Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Houds Have Their Xmas, Wuzzy an Adventure
We'd made it through the stress of "actual" Christmas pretty great. Libby'd been fighting off the flu, I was working every day; getting the shopping and wrapping and all done in time was not an easy task for her, but it happened, and we drove over to Libby's sis's place in Greensboro with a truck full of presents and good cheer, and had a great afternoon with the extended family. We got home after dark to ravenous kitties, got them fed, went to bed early, and then I was back at work day after Christmas. We put off the Houdahenian Christmas till the next weekend, Sunday before New Years Eve, since they're not much up on dates and calendars anyways. (Or possibly cats are all quite aware that Jesus did not get born anywhere's near December 25, and that Isis and Ramses are the ones who have to do with bringing the sun back every year, and the spring floods that cause the rice to sprout, and bring all the mice that are soooo tasty and delicious. Some say the bargain they made with us was about cans, but did the Egyptians have cans, I ask you?)
At any rate, Sunday morning last we had Christmas for ourselves and the Boys. You can see them opening a present above. They all got new little cat beds, and a scratching pad salted with catnip which they really enjoyed and even kinda tussled over, in a brotherly way.
It was a bright, warmish morning, and after the presents were open and played with, all three of the Boys ran over to the slider and started begging to be let out, Wuzzy the foremost. Wuzzy has been getting a chance at the great Outside for some time. Libby lets him out to explore when she's here in the daytime, and he has been doing just fine with that, not getting into too much trouble, or vanishing, or finding something he can't deal with. We're far enough from the road that there's little chance of him venturing out to where the traffic lives. There've been no hunting dog packs lately, and no sign of raccoons or foxes. Momma is now living under the house, but she pretty much retreats into secrecy when there's any commotion of any kind. So we opened the slider and out they went, Wuzzy in the lead, and we enjoyed the pretty morning, picked up wrapping paper, had some sausage balls and coffee. After a while Mokey and then Puzzle came back in without coaxing. Wuzzy was still out, but that was expected. I'd said to Libby, when we let them out, that Wuzzy was about due to climb a tree--something he hadn't done. I wasn't thinking this was some kind of prediction or premonition.
Finally I went out and called him, and I heard him meowing. After a while I realzed he was right over head, in a small tree, probably about 25 feet or so up. The tree, I think it's a sassafras tree maybe, is not a big grower, and doesn't grow straight. This one has a trunk which has a fairly gradual incline for some distance. Wuzzy was sitting on a little branch just at the point the trunk, now little more than a limb of wrist size, took a vertical tack and went on up. Wuzzy was stuck and didn't know what to do. We tried to talk him down. The day wore on, with periods of talking, periods of leaving him alone. He tried and tried to figure out what to do, and after a while went to sleep sitting on the little branch which was also creating the problem of getting around for him. After more time, hours, he woke and cried some more. We humans were also getting more and more concerned. The night was predicted to be very cold. A hawk flew by. There were buzzards circling overhead. Really, there were, we see 'em a lot this time of year. Maybe they're grouping up for a trip to Finley, who knows.
As it seemed that a neighboring maple sapling was entangling Wuzzy's perch, I decided to cut it down and out of the way. When I did that--this was probably about 3 pm or so--it frightened Wuzzy and he climbed again. Much much higher. He was at the very top of the Sassafras now, amongst a web of tiny sticks. He could sit there, but it wasn't clear that he could do much else. Libby consulted the Google and found that cats frequently will climb when frightened. Indeed, there was a wealth of info on cats in trees. Some was calming. "Ain't no cat skeletons in trees." Others not so much. "My cat fell 30 feet and died of internal injuries three days later." "My cat fell into some rip rap and ran off. We never found him." I'd rescued a cat of ours once by climbing up onto a shed roof and then putting a ladder over to the limb he was on--he walked the ladder over to me. This was not such a situation. There was no ladder anywheres close to long enough, and no place to put it anyways. This was not a climbable tree.
