Friday, August 6, 2010

No, really; what WAS I thinking?

Tanya and Tomba are now upstairs, thanks to an hour of titanic effort by the animal control officer and my heating contractor.

They hadn't come out of hiding, that I could tell, all night. Their food was barely touched. Checking behind the furnace, I could just see Tanya, who retreated when I slithered into position to look closer.

Wait, what? Slithered into position? Titanic effort by...? Oh, yeh, if you've never seen how my furnace is set up, what I'm about to tell you wouldn't make much sense. So here's the deal: It's clear (and confirmed by my heating contractor) that the builder of my condo installed the furnaces in the complex, then poured the floors and built the walls to enclose them afterwards. Result? Insanely tight clearances all around.

Here's what I mean: beyond the water heater is the furnace/central air, and a sheet metal plenum on the floor next to it leading back to a vertical plenum. At the rear of that floor plenum is a small space between the back of the furnace and the vertical plenum. Zig a zag into that little space and you find a narrow space between the vertical plenum and the basement wall. And that's where T&T had gone to hide.

Or so I thought.

I slithered in, as I say, on my belly atop the floor plenum, flashlight in one hand, and spotted Tanya, who retreated as far as she could into that zigzag space, but I was able to glom onto her and haul her out (snagging my shirt on various exposed nailheads in the studs) and plunk her into a waiting carrier, where she huddled, meeping softly. I went back in for Tomba.

He wasn't there. True, the back of the zigzag space was beyond the reach of my flailing hand, but it wasn't beyond the reach of the car-trunk-sized snow shovel I carefully probed the space with. No large blubbery cat retreated from the probe, not did I feel its edge nudge a large blubbery mass.

I searched the whole basement. No Tomba. I searched again. I probed again. No Tomba. Ack. Finally I called Animal Control and lucked out -- Matt was in, and promised to come over on his way home, in about half an hour. And so he did.

And he couldn't find Tomba either. We searched the whole condo. No Tomba. Matt even contorted and squeezed his six-foot-plus self into the zigzag space for a better look, but nope, not there. He was about to go get a Havahart trap from his van when I mentioned something I'd seen while I'd been slithered in: inside the tiny zigzag space, butted up to the floor plenum, was a rough hole in the concrete floor leading to a space under the plenum. A small hole, seemingly no larger than a large cat's head. "He couldn't possibly have fit in there, could he?" Heh. With the help of a mirror on a stick we found that, yes, indeed, he could fit in there. And had.

But Matt couldn't extract him. The hole was too small for a cat-holding hand.

Now what?

Now we take apart the floor plenum. Which means cutting the plastic pipe clamped to it. Yikes.

While Matt sawed away, I ran upstairs and called my heating contractor, Dave Wile. For a wonder, I got him. For an even greater wonder, at after 4:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, having heard why he was needed, he cheerfully agreed to come right over. And did so.

I stood back and let the pros have at it. In such cramped spaces it wasn't easy, and there were an amazing number of bolts that had to be undone. At one point, while Matt lifted the near end of the plenum a half-inch off the floor (as far as it then would go) I crouched on the concrete, peeked under the plenum's edge, and saw poor terrified Tomba staring back at me from what the poor fool had thought was a safe haven.

They never were able to get the thing entirely disassembled, but at last Matt thought he could get it high enough to reach under and extract the cat. He squeezed and contorted himself into the space till he was straddling the floor plenum, Dave lifted it as far as it would go, and......................

Voila! Extracted cat!

Matt carefully backed out of the space and handed Tomba off to me. I bundled the horrified blubbery mass into a carrier and took him upstairs to the living room, releasing him in the corner where Tanya was already hiding under a small table. He dithered a moment or two when I opened the top of the carrier, then flowed out and into safety.

Meanwhile, Matt and Dave were repairing the havoc wreaked in pursuit of the wretched fellow. I thanked them profusely, with words and in Matt's case with a 12-pack of Ipswich Ale; in Dave's case with a check for his ridiculously reasonable service call fee. In a trice the place was put back together, the rescuers were gone, and I was left with two gobsmacked adoptees hiding in a corner, seven resident felines recovering from the horror of strangers in the house, and the three litterboxes that used to be in the basement now resting on a tarp in the middle of my living room, to stay there until (a) I could get some spray foam to seal up the gap in the concrete floor, and (b) the adoptees adapted to life beyond the basement. Until then the basement is off-limits to the felines.

No comments: