In my defense, when you’re wobbling around on a strange roof at midnight holding a feral kitten like a sloppy martini, your own safety feels like a higher priority than a perfect inspection of the little one in hand. So when I called Mama Su on the way home from my latest tree rescue and she heard the howling in the background, “It’s cool. They’re clean and eat on their own.” was, given the information available to me at the time, a reasonable and good faith response to her “Oh. My. God. What did you do now?”
The rescue started an hour earlier, when just before leaving work, I received a frantic FB message about kittens stuck in a tree with the mama lying dead at its base. From the details, the little ones were at least two stories up and the finder had ears, but not eyes on the litter. “And the neighborhood’s a little rough. But I’ll meet you…” I thought I might need backup or a witness, so I recruited Chris Rolbiecki with a compelling pitch, “I need your help. There are kittens…in a tree…in the ‘hood. And we’ll probably get hurt.” His response, “Who’s truck we gonna take?”
We scrambled a 20’ extension ladder from storage, strapped it to my truck with two old dog leashes and set off for the address a few miles away. The finder greeted us as promised and his description was more accurate than hoped—mom’s body at the base of an Italian cypress, a wild rumpus 20 feet up and no easy access to the adjacent roof. I sighed for mom and wrapped her in a towel (RIP), confirmed that the 2nd floor tenant wouldn’t greet a ladder outside his window with gunfire and prepared to go aloft.
They say some heroes don’t wear capes but suede, waffled-soled Gucci loafers should not be on the list of suggested alternatives. Chris held the ladder steady, and after a slow, profanity-laced climb in the aforementioned footwear and awkward hurdle over a tangle of wiring, I slid my butt across the roof like a pup with worms until I found myself adjacent to the howling. I stood up, balanced with the focus of a man taking a field sobriety test and parted the foliage for a look. Voila! A furry mug was peering out of the tree cave. Hungry!
Alerting the crew below, I reached in and scruffed the first furball and assessed how to make the transfer without ending up like mom. I squatted back down, retraced the butt slide, laid flat on my belly and handed the orphan over the edge of the roof to the Samaritan on the 2nd story balcony. I repeated this bizarre burpee four more times and pointed my flashlight around the branches for one final look. Convinced I had them all, I made a slower but less profanity-laced descent, dropped the last 3’ to the ground and brushed off the tree crud.
After thank-yous and I’ll tag yous, we counted five kittens into a banker’s box and headed back to drop Chris off. We unloaded the ladder, laughed about the absurdity of it all and I headed home so Mama Su could start the real work. In the harsh light of the laundry room, my “They’re clean and eat on their own.” didn’t hold up (“These are bottle babies! Miracle nipples…now!), but these flea-ridden ragamuffins easily met Su’s standard for cute. We’ll never know how the mama perished, but her babies are now scrubbed free of fleas, have full bellies and better prospects than they did a couple of hours ago. There’s comfort in that. Enjoy the pics!