Roger Offenbacker helped Jason Wolfe carry the heavy three-section
extension ladder across the pasture in Swoope.
The pair volunteered their time to try and rescue Rufus — a cat who has spent seven days stuck in a tree.
“This is the third time he’s gotten stuck in a tree,” said owner Anne Avery. “The first two times, he was low enough for us to rescue.”
“He’s a neutered male that showed up about six weeks ago,” she continued.
Although they took him in, the feline has had to live outside due to a dog of theirs that lives inside.
It was meowing that alerted them to the plight of their newest pet.
“We put food at the base of the tree, hoping he would come down,” she said. “After several days, we called the veterinarian who said to try the fire department.”
Although Augusta County Fire and Rescue does not typically rescue cats these days, they did recommend trying local volunteer fire companies to see if anyone was willing to help.
Offenbacker and Brandi Simmons of the Churchville Volunteer Fire and Recue volunteered.
They spent a Tuesday morning in December seeking the best ways to reach the cat, finally deciding longer ladders were needed.
Although work called Simmons away, Wolfe took her place in attempting the final rescue.
Armed with extension ladder and a rope, the pair spent the afternoon figuring the safest placement for the ladder and then securing it to the tree.
Although the volunteer called to Rufus and urged him to come to him, the cat simply meowed and refused to leave the perch.
The homeowners brought out several lengths of PVC pipe, one of which Offenbacker used to prod the animal in hopes of encouraging the animal downward.
No such luck.
Offenbacker had another idea.
Using one of the pipes and a length of clothesline rope, the rescuer fashioned a homemade catch-pole.
Heading back up the ladder, Offenbacker managed to work the looped rope on the far end of the pole over the cat’s head and forelegs so it was around the body.
On the near end of the pole, the man pulled the rope tight, catching the animal in the pole’s grip.
Rufus dug claws into the branch, but still came quickly free.
Offenbacker lowered the pole and cat slowly towards the ground. Halfway down, Rufus freed himself.
The cat dropped onto a small lower branch that bent with the cat, helping ease the final fall of 20 feet.
Rufus was off and running even as his legs hit the ground, quickly disappearing into the adjacent barn.
“I told them I wasn’t leaving til I got the cat down, one way or another,” said Offenbacker.
“It’s got me shaking, I’m so excited,” he continued. “I’m gonna kiss that cat.”