VIDEO: In East Lyme, neighborhood comes together to rescue cat
East Lyme — Debbie Green was working on her garden last weekend when she heard a cat meowing. She wandered up and down her street, worried the cat needed help, but couldn’t find it anywhere.
Then, she looked up.
High in the trees above her wooded street in East Lyme, Green spotted a large Savannah cat — a cross-breed between a domestic cat and a medium-sized African cat with black spots and big ears — straddling a tree branch. The cat, named Tyler, belonged to Green’s neighbors Everette, Amanda and Elias Whitlow.
Tyler had escaped from the Whitlows' house on Plants Dam Road a few days earlier. The family had been looking for their pet to no avail.
When Green first found the cat, though, she had no idea whom he belonged to and didn’t know how to coax him down. Her first thought was to call 911, but emergency services wouldn’t respond to help the animal. So, she turned to her neighbors for help and soon a crowd gathered beneath the tree, trying to find a way to rescue Tyler.
Neighbor Paula Taylor, who saw a post on the neighborhood app Nextdoor about the cat being stuck in a tree for days, is no stranger to rescuing animals and sprang into action. Taylor, who owns a farm on Plants Dam Road, is an avid animal rescue volunteer. In the past few years, she’s helped rescue and rehome about 30 animals.
“I enjoy helping animals; it’s my passion,” said Taylor, a retired teacher who has three rescue cats and two rescue dogs of her own.
She started making calls to anyone that might be able to reach the cat and eventually connected with Ian Preston, who owns Preston Family Tree Removal.
Preston runs the company with his wife, Kayla, in Ashford, more than an hour's drive away from East Lyme. But when he got a call from Taylor saying a cat needed help, he drove his truck to the neighborhood.
Preston went about 65 feet in the air in his bucket truck, but Tyler was still about 10 feet out of reach. So, Preston lassoed a rope to pull down the branch Tyler was clinging to and was able to pull him down into a cat carrier.
Taylor said it was a scary few moments when they weren’t sure Preston would be able to reach Tyler, but she and her neighbors were so excited when he finally had the cat in his grip.
“It was a really emotional experience,” she said, commending her neighborhood’s teamwork.
Rescuing animals isn’t in Preston’s day-to-day job description, but he’d gotten a similar call once before. About a year ago, he made a drive to Massachusetts in the middle of the night to rescue another cat but wasn’t able to get the animal.
“I was looking for another opportunity and I was really happy that (this time) was a successful rescue,” Preston said. “I’m glad we had a good ending rather than driving out there and getting everybody’s hopes up and not being able to rescue him.”
When he reached the ground safely, Preston handed Tyler over to his owners, who said they were so grateful for his help.