Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Brooklyn Cat Lovers: DON'T PANIC!

The Optimist and his girlfriend share a love of animals and nature. Fortunately, our new second-floor apartment overlooks an overgrown yard and one of the rare evergreen trees in Greenpoint, so there is always a lot of wildlife to observe.

This morning, in defiance of the pigeon haters in the City Council, we hung a bird feeder on the fire escape outside our window, hoping to entice the cardinals, finches, squirrels, and even the much-maligned pigeons to stop by our ledge. A few hours later, my girlfriend peered out the glass to see if we had attracted any visitors and instantly called my attention to the view. A couple yards beyond the reach of our window, perched two and a half stories up in a leafless tree, was a cat.

Just a few hours earlier, I had seen the same cat walking a tightrope of electrical cables spanning our yard into the next and marveled at his audacity. Now, we watched the cat as he scaled the narrow trunk, balancing boldly on razor-thin branches, climbing higher and higher.

And then stop.

Stop for a very long time.

As the hours passed, it became clear that he was stuck. My girlfriend and I tried to plot mental maps of how he could descend on his own, but they all looked too dangerous. The kittie seemed to agree.

Nor could we devise any way of helping him. No ladder we could get would be tall enough and he was well beyond our reach. Our own house cats joined us at the window, gawking at their comrade. I wondered if they envied his freedom or if they were ogling like race car fans waiting for a wreck.

When evening started to set in, we decided that it was time to act. The cat had had ample chance to come down on his own. Soon it would be cold and dark.

But what to do? Call the fire department? Do firefighters really rescue cats from trees or was that some myth of Americana? In the end, we decided to call 311.

Thank Bloomberg for 311. It's really an ingenious service. I've solved so many problems with its help. But not this one.

As I now know, Animal Care and Control is the City organization responsible for cats getting out of trees. FYI, they're closed on New Year's.

I asked to be transferred to our local firehouse. Well, maybe firefighters will still get Snookums down from the tree for you in Nebraska, but apparently not in Brooklyn. The Bravest suggested I wait until AC&C opened at 8 the next morning for assistance.

Yeah, tell that to the cat hanging out my window. "Don't worry, fella. Help will be on the way in 14-16 hours."

Then how did the drama end? Since the WGA is on strike, a Hollywood ending was out. Instead, the cat opted to improvise. As I was about to hang up with the fire department, the cat suddenly inverted and made a deft dash down the tree. After three cliffhanging hours in his perch, he reached the ground in an instant and promptly disappeared. I can only hope Jon Stewart does as well without writers.

This being New Year's, I found myself inclined to draw some lesson of great philosophic significance from the ordeal, but after extensive head-scratching nothing particularly deep came to mind. Then I remembered the sage advice of one of the most remarkable of all books ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Printed in large friendly letters on the book's cover are the words DON'T PANIC.

That stuck me as suitably deep.

Really, it's true. It's indisputably the best course of action in all crisis situations. Short of the right solution, I suppose.

Here's another apt aphorism that's pretty foolproof (on Earth, at least): What goes up, must come down. Even cats.

So, DON'T PANIC, Cat Lovers! Fluffy will be down on his own by dinnertime.

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