Untreed Cat: Neighbors Help in Rescue
Oreo has always been good at playing hide and seek.
The 2-year-old white cat with gray spots and green eyes is famous for her ability to disappear inside Melanie Stone's home in Southern Pines.
"Oreo's the one who gets into the weirdest places to hide," Stone said. "You'll open up a drawer, and she's in it, or if you open up a cabinet, she's there. You can look for her for hours and not find her - and then all of sudden she turns up."
During her most recent game of hide and seek, finding Oreo wasn't the problem. Getting to her was.
For nearly eight days, Oreo "hid" in a hardwood tree in the neighbor's yard.
And every day for a week, Danielle Howland, Stone's daughter and owner of the cat, sat underneath that tree, keeping her companion company.
The 10-year-old talked about anything she could think of to coax the animal out of the tree.
"I would tell her about what happened in my day," Howland said. "I'd talk about girl stuff, but she'd just sit up there just watching me."
On the eighth day, the cat - whose full name is Oreo McFlurry, after Danielle's favorite treat from McDonald's - abandoned her perch, with a little help from the neighbors.
Neighbor Mike Bradley climbed the tree, trimming lower branches as he went higher. When he reached the branch that Oreo was on, he began carefully cutting the limb, causing it to sag. The hope was Oreo would leap out of the tree and onto a large painter's tarp below that other neighbors were holding.
Oreo didn't jump, but she did come out of the tree.
"She fell about 25 to 30 feet and missed the tarp," Bradley said.
Landing in the pine straw, Oreo sat quietly and unmoving.
Bradley's wife, Pauline, feared the worst.
"Then she started to meow loudly " she said. "Then all of a sudden she got up and ran home."
The cat captured the public's interest thanks to a letter The Pilot by Danielle asking for ideas on how to get the cat out of the tree. At the time the letter was published, Oreo had been in the tree for nearly a week.
Stone said Oreo, normally an indoor cat, escaped the house late in the afternoon on April 15 and was chased into the woods by a neighborhood tomcat she and her daughter call Moustache. The area behind Stone's home in Southern Pines is heavily wooded, and she didn't see where Oreo ran.
"I knew she was out there because I could hear her crying," Stone said
Oreo, it turned out, treed herself in a large hardwood in the Bradleys' yard.
Mike Bradley, a retired phone company employee who was used to climbing trees and telephone poles, attempted to rescue the cat the next day. He climbed the tree, carrying a fishing net, hoping to snare Oreo and bring her to safety.
"She just scooted higher," he said. "I knew it wasn't going to work, so I had to abandon the attempt."
For the next few days, Oreo remained in the tree, braving wind, rain and several more rescue attempts.
"It seemed like every day she went higher," Pauline Bradley said.
Mike Bradley estimated that that Oreo climbed as high as 30 or more feet off the ground.
The longer Oreo remained in the tree the more worried Stone became.
"It was breaking my heart," she said. "I didn't know what to say or do."
Then Danielle's grandmother offered a suggestion - contact the newspaper.
Danielle wrote a letter that was published online and in the print edition of The Pilot. It generated plenty of ideas on how to get Oreo out of the tree. Online comments suggested everything from exercising patience, to calling the fire department, to placing food at the bottom of the tree.
"I thought for sure a can of sardines would work," Stone said.
Nothing worked, and Oreo's condition appeared to be worsening.
"She was in really bad shape," Pauline Bradley said.
So on Saturday, with Danielle away from home, the neighbors attempted another rescue.
When Danielle returned to find Oreo safe and sound, she was ecstatic.
"I had a bunch of Easter stuff in my hands, and I dropped it and ran in the house," Danielle said. "I cried a little bit, and then I held her and she started to purr really loud."
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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