Friday September 10, 2021.
People in a Safford downtown home had heard odd sounds in the bathroom all day. Late in the afternoon the sounds became distinct enough to identify as a meowing kitten.
They cut two holes in the wall of the bathroom, thinking the sound coming from inside the wall. Finding no kitten, they called a local cat rescue organization who came down. After determing more assistance was needed, the Safford Fire Department was called.
Time: Approximately 6:15PM
The fire chief and another fireman arrived. Some other friends arrived. A fireman climbed into the attic and onto the roof looking for a trapped kitten. Sounds coming from a vent pipe on the roof were identified as the kitten. Further exploration found the kitten pitifully meowing to be more loudly coming from the yard next door. More specifically, a sewer clean-out in the backyard.
Normally these clean-outs (which are supposed to be positioned in every sewage system to allow clearing of clogged drains) have a screw-on cover. Being plastic, they are not all that tough. The cover for this one had broken off resulting in an open four inch plastic pipe which dropped about two feet straight down, then bent about 45 degrees to intersect the sewer line maybe another foot away. Evidently the kitten had explored the opening and fallen in.
Without going into detail, a rescue effort followed. A plumbing sewer camera was run into the line and the kitten was found headed toward the main line about twenty feet from the clean-out, now maybe 40-feet from the original house. Two holes over four foot deep were dug to find the sewer pipe to allow an opportunity to breach the pipe ahead of the kitten. However, the kitten was moving (probably scared by the sounds of digging) and actually reversed course (how the cat turned around in that small pipe is a mystery) and was now behind the clean-out and moving towards the house who first heard mewing “in the walls”.
A third hole was dug by the clean-out and the sewer pipe found. A hole was drilled into the pipe and the camera fed inside. The toilet was removed in the house. Fleeing the camera, the kitten moved further down the pipe. His cries could be clearly heard coming from the drain pipe cleared by the toilet.
Soon the camera detector found the camera to be less than a foot from the open pipe. The frightened kitten did not want to go further. Bear in mind, the pipe beneath the toilet is maybe five inches in diameter and goes straight down about a foot, then makes an abrupt 90 degree bend. A man put his (gloved) hand into the pipe , but could not go beyond the bend. The kitten did not want to go any closer to that strange hand. The camera was used to “push” the kitten as much as possible. A cell phone played the cries of a mama cat calling her kittens (the kitten went nuts) and a stalemate ensued for maybe six minutes.
Finally, camera pushing, mama cat calling and desire to get out of his predicament mounting, the kitten came into the opening. He was gently grabbed and slowly lifted into the open air. A gray kitten, perhaps 10-weeks-old, completely soaked, very tired and undoubtedly quite hungry was dried and wrapped in a red towel.
The fireman who pulled the cat out of his troubles instantly became attached and was eager to adopt him. He named the kitten Echo.
Time: Approximately 11:15PM
The pipe was patched, the holes refilled and the toilet re-installed. Tools were put back into cases and vehicles. The clean-out was securely covered.
While this story describes the rescue of a kitten, it is really about many people who gave up their suppers, time with their families, worked hard, got dirty and missed several hours of sleep. All recognized a poor critter who found himself in a bad place who needed help. After roughly five hours of concentrated and determined effort, they succeeded in saving a kitten from what would have been a certain long, lonely and terrifying death trapped alone beneath the ground in a dark sewer pipe.
Some were Safford firemen, some were just people who came to help, some were people living in a house who heard a kitten crying. None sought or expected recognition or reward.
Note no names have been mentioned. Not only because names were not recorded, but because providing specific names, while deserved, does not do justice to the spirit of those who gave. They gave of themselves because they were needed.
So instead of focusing a spotlight, allow me to shine a floodlight.
To all those have given;
To all those who are giving;
To all those who will give.
David Morse lives in Pima.