At first we couldn’t identify the source of the pitiful mewling. It was my friend Sabrina who figured it out: the storm drain. Obviously aware of our presence, a cat – or more likely a kitten, based on the high-pitched cries – was pleading for rescue.
We were finishing a brisk afternoon walk through Sabrina’s New Jersey neighborhood. Synchronicity had guided us away from winding residential streets lined with beautiful sycamores to a quiet road that dead-ended at a grassy schoolyard. The storm drain was built into the curb, and was topped by a wrought iron manhole cover.
The kitten’s desperate meowing continued.
Sabrina’s compassionate heart thrust her into action. “We’ve got to get this manhole cover off and get the kitty out!” she said. She cast a nervous eye to the sky, where dark clouds were gathering. “The forecast is calling for a storm, and she’ll drown if we don’t get her out of there!”
Sabrina and I were not the only humans present. Frank, an older man who feeds the neighorhood’s feral cats, lives in the house beside the storm drain. He ambled down his lawn to join us soon after we arrived. He also was worried about the kitty.
We all had a go at the manhole cover, but it was clearly designed to discourage removal by the citizenry. It fit snugly into its hole, and the small “keyhole” on the edge was too small for our fingers to grip.
Sabrina’s home was only half a block away – a stroke of good luck, given the large number of trips we would ultimately make back and forth. Trip #1 was to procure a crowbar.
As we reached her house, her 16-year-old stepdaughter Gwen skateboarded up. A similarly compassionate soul, she immediately joined the rescue team.
The crowbar alone couldn’t lift the lid. But, another trip back to Sabrina’s house later, Gwen and I teased it loose by simultaneously manipulating the crowbar, a length of rebar and a flat-blade screwdriver.
Removing the heavy manhole cover revealed a shaft about five feet deep. It was barely wide enough for a person to squeeze in. At the bottom, sewer pipes led off in two directions.
At first the crying kitty didn’t show itself. Then, after a long moment, we caught a glimpse of its face as it nervously peeked up out of a pipe. Then, too frightened to realize that were were its aspiring saviors, it backed out of sight again.
By lowering a ladder provided by Frank into the shaft, Gwen was able to climb down past several large and scary-looking spider crickets to the bottom. But the terrified kitty retreated back into the pipe.
After Gwen climbed back up, we dropped chunks of canned tuna to the bottom of the shaft. Kitty didn’t go for it. Then we draped a bedsheet down to the bottom. We dribbled chunks of tuna and tuna juice all the way up the sheet, hoping the kitty would eat its way to the top.
The initial result of our efforts? Kitty remained cowering in her tunnel, and continued her heart-piercing cries.
After a while it occurred to us that the presence of four humans at the top of the shaft might be scaring the kitty. We agreed to leave it on its own for a while, then return to check on it. We weighted the sheet with the manhole cover to keep it in place. We also laid the ladder across the top of the hole (but not blocking the kitty’s escape route) to stop any passing pedestrians from falling in.
Sabrina, Gwen and I returned 45 minutes later to find the situation only slightly changed. The kitty had mustered up enough courage to walk fully into the shaft and nibble at some of the tuna. She was tiny, not more than a few weeks old. Her soaked black and white fur was clumped in all directions — definitely a bad hair day — and she was shivering constantly.
Our rescue strategy now seemed straightforward: lower the ladder, climb down and lift Kitty out. But it foiled our plan by retreating back into the pipe each time one of us descended.
It was Frank who finally solved the Dilemma of the Constantly Retreating Kitty. He walked up to his garage, then returned a moment later with two pieces of plywood. Amazingly, they were exactly the right size to block the sewer pipes!
The kitty eventually crept back into the shaft to eat more tuna. It miraculously stayed in place as we cautiously lowered the plywood and sealed off the exits. A moment later Gwen emerged from the shaft, triumphantly holding the trembling cat by the scruff of its neck.
What I Learned
I was raised to be self-reliant and figure things out for myself. But this feline rescue operation give me a new appreciation for how much smarter a cooperating group can be.
I doubt that I could have gotten the kitty out by myself. There were several times when we all were stumped. But by the time it was all done, each of us had contributed critical ideas and/or resources that made the rescue possible.
Sabrina is an excellent tarot reader, and the two readings she did for me that weekend emphasized the need for greater immersion in community. This was completely on point: I reside by myself in the house where I live and work, and had begun to feel a bit lonely. I have many friends I resonate with deeply, but I’ve rarely made time to connect with them one on one.
Since my visit to New Jersey, I’ve joined several groups I resonate with, and am making a point to connect with those I love more consistently. And guess what: it feels great!
This shift has even changed how I conduct my shamanic and spiritual ceremonies. Rather than me and my spiritual allies doing it all, I now actively welcome help from those humans in the ceremony who are able and willing to assist me in the inner planes. We’re entering the Aquarian Age. It’s the Time of the Team!
If you find yourself feeling isolated, know that your teammates are out there. Call to them in the inner world and seek them out physically. And don’t forget that your allies are also seeking you!
P.S. What happened to Kitty? Now named Stormy, it’s scampering happily about in Sabrina’s house. Michael, Sabrina’s husband, has been allergic to cats in the past, but is watching his reactions to see if they can coexist harmoniously.
Whatever happens, I have every confidence that Stormy will end up in a good home. And I’ll always be grateful to the kitty in the storm drain for helping me understand the importance of teamwork and community!