A cat stuck 70 feet up in a tree on Caledonia Street for three days lead to a dramatic rescue Wednesday afternoon.
But it wasn’t the fire department that showed up and conducted the delicate operation.
It was St. Johnsbury businessman Blake Jenkins and a two-man team of specialists from the Concord-based Tip Top Tree Service to the rescue.
“Steph,” the one and-a-half year old house pet belonging to Christine Shepardson, got loose on Sunday as Shepardson moved out of her Caledonia Street apartment.
“I was transferring him from the house to the truck - and clearly he’s a Ninja - and he got away from my brother-in-law. I went to go grab him and he took off over the fence and up the tree…I’ve been calling him. I’ve been up here three times a day. I mean, I tried everything.”
Shepardson said she called the St. Johnsbury Fire Department but they declined to help.
“I called the local fire department and they told me they don’t do cat rescues for policy reasons,” said Shepardson. “Too risky - but they’ll run into a burning house…” said Shepardson.
Jenkins, who owns and operates Blake Jenkins Painting, Inc., arrived with his work lift and transported Jason Larocque of Tip Top Tree Service up though the branches of the tree behind 70 Caledonia St. while Larocque’s business partner Nicholas Figueroa coordinated the operation by radio from the ground.
Initially, the approaching lift scared the cat out onto a precarious perch at the end of a thin branch. But then a new plan was hatched.
Larocque stepped-off the lift and took up a position on the main tree truck with a special animal lasso while Jenkins moved his lift to the outside of the branch and used a long pole to gently tap behind the cat until it went back down the branch where Larocque snagged it with the lasso. The cat was then transferred by Larocque to Jenkins in the lift who brought him down to safety.
Jenkins and his fiance, Robin Magoon, organized the rescue effort.
“The fire department wouldn’t do nothin’ so today I called (Town Manager) Chad Whitehead and I said, ‘Look, I’m going up there one way or the other and he said go ahead…”
Jenkins also credited Josh Fenoff Construction for agreeing to transport the lift to the scene and tree expert Maurice Bedor - who was suffering from a knee injury - for connecting him with Larocque and Figueroa.
St. Johnsbury Fire Chief Jon Bouffard said he and a fire marshall did visit the tree after being contacted by Shepardson.
“Ms. Shepherdson contacted us with a report of a cat in a tree,” said Bouffard in a statement released Wednesday night. “I responded over to her location to see what assistance we could lend. We provided some resource options. We are limited in this circumstance by risk and resources. We are very happy to know that Ms. Shepherdson has been reunited with her cat, whom she seemed very attached to.”