"Ozzie" At The Tippy-Top

(early September 2018)

Executive Summary

"Ozzie" was stuck for six days in a sweet gum tree in Florence MS. She was initially at 40 feet, but bolted to 75 feet during rope installation. I was unable to reach her the first day, but succeeded with a rescue pole grab on the second day. Ozzie and her young kitten had a happy reunion back on the ground. Robin, many thanks for your generous donation to the Oktibbeha County Humane Society!


When I awoke on Labor Day morning, I noticed a text message, missed phone call, voice mail and Facebook message all from Robin in Florence MS; her inside kitty escaped outside and had been stuck for five days. I called Robin back and arranged to be there later that day. When I arrived at 11:00 am, I was met by Robin and her son Austin. They led me to a sweet gum in the back yard and I could see "Ozzie" hanging out at about 40 feet. There was a nice union at 50 feet; it looked to be an easy rescue. I set a climbing line and geared up. During this time, Ozzie became spooked and started climbing a small leader that went vertical parallel to the main trunk. When I started climbing, she was a little bit higher than my tie-in point but not on the main trunk. This was good, as the main trunk went to about 80 feet, and that would be a tough climb. As I climbed I lost sight of Ozzie but was soon at the tie-in point. I started looking for Ozzie but could not find her. I then heard some meows much further up the tree and my heart sank -- Ozzie had crossed back to the main trunk and had gone WAY, WAY up.

There was a bend in the trunk near my tie-in point so I pulled myself over and stood on it. From there, I could just barely see Ozzie, she was 30 feet up from my location (see pic below, lower red circle is where I was, upper red is where Ozzie was). I eyed the trunk and realized that in order to get to the next union, I would have to stem climb, and I had not brought the gear that I typically use for this. Also, the wind was blowing fairly steadily, causing the upper reaches to sway in such a way that it made my gut tighten. I decided that I needed to tackle this again the next day when the winds were calmer. I called down to Austin (and Jason, older son who had joined us) and asked them if there was a bucket we could leave in the tree with food. It turned out that there was a large plastic tub available, perfect for the job. I hauled this up, put two cans of wet cat food in it, and threw a light lowering cord over the limb. I did not think that Ozzie would come down to the food bucket but it was worth a shot. Back on the ground, I told Robin that I would return for a second try later in the week. That turned out to be the next morning, since heavy rain and wind was predicted for Tuesday night, and all day on Wednesday. I left a throw line in the tree so that I could easily install my rope in the same union.

I arrived at 8:45 am the next day, and examined the tree again. Ozzie had not moved. I really did not want to do laborious stem climbing, and spotted a good tie-in at 60 feet (picture with lower red square). I hit that union on my first shot, somebody above was looking out for me! I pulled up a rope, donned my gear, and began climbing. I was soon at the tie-in point. I pulled myself up and stood in it. Ozzie was 15 feet above the tie-in point - by standing, and extending my rescue pole to its full length, I could just barely reach her. The wind was not as strong as the previous day, but occasionally would blow hard enough to really rock both Ozzie and myself, causing every orifice on my body to pucker. I then started trying to snag Ozzie with the rescue loop. It was frustrating; Ozzie kept biting, hissing, dodging the loop, and small branches about her added to the difficulty. Every time I pulled the loop snug and missed, I had to lower the pole and tug/jiggle the loop in addition to pulling on the release knob to free it as the spring was sticking. After about 20 minutes, Ozzie retreated up a tiny limb jutting vertically from her position, putting her outside of pole range. I was frustrated, and decided to give the net a try. The net plus my extender pole gives it about three feet more range than the rescue pole. I have never been able to net a kitty in this way, but I was desperate. After putting the net + extender pole together, I looked up and noted that Ozzie had come back down to her original position. I decided to try the rescue pole again, and this time, be satisfied with a neck grab. I do not like using a neck grab, but I was running out of energy and it was desperation time.

I raised the rescue pole, and very quickly was able to nab Ozzie about the neck. I then tried to pull her down but her back legs caught on a limb. I tried lifting her off the limb but I could not reach high enough to release the back legs. She was locked on the limb and my tugging her by the neck risked hurting Ozzie. I finally gave up and released the noose. Ozzie was exhausted by this struggle, and just hung on the limb, head and front paws hanging limply. It hurt my heart to see her in this condition. I raised my rescue pole again and she weakly batted at it but was out of fight. I was able to work the noose over her legs and head and tightened properly around her body. In this position, I was able to raise Ozzie up and off the limb. Whew. I brought her down, and maneuvered her into the net. I let Robin know that Ozzie was finally in the net; she gave a yell of relief.

Back on the ground, I handed net and Ozzie to Robin, who disappeared into the house. I joined Robin a few minutes later and was greatly relieved to find that Ozzie was fine, she had already already eaten and drank water. The picture below shows Ozzie reunited with her young kitten. Robin vowed to keep Ozzie inside from now on!