know the thing was scared, but I've never understood the cat psyche when it comes to trees. They climb them easily enough, but they never seem to be able to comprehend "reverse" and figure out how to come down. I pulled myself higher on the ladder and made a grab for the cat. It's tail passed through my hand as it darted another 10 feet up the tree onto some very thin branches.

I backed down the ladder and told Tess that the cat would come down when he was hungry. Tess went inside and filled a small dish with catfood and placed it under the tree. I'm pretty sure the cat couldn't see it or smell it from where he was, but Tess' heart was in the right place.

Later that evening, I stepped out on the patio to cover up my grill when I noticed a very large raccoon finishing off the bowl of catfood. It dawned on me that the raccoon had probably been the one who scared the cat enough to go up the tree in the first place. I further reasoned that the raccoon did this knowing the cat would be stuck there and someone would put food at the base of the tree to try to lure it down. Then the raccoon would eat the food. Raccoons are clever like that.

Okay, whether or not the raccoon was responsible for the cat being up the tree, he was no help in getting the cat out of the tree. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and dispel any of your urban myths about cats stuck in trees:
1) The fire department does not rescue them. They will give you their pat answer, "Have you ever seen a dead cat in a tree?" My response is, "No, they fall out when they die."
2) Animal shelters do not rescue cats from trees.
3) Utility companies do not rescue cats from trees.
4) Tree services may rescue cats from trees, but only if you pay them to and they prefer to do it by cutting down the tree. Then you are stuck with huge rounds of wood that are near impossible to get rid of. Trust me on this one.
5) Hunger and thirst do not seem to be primary motivators for cats to come down from trees on their own.
6) No one actually knows how to get a cat out of a tree.
Monday came and the cat was still stuck up in the tree. Monday was also one of the hottest days we've had in Seattle in a long time. The cat stopped meowing and just hung their morously on a branch. I knew that Tess couldn't just stand by for much longer and watch the thing suffer so I dug out the ladder again, donned protective clothing and went once more into the tree. But this time I left the ladder and pulled myself up into the branches as close as I could to where the cat was. It moved further away.

While Tess watched from below, I shook the branch assuming that frightening the cat to death would be better than it dying of dehydration in the tree. The cat didn't budge. I attempted hooking the branch with a push broom to try and pull it toward me so I could grab the cat. This aggitated the cat and it began to hiss at me. I climbed back out of the tree and down the ladder. The cat spent yet another night in the tree.

Tuesday came. The cat had actually moved from the one pine tree to an adjacent pine tree. It had worked its way out on a very small branch that hung over the parking lot of an apartment building next to our house. I gave up on the notion that the cat was coming down, at least on its own. I got the ladder one more time and asked Tess to grab a towel and stand under the branch the cat was one.

I climbed the ladder with a box saw and with my left hand, mind you, I began sawing the branch the cat was lying on. In about five minutes the branch cracked and swung down toward the ground. The listless cat immediately became quite animated and leapt off the falling branch. It hit the ground running with Tess on its tail calling for the cat. It ignored her and darted across the street (thankfully not getting hit by a car) and hopefully home to a full bowl of food and water.

Later that evening, I stood under the tree staring up into the tree, half thinking I'd see the cat back up in the branches. Instead, and I may have just been halucinating, I swear I saw the face of a racoon. And I'll be damned if he wasn't laughing.
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