We thought maybe if we cut the tree, partly, we could hinge it down to more of a horizontal line, and Wuzzy could then make another effort to get down. We did that, and the tree did bend down some, but Wuzzy did not budge. It was dark and cold, and the warm Christmassy morning we'd had with the Boys seemed like a far distant time. We turned on the Cone lights, and Libby strung other lights out near the tree. We turned on all the house lights. We shone a strong flashlight up into the tree, playing it along the trunk below where Wuzzy perched, trying to get him interested in trying to come down just a bit at a time. After it was totally dark, and even colder, we could see his eyes glowing in the light. He would cry now and again.
I had to go to work the next day. Libby could not think of leaving him alone in the tree. She brought every pillow and cushion we could find and made a big padded area under when he was perched. Then she sat wrapped in a blanket at the foot of the tree and talked to him. I went to bed so I could go to work. About 5 am she came in and climbed in with me to get warm, and then she got a bit of sleep.
I usually get up about 5:30 or so to make coffee, and I got up. So did Libby. As soon as it was light I went out and tried coaxing Wuzzy some more between cups of coffee and Libby's pancakes. He didn't budge, but a remarkable thing happened I didn't in the least expect. Momma climbed the tree some ways up to try to show him what to do! I went too close and she retreated, but when I went away she came back and tried again. Even after the long separation, from last April, she obviously knew her little boy was in trouble. Moreover, her wonderful maternal instincts remained. She'd raised them safely. I wondered if, more than food or anything else, she was living here because of them.
I had to go to work. I left, hopeful that perhaps Momma would succeed where we'd failed. Wuzzy was a little black dot in the top of a spindly little tree, at least 40 feet off the ground, but he was still alert and energetic. I think Libby's presence under the tree all the cold night had kept him from dispairing. Libby was up, and she planned to make calls to tree people in the area. At work it was the busiest day of the year. There was no way for me to take off and come back to help, as I'd first hoped to do, till the end of the day. As rain was predicted for New Years Day, we'd decided that if nothing else, we'd have to cut the tree and try to ease it down somehow, with a rope. There was also a risk that the tree might hit the chimney or the roof. It wasn't a ten ton oak tree, but it was big enough to kill someone, or to knock a hole in the roof. A tree man, if we could find one on New Years Eve, would be a pretty good idea.
In the early afternoon, Libby called me to say she'd found a guy with a boom truck. He didn't do cat rescues he said, and it was his day off. After a second round of calls Libby prevailed on him to come out and just consult. This sounded promising to me when she told me. When I had a free minute I was thinking about how to use the rope to slow the tree's fall, if I was going to be cutting it at dusk after work. One of my employers said the cat would surely jump free before it hit the ground. I was not entirely reassured. Later on in the afternoon Libby called again. Mr. Tyndall, the tree man from Pittsboro, was cutting a way to the tree so's his boom truck could get there. Was that ever some good news!
You might can see the black dot that is Wuzzy, high up in the photo. He's definitely there. Libby says when the boom truck arrived he faced that way and knew he was going to be rescued. Mr. Tyndall went up with the cat carrier and he climbed right in. Back on the ground, Libby took him inside, where he purred a whole lot and ate a whole lot. Mr. Tyndall also dropped the tree safely for us. Here's the trunk, lying on the padding we didn't need after all.
It's a New Year, and we still have all three of the Houdahenians with us. It was mighty nice last night when they snuggled up in bed with us, after the ball had dropped, after the tree had dropped. Maybe Wuzzy was our own New Years Eve "ball." Maybe next New Years Eve we can just metaphorically drop him--like maybe lower him carefully from the loft, safe in his carrier. I think that might be a nice new tradition around here. Goes with the Xmas Cone thing. He'd probably be ok with it. My guess is by tomorrow he'll be whining at the slider again. Each day is a new one for the Boys. This is really not a bad way to operate.
If you need some tree work in the Pittsboro, NC, area, Mr. Tyndall is a true professional, and a very nice guy. May he and his family have the very best of Happy New Years!