MONTICELLO — Horror author Stephen King has never written anything resembling a story such as what unfolded Aug. 7 in downtown Monticello.
He’s written stories about a rabid killer dog, a resurrected cat from pet cemetery and a 63-year-old (also resurrected) mouse housed in a prison — but nothing about a cuddly little “tuxedo” kitten rescued from a precarious situation.
Enter the Monticello Fire Department, along with the city streets and animal control departments, who, on Aug. 7, saved a kitten from a storm sewer drain at the corner of Main and Washington streets.
According to a Facebook post by WMRS/Sunny 107.7 FM, a good Samaritan who lives nearby heard the kitten’s cries the previous night and attempted to rescue the feline, but to no avail.
Shortly after noon the next day, city personnel arrived and successfully flushed out the kitty.
“We went over and located the catch basin for the storm sewer. We could hear a kitten meowing, but we couldn’t see it, figuring it must be up in a pipe,” Monticello Fire Chief Galen Logan said. “We tried to scare it out by using a flexible wire, but that didn’t work. We went to our Plan B, which we’ve done several times — we dumped some water in the catch basin, then got over on the downside of it and caught the kitten as she came out.”
The kitten was transported to Monticello Animal Hospital, where Dr. John Hageman checked her over and deemed her healthy, despite her ordeal, and office manager Tami Buschman gave her a bath.
Veterinarian Dr. Savannah Jewell named the kitten “Pennywise,” a reference to the antagonist in King’s classic 1986 novel, “It,” as well as its subsequent film adaptations.
In the novel and films, Pennywise is a shape-shifting creature, depicted mostly as a dancing clown, that lives in a storm sewer underneath a city.
Jewell said Pennywise is a six-week-old domestic short-haired kitten with dots under her nose resembling a mustache.
How the female kitten became wedged inside the drain is anyone’s guess.
“Kittens like to play and get into things,” Jewell said. “She wasn’t dehydrated or malnourished, considering she was a stray. She was in good health and will be OK.”
Logan said it sounds cliché — firefighters and police officers rescuing cats from trees — but it happens every once in a while. He recalled an eerily similar rescue two years ago on North Main Street in which a cat was stuck in a storm sewer drain. They also flushed it out by dumping water in a catch basin.
“We didn’t put a lot in there. We didn’t want it to drown,” he said. “It was just enough to move it and get it going.”
Logan said the department, over the years, has rescued a cat wedged in a vehicle engine, a dog stuck on a concrete pillar near the bridge, a large parrot in a tree (that eventually flew away) and deer trapped on the lake ice.
“We figure if we don’t (rescue the animals), somebody else will — and chances are they’ll get hurt or don’t have the equipment to do it properly and we’ll end up rescuing them as well,” Logan said. “We’d rather do it and, sometimes, it a good training exercise. It’s the same procedure as rescuing a human.”
Pennywise is currently staying with the WMRS/Page family in Monticello.