This is the story of the night my ten-year-old cat, Rudy, got his head stuck in the garbage disposal. I knew at the time that the experience would be funny if the cat survived, so let me tell you right up front that he's fine. Getting him out wasn't easy, though, and the process included numerous home remedies, a plumber, two cops, an emergency overnight veterinary clinic, a case of mistaken identity, five hours of panic, and fifteen minutes of fame.
First, some background. My husband, Rich, and I had just returned from a five-day spring-break vacation in the Cayman Islands, where I had been sick as a dog the whole time, trying to convince myself that if I had to feel lousy, it was better to do it in paradise. We had arrived home at
It is very disturbing to see the headless body of your cat in the sink. This is an animal that I have slept with nightly for ten years, who burrows under the covers and purrs against my side, and who now looked like a desperate, fur-covered turkey carcass, set to defrost in the sink while it's still alive and kicking. It was also disturbing to see Rich,
First we tried to ease Rudy out of the disposal by lubricating his head and neck. We tried Johnson's baby shampoo (kept on hand for my nieces' visits) and butter-flavored Crisco: both failed, and a now-greasy Rudy kept struggling. Rich then decided to take apart the garbage disposal, which was a good idea, but he couldn't do it. Turns out, the thing is constructed like a metal onion: you peel off one layer and another one appears, with Rudy's head still buried deep inside, stuck in a hard plastic collar. My job during this process was to sit on the kitchen counter petting Rudy, trying to calm him, with the room spinning (vertigo), Lowell howling (he's part Siamese), and Rich clattering around with tools.
When all our efforts failed, we sought professional help. I called our regular plumber, who actually called me back quickly, even at
The dispatcher had other ideas and offered to send over two policemen. This suggestion gave me pause. I'm from the sixties, and even if I am currently a fine upstanding citizen, I had never considered calling the cops and asking them to come to my house, on purpose. I resisted the suggestion, but the dispatcher was adamant: "They'll help you out," he said.
The cops arrived close to midnight and turned out to be quite nice. More importantly, they were also able to think rationally, which we were not. They were, of course, quite astonished by the situation: "I've never seen anything like this," Officer Mike kept saying. (The unusual circumstances helped us get quickly on a first-name basis with our cops.) Officer Tom, who expressed immediate sympathