The Man Who Could

by Beverly Berwald
I’d just stepped out to feed my two colonies in the Howard Hughes Parkway about three o’clock one spring afternoon. I noticed a man lying flat on his stomach on the dirt part of the ground between some neatly manicured hedges. He appeared to be talking to himself until I stopped and heard him say “…kitty.” On closer inspection, I could see that he was looking into a drain pipe, at least a dozen feet into the earth. He shined a flashlight where I could see a dark, little fur ball meowing up at us.

When the man got up, dusted himself off and informed me he had to get back to work, I called the Fire Department on my cell phone. These guys are fast -- a truck showed up in less than five minutes! Another 10 minutes and a helicopter began to buzz overhead. Then, an ABC news truck showed up desperately in need of news for the 4 o’clock broadcast!

“Get Your Popcorn, Peanuts, Cotton Candy!”

Once tv got stirred into the mix, a crowd of onlookers and well-wishers began to form.  The firemen were running around with retractable nylon cords looking earnest and busy but to no avail.  One fine gent suggested that if they obtained permission from the management company at Howard Hughes Parkway, they could dig up the earth.  Permit be damned, the kitten’s meowing was growing more insistent as it echoed up the pipe.  With the tension and drama building, the attempted rescue took on the trappings of a carnival.  At one point the only thing missing was someone pitching “Popcorn!  Peanuts! Cotton Candy!”

Hope Shows Up

When the Fire Department pulled out, an Animal Control Officer from West Los Angeles Animal shelter arrived on the scene, a handsome young man of imposing stature – Andrew Redfield. He belongs to a special unit, Small Animal Rescue Team Los Angeles (SMART LA) that answer calls to free animals from steep canyons, high mountains, unreachable and “impossible” circumstances.

Andrew rigged up a little loop that could be tightened or loosened, sent it down to the kitten and waited. This went on for a good twenty minutes. Unfortunately, he too, had to stop but not before promising to return that evening at the end of his shift.

One Man Gives Up

In the meantime, a group of workers from a graphics design company were particularly interested in the welfare of the kitten. One of the designers made a basket out of netting with the help of a colleague; they tied a long narrow rope to it before they sent both down the pipe. The more outspoken of the two tried and cursed every time he missed a proper landing and tried again and cursed some more when he brought up the basket to adjust the circumference. After about an hour, he’d had it! He blasted away at how disappointed he was in himself but then it dawned on him: Tomorrow was another day! He was going straight to the hardware store in the morning!

Pussycat to Pitbull & Back to Pussycat

I looked at him like he’d landed from Mars. “It has to be done tonight! The kitten will freeze to death.”
Officer Redfield would not give up.
One of his colleagues, a very concerned lady chimed in, “You’re never going to get that cat out of there!”

“And who are you to decide this kitten’s fate?!”

She didn’t answer me.

“Got anything negative to say, keep it to yourself!” I told her.

“I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean to—“

A little awareness goes a long way with me. My inner pit bull receded into a pussycat. No words were spoken for the next few minutes.

She gave me some bottled water and her business card and offered to bring me something to eat before she and her remaining colleagues got on the road that night. I had no interest in food but thanked her just the same. She hugged me goodnight and said, “You’re going to rescue that kitten.”

As the last of the sun’s rays was turning pink in the western sky I was alone now except for the two Security Guards who came by to see that I was safe. The kitten’s cries were less often now which worried me as the air was growing colder. Who knows how long that poor darling had been down there? She didn’t have the strength to meow because she probably hadn’t eaten the whole day.

A Hero Among Us

Like clockwork, Officer Redfield showed up at 8:20! He pulled out a hefty industrial flashlight and a narrow rope and fashioned a cinch to fit around the kitten’s tummy. Flat on his stomach, he quietly kept lowering and raising the cinch for ongoing adjustments. Calmly persistent, he never uttered a word of disappointment, he just kept at it. A highly evolved soul, he remained present to the moment. For in the case of this stranded kitten, this man’s ability to match his intention to a desired result would mean that this chance-at-life could go on breathing. Nothing else mattered to this man tonight.

That’s why he succeeded. Forty minutes shy of midnight, the kitten walked into the cinch and Officer Redfield raised her out of the earth. After he held her in his arms and kissed her, he handed her over to me. I wrapped her in a blanket and I drove off into the night, a ball of fur with a big soul curled up in my lap.

My mission was accomplished because a miracle happened. Thanks to a man who wouldn’t give up.
You can find out more about the Small Animal Rescue Team in LA on MySpace and on Facebook.