The Day – In East Lyme, neighborhood comes collectively to rescue cat

East Lyme – Debbie Green was working on her yard last weekend when she heard a cat meow. She paced up and down the street, worried the cat needed help, but couldn’t find it anywhere.

Then she looked up.

High in the trees above her wooded street in East Lyme, Green spotted a large Savannah cat – a cross between a domestic cat and a medium-sized African cat with black spots and large ears – on a branch. The cat, named Tyler, was one of Green’s neighbors Everette, Amanda, and Elias Whitlow.

Tyler had fled the Whitlow house on Plants Dam Road a few days earlier. The family had looked in vain for their pet.

When Green first found the cat, she had no idea who it belonged to and how to persuade him. Her first thought was to call 911, but the emergency services did not respond to help the animal. So she turned to her neighbors for help and soon a crowd gathered under the tree to find a way to save Tyler.

Neighbor Paula Taylor, who saw a post on the neighborhood app Nextdoor about the cat that has been stuck in a tree for days, is no stranger to saving animals and taking action. Taylor, who owns a farm on Plants Dam Road, is an avid animal rescue worker. In the last few years she has rescued and taken in around 30 animals.

“I like to help animals. It’s my passion, ”said Taylor, a retired teacher who has three rescue cats and two rescue dogs of her own.

She started calling someone who could reach out to the cat and eventually joined Ian Preston who owns Preston Family Tree Removal.

Preston runs the company with his wife Kayla in Ashford, more than an hour’s drive from East Lyme. But when he got a call from Taylor saying a cat needed help, he drove his truck into the neighborhood.

Preston walked about 65 feet in the air in his bucket truck, but Tyler was still about 10 feet out of range. So Preston hung a rope to pull down the branch that Tyler was holding onto and was able to pull him into a cat carrier.

Taylor said it was a scary moment when they weren’t sure Preston would reach Tyler, but she and her neighbors were so excited when he finally got the cat under control.

“It was a really emotional experience,” she said, praising the teamwork in her neighborhood.

Rescuing animals isn’t part of Preston’s daily job description, but he’d received a similar call before. About a year ago he drove to Massachusetts in the middle of the night to rescue another cat, but couldn’t get the animal.

“I looked for another opportunity and was really glad that it was a successful rescue (this time),” said Preston. “I’m glad we had a happy ending instead of going there and raising all hopes and not being able to save him.”

When he made it safely to the ground, Preston turned Tyler over to its owners, who said they were so grateful for his help.

t.hartz@theday.com