Many go to bat for black cat on Halloween

PAT FRIDGEN
Morgan Knoll emerges from the depths of Greencastle with a lost kitten. The animal will be kept at Greener Pastures until it is 10 to 12 weeks old, then allowed to be adopted by a loving owner.

A newborn kitten drew quite a bit of attention Oct. 31, when children heading to school first heard its frantic mews from a storm grate at the intersection of Leitersburg and Allison streets.

Word got out, and during the course of the day, many folks were involved in a rescue effort. Residents called the borough, fire police, police department, animal shelters, state patrol and even PennDOT.

Keith Carbaugh, Waynesboro, area coordinator for Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team, heard about the incident on a monitor. Since he was in Greencastle anyway, he stopped by to help.

“It’s not what we normally do,” he said. “We’re designed for large disaster rescues, but I was glad to lend a hand.”

Greencastle police notified PennDOT, which sent crew members into two drains.

“They went above and beyond,” said police chief John Phillippy. “We made every effort to try to recover it.”

With no success after an hour, the public servants went back to their day jobs.

In the late afternoon, Stacy Hartman of Hagerstown was part of the action. While visiting a friend on Allison, she noticed the commotion — lots of people standing around, blue lights flashing.

She also made many calls. A PennDOT employee knew Morgan Knoll and eventually phoned her. Morgan, 16, is a junior at Greencastle-Antrim High School. She had completed her 30 hours of community service at Greener Pastures No Kill Animal Rescue last spring, but stayed on as a weekly volunteer. She just happened to be at the center on Monday.

Founder Samantha Frey said, “We were standing in my kitchen and she took the call. She asked if I wanted to go on a rescue.”

They armed themselves with headlamps, flashlights, poles and nets, and were in town in 15 minutes.

Carbaugh had just left, a trap with food set to attract the feline. When he saw the two arrive, he came back. He retrieved a heavy-duty crow bar from his truck and everyone again lifted the grate, which weighed hundreds of pounds. With several drains emanating from the central location, it was hard to determine the animal’s position by its echoing cries.

Hartman was amazed by what she then saw. The teen jumped right down and started crawling through the dark stormwater channels.

Frey was taken aback too. “I was ready to go in, but before I knew it, Morgan shimmied down the hole.”

Morgan explained that she would have been disappointed to leave without trying to help. She listened and discerned where the kitty was, at the farthest point under the streets. She crawled through six inches of water, but her light frightened the animal and it ran. She adjusted the angle.

“Then he stayed put so I could grab him. It was pretty tight backing out.”

Morgan returned jubilant to the waiting crowd.

Hartman placed the male at four weeks old and if not rescued that day, “it would have died from hypothermia, no doubt about that.”

The lucky cat, already down one of its nine lives, is at home, at least temporarily, at Greener Pastures on Social Island Road. It is healthy, eating well, living in a basket.

And so Halloween 2011 was a day with a happy ending for a black cat, thanks to many who cared and one heroine.

The kitten has taken on the name of “Inky”. Perhaps “Halloween” may be more apropos.