That is exactly what happened Friday morning when one of the city’s newest employees, Mark Burrola, ventured almost 20 feet into a tree and literally out on a limb to rescue a cat.
Burrola’s boss, Animal Control Officer Lupe Valdez, said the incident that led to the rescue actually began earlier in the week when his office got a call from a woman in the 1200 block of South Jefferson Street.
The woman said she had been looking for the animal and eventually found it high in the tree.
She tried to get the cat to come down, without success.
Valdez and Burrola made the trip to the woman’s house and assessed the situation. But no matter how they tried to encourage the animal out of the tree, nothing worked.
At first, Valdez fell back on the old fireman’s adage, that no one has ever seen the skeleton of a cat in a tree. He told the distraught woman that the animal eventually would venture back to earth and safety, once it got hungry enough.
To help encourage the apparent scaredy cat from its perch, Valdez and Burrola trimmed a couple of branches out of the animal’s way and left a little food on a lower limb.
They left, certain that hunger and desperation would motivate the frightened feline to descend to safety.
But then came the call Friday morning. Valdez and Burrola realized they had a problem on their hands. The word was that the weather was about to turn even colder and wetter this weekend. The cat had been in the same place in the tree for two and a half days by then.
So they returned to the house, and Burrola decided it was time to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Valdez said Burrola bravely climbed the tree and inched his way out onto the branch toward the animal.
Valdez said he warned his helper as he reached for the cat.
“You know how cats are,” he shouted, fearful that the cat would start clawing his rescuer. But apparently, the cat knew Burrola was there to help. As the employee grabbed the animal by the back of the neck, “the cat was as calm as could be,” Valdez said.
The critter remained calm as Burrola handed it to Valdez, and it was more than grateful when Valdez handed the little fellow to its owner.
Of course, Valdez and Burrola are happy that risking life and limb is not a daily occurrence. But capturing all kinds of animals, some of which can be rather wild, does have its risks.
“There’s more to animal control than most people think,” Valdez said. “If we can help someone, we’ll do it.”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.