INNISFAIL – A young beloved cat is purring contently today after kind-hearted Innisfail firefighters successfully completed a determined rescue operation to save the imprisoned feline from a forgotten pioneer 12-foot deep well.
It is believed Lobo the pussycat had been trapped in the well for up to two weeks until his dramatic rescue on May 5.
“I really appreciate the fire department. They and the town’s peace officers were very professional,” said the kitty’s human Cliff Sanders, who gave the one-year-old male feline a home on 50th Street – a former pioneer local police station - about seven months ago. He noted his kitty lost at least six pounds from his ordeal but Lobo was nevertheless grateful for the rescue. “We must credit our services. They are a dedicated bunch of men and women.”
Sanders said Lobo went missing just over two weeks ago. The pussycat’s sudden disappearance both saddened and puzzled him as Lobo never left the backyard of his Innisfail home. He looked everywhere for his beloved cat but could not find him.
However, across the alley from his backyard his neighbour Tom Bryson heard a soft meowing sound during the evening of May 4. At first, he thought it might be his own cat. Bryson checked around his home on 49th Street but he could not find the source of the strange mournful sound.
The following morning, however, he heard the sound again. This time he checked the back mud room and then his home’s dirt basement. Bryson still heard the meows but could not pinpoint where they were coming from. He then went outside and checked under the deck. With a flashlight he crawled further until he came to a cement fixture, which he determined was the top of an old well. Bryson could see an opening at the top with enough space that would allow a cat to get through.
He then called for help. The Innisfail Fire Department, along with local peace officers and a technical rescue team from Red Deer County, arrived fully ready to free kitty from his dark concrete imprisonment.
Upon arrival, Gary Leith, the fire chief of the Innisfail Fire Department, quickly determined that Lobo had fallen in the well. He said a ladder was then placed down the well, which had a depth of 12 feet.
“Because it is classified as a confined space, we had to take the necessary precautions,” said Leith. A firefighter, equipped with a harness and a life line, then went down to rescue a very appreciative Lobo.
“The cat was really cooperative as soon as (the firefighter) called it,” said Leith, adding his firefighter was concerned the kitty might be a bit anxious. “The cat came to him and was thankful the cat was glad to be helped. Potentially the cat was in there for 14 days, so he was pretty fatigued and hungry at that point.”
Leith said the entire rescue took about 40 minutes. He added the feline rescue was a new operation for him. Leith said he previously rescued a horse that had fallen in a well but not a cat. He also noted that earlier this year his firefighters successfully rescued a dog that fell through the ice on the Red Deer River.
“It was a different kind of call for sure but certainly not outside our capabilities. We are trained to rescue people in similar ways so the cat was no different,” he said, noting the successful rescue was a much-needed positive feel-good boost for his firefighters during the current stressful days of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Unfortunately, 2020 has not been a great year so far but in those areas (rescues) we have been lucky to have successes.
“It was a good rescue for the guys because they are all in the COVID piece with everybody else,” he added. “It was a good boost of morale for the firefighters as well. We feel like we helped Cliff out and he seemed extremely happy to get his cat back.”
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