Know that feeling? Can’t go forward, can’t go back–you just stuck! Head in a hole, struggling just to breath.
Had a cat once that knew all about being stuck. Tubby, that was actually her name, though she was sort of chubby. But she was a curious, grey tabby. A barn cat who loved her outdoor life. She wandered high and low and in between. No barn or outbuilding went unexplored.
There was a large, two-story, outbuilding on our property where the lawn mowers and other things were stored. One fine, sunny day I returned a mower to the lower level of that building, and was closing up when I heard a strange sound. A squalling, whining, crying that sounded like an animal in distress.
I followed my ears to what I thought was the source of the noise, and they took me to the upper level of that building. But the door was locked, so I had to go back to the house and find the keys.
When I finally got the door open, I knew I was on the right track because the racket grew louder, clearer.
That level of the building was filled with storage–boxes, furniture, tires, all sorts of stuff. So I had to weave my way through the mess as I followed the sound.
Way back at the opposite end near the furthest corner, I discovered Tubby, most of her anyway. Because somehow, she had managed to find the one hole in the concrete floor, a roughly rounded, chipped out spot, and she’d shoved her whole head down through it. And she was caterwauling, and fighting for all she was worth.
Now, the way I see it, that hole must have shrunk right after she pushed her chubby cheeks through, cause try as she might–and try she did–she just couldn’t pull her fat head back out.
I tried to get hold of her squirming body and lift up on her but it didn’t work. I tried working my fingers in around her neck to see if I could pull her ears in and get her unstuck that way. No luck.
Then I got a bright idea, or so I thought. I ran back to the house and got a bottle of dish-washing liquid. I thought, you use it to get rings off your finger, maybe it’ll work on a cat’s head. I started to pour some on her neck and realized, if I wasn’t careful, I’d suffocate her with it because it ran down around her nose.
It didn’t work. Her head just wouldn’t budge. I’m sure the stuff must have burned the poor things eyes and nose, but I had to try.
So now I had a squalling, fighting cat covered in slippery soap, with its head still stuck in a cement hole. And she was getting louder and more desperate.
The next thing that came to my mind was to call my dad for advice. We talked it over a few minutes and he couldn’t think of anything–at first. But then he said, “Why don’t you call 911 and see if they can help.” He assured me he’d be over soon as he could too.
So I called 911 and explained the situation. They sent a fire truck and small crew over. They were all volunteers, great guys. But I’m guessing they were sitting around the local fire house with nothing else to do, and were mostly curious about this cat situation.
They were good-natured about it and they really tried, but they couldn’t get Tubby the cat unstuck either. One of them suggested maybe I should call the ASPCA and see if they had any ideas.
So, I called the ASPCA, and they said they’d send someone to help. Somewhere in the melee, my dad arrived. But he was even more at a loss about what to do once he got a good look at the situation.
In the meantime, a local regional police officer pulled up outside, because when a 911 call goes out to the fire department, well, that’s what they do. They go out to oversee things on emergency calls. While that police officer was a very nice lady, she didn’t have any ideas either.
All the while, poor Tubby was growing weaker. Her cries were getting quieter, and squeakier, like her throat was getting soar.
The ASPCA lady showed up with a jar of petroleum jelly. She started to work on Tubby, but again to no avail. She looked at me sadly and suggested I should call a veterinarian.
Now, at about this point in the story, another car pulled up in the driveway. Someone I hadn’t called, but she must have heard the 911 call on a police ban radio. She was a reporter from the local newspaper. She just wanted to hang around and see what came of the situation. It would make a good human interest piece, depending on how it turned out.
I was standing there talking with the fireman who seemed to be in charge, and the ASPCA volunteer when Tubby seemed to go limp all of a sudden. We were all worried at this point. But the ASPCA volunteer thought maybe since she’d stopped fighting, they’d have better luck trying to pull her out.
The fireman helped her. He picked up Tubby’s limp body and lifted her straight up in the air while the ASPCA lady worked her fingers around the cat’s neck, now slick with petroleum jelly. And to everyone’s relief and amazement, her fat little head finally popped up out of that awful hole. And she was still alive.
Tubby the cat was spent. And her neck hair was gone. The skin under it was red and scraped like a huge brush burn. Poor thing barely whined, but she was free at last. Everyone stood around wondering at her feline fortitude.
We thanked them all and promised to take Tubby inside the house and nurse her wounds. But no one was sure just how much trauma the cat might have suffered. You see, to top it all off, Tubby was pregnant.
The news reporter asked if she could call and see how the cat made out. I said that’d be fine.
As soon as everyone left, the firemen, the policewoman, the ASPCA volunteer, the reporter, and my dad, we took Tubby in and settled her into a bed we made for her with towels and blankets. Her kittens were born that night–too early. They didn’t make it. But Tubby recovered nicely even so.
The reporter, true to her word, checked on the cat. I told her Tubby was going to be fine. The next day a short little article appeared in the paper titled “Tubby Cat Gets Head Stuck in Hole.”
Tubby walked with a weird sort of crook in her neck the rest of her life, and it was a fairly long life at that. But she was fine, even had another litter of kittens. She also seemed to have developed a strange sort of affinity for other suffering animals after that. Stayed by a sick horse’s side for hours one time, but that’s another tale.
So, moral of the story? Well, I know I get stuck sometimes, but I haven’t ever been stuck quite like that. But, if all those people would come out to help a chubby little tabby cat that got itself stuck in a hole in a floor, surely there are plenty of people around us who will help us when we need it. Maybe, we need to take a new look at our situation, turn it upside down and get creative about who we can turn to. And maybe, we just need to let ourselves relax.
But not to be missed in all of this was how it changed Tubby. She never got stuck like that again, that’s for sure. And she was bent and scarred forever. Still, she was just a cat, and even she had a new understanding of compassion the rest of her life. Hmm?