It was with some sadness that we discovered recently that the Northeast Town’s fire department is not allowed to fulfill that time-honoured firefighting tradition of rescuing our too adventurist feline friends from a precarious treetop perch. It would seem that other fire departments are similarly constrained by concerns linked to insurance and liability concerns.
How ever did things come to such a sad and lamentable pass? What is a stranded kitty to do?
Aside from the loss of a well-worn Sunday morning funnies page trope, the issue might well be considered a tempest in a litterbox were it not for being such a scratching post metaphor for all that is annoying about our modern political bureaucracies.
Anytime someone comes up with an interesting or innovative way to purr a well-kneaded social service out of the belly of the bureaucracy, the barking dogs of liability and insurance concerns pop up out of nowhere to chase it up a tree.
Thankfully, some fire service departments seem to have managed to evade the collar and chain that attempts to hold them back from lending a helping hand to our furry friends. Recent media reports applaud the efforts of a group of about 10 firefighters from the Long Lake and Van Horne fire departments who pooled their efforts (and the municipality’s zodiac) to rescue a wandering dog named Dos, who had managed to get itself stranded on an island in the Wanapitei River after becoming excited and racing away from its owner while on a walk by Minnow Lake’s Moonlight Beach (yes for those familiar with the region, that’s quite a hike).
It apparently took the fire service some two-and-a-half hours to rescue the pooch, whose new nickname is apparently now The Littlest Hobo (after a popular Canadian television show about a wandering German Shepherd who solved people’s problems, for those of a generation the show’s theme song is a ready and persistent earworm). That time would no doubt be categorized as a dangerous derogation of duty by your typical 21st Century government bureaucrat and an open opportunity for a lawsuit by a legion of litigation lawyers (disclaimer: not that we are suggesting that there is anything inherently wrong with that). But really, in the end, that couple of hours and a half was in all likelihood time very well-spent as a training exercise for the forces involved.
When it comes to these days of social media memes and viral Internet posts, particularly those with images involving anything remotely resembling a cat in a humorous or precarious position, rescuing one would undoubtedly be something of a social media gold mine. Cats, after all, are a definitely a thing on social media—often out trending a Twitter-happy US President Donald Trump and a shirtless Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau combined. Seriously, you can’t even buy public relations like that (unless of course you have both the financial resources of the Koch Brothers and an account with Cambridge Analytica—then all bets are off).
We would like to humbly suggest that Island firefighters (or perhaps more appropriately the municipalities that provide their marching orders) take a page out of their Sudbury colleagues’ workbooks to revisit policies on feline and canine rescue requests and allow the practice under the guise of conducting impromptu training drills.
And it doesn’t just need to be limited to cats or wandering dogs either, any short perusal of a Facebook or Instagram feed will come up with numerous instances of deer, moose or whale rescues with happy endings. (Although recent reports of the moratorium reaction on the latter due to the unfortunate death of a would-be whale rescuer might prove to be be a bad example in this case.)
Not only would firefighters get an opportunity to hone their high flying (or perhaps, as in the case of Sudbury and the saga of The Littlest Hobo, on cold water rescue) skills, but if someone should happen to video the proceedings the Island’s Internet profile could get a well received social media boost to boot.
It could turn out to be the purr-fect solution for everyone involved.