In the very early morning hours of Monday, September 29th, I opened my patio door to see if it was going to be one of those days. If you live in North TX, and crave Fall weather like I do, you know those days that I yearn for. The very little humidity, (or let's shoot for the moon and say NO humidity), and say, oh around 75 degrees or so. I can open the door and know right away, two things. One, will I need to take Zyrtec that day? And two, will it be a much too warm, and humid day, with October lying just around the corner?
I didn't realize that Penny, my cat, was in the living room, and let me tell you, she runs like greased-lightning. Out the door she bolted. I left the patio door open because I knew she would bolt right back in, I wasn't too concerned. Oh, she'll be back, I thought.
By late afternoon flyers are posted around the mailbox areas where I live, and the friends at Starbucks let me post one there as well. I think when someone is in crisis mode with a missing pet, people band together and form a support team like none other. I notified the management office, Animal Services in my town as well as a neighboring town. The local animal hospital. The neighbors. And friends and family. Walking the complex calling for her, with day turning into night, there was still no Penny.
Sick with worry, and leaving the back door ajar, I try to sleep (and barely do) knowing that she is out there somewhere.
Tuesday morning, September 29th arrives with a feeling of dread. I begin to work, from home mind you, wondering what else I can do to find her. Forming a plan, I try to concentrate on work, and watch the clock. Still calling for her every hour, with no results. I turn to Facebook, this is one positive use for this social media avenue. (Thank you Melanie, for urging me forward)
As I began my next walkabout, searching for her, I was armed with bottled water, sunglasses, and determination. Carrying a flyer, I talked to everyone I met outside. I found people to be truly gracious and concerned which fueled me to keep going. A neighbor saw her this morning, a child riding by on his bicycle stopped and said he thought he saw her today, encouraging me to continue. Kids gathered together and said, "we will find her!" and off they went, a coalition.
As I started toward the pond, a really beautiful place in the middle of suburbia, I kept walking and calling for her.
I stopped near a playground and spoke with a Dad playing with his little boy. He hadn't seen Penny, but said he would help. I thanked him, and as I stepped out of the play area, I began calling for her yet again.
I stopped dead in my tracks. I wondered if my mind was playing tricks on me. I called for her again. She answered. I couldn't tell from which direction the meow was coming from. I looked up, thinking maybe someone on the second floor of this building had taken her in. I saw no movement in the windows. After calling for her again, I realized that the insistent meow was definitely coming from below. I looked down and saw a storm drain cover, and openings with grates along the side of the curb. I yelled, "PenPen!" (one of her nicknames) She let me know right away that she was not amused, and that yes, she was down there and I better do something about it.
As I was trying to think clearly on what to do next, the Dad walked over and said, "did you find her?"
I explained that she was down in the storm drain. He immediately went to his car, got a crowbar, and had that storm drain cover off before I could blink. His older son, and some friends came over, along with a few neighbors. My heart was pounding and I felt a small relief knowing that she was at least alive. Friends and family were checking in, I could hear the texts coming in but I could barely concentrate on anything but what was unfolding. I texted a best friend quickly who had just called but I didn't get to answer in time. Working close by, he showed up in less than a few minutes, and was on the ground talking to Penny in no time.
By this time, maintenance had arrived and began doing what they could to determine how to get to her.
They asked me to call the Fire Department.
Now look, they asked me to call. I mean, I know I have a reputation of being best friends with these fine gentlemen. (I'm laughing as I type this)
On the scene, we now have Coppell's finest.
We tossed treats down, Penny let us know she was still there but she wasn't budging an inch. There was just too much commotion going on for her taste.
After many calculations, measuring, and researching both ends of the drain, it was determined that they could not "flush" her out with water, the way they've had success with in the past on other rescues, due to the drain being sealed on one end, minus a few tiny holes to allow water to go through. The fear was that she would go the wrong direction, with no way out on the other end.
A call was made to animal control to inquire about the availability of small cages that could be placed near the opening of the drain, with food in them, to lure Penny out. I knew as this was being explained to me, that this might be an arduous evening at best. I was not going to leave her down there and go back inside and go to sleep. Are you kidding? Fully preparing to camp out all night, I listened intently as the available options were given.
The second option, one that does not require a trap, was to let the noise go away, and the kind people that were attempting to help, to go home. Then quietly call for her, to see if she would come out on her own.
As my fire department friends said their goodbyes, swiftly shaking hands and offering to help in the morning if needed, I was mentally preparing for a camp out. The truck pulled away, and the crowd began to disperse, leaving me and my friend Terry mostly alone with one little friend still trying to help. Now that I can think more clearly, I'm pretty sure this was the same little guy who I helped by getting his basketball out of a tree.
As the calm and quiet set in, we suddenly see Penny leaping out of the drain. Just like that, she was out. And she was covered with soot and I don't even know what else. I called her gently, as we soon realize that she has a mind of her own and she is not going to make this an easy rescue. From underneath one vehicle to the next, she darts, back and forth.
Terry says, "we need wet cat food. Something to entice her". I race home to get blankets, bottled water, wet cat food, and a hershey bar for my helpers. I have to treat them somehow!
It is now dusk and Penny is reminding us that she's still in charge, shaken, unsure of her surroundings.
An hour later......
I'm finally able reach her to gently pull her towards me and wrap her in a blanket, and carry her home.
Swaddled in a blanket, with my hands around her, and Terrys hand on her as well so she couldnt get away, Penny made it back home safe and sound.
There are several morals to this story, but the few that come to mind are: check your surroundings before you open the door that leads outside. And never, under any circumstances, enter a storm drain because you think you can fit. Looks are deceiving, and you could end up being the one needing a rescue. (I did not do this, I'm just sharing what I was told)
A happy ending for an otherwise nightmarish two days.
See you soon friends,
PS For tomorrows Breakfast at Tiffanys, Penny can have whatever she wants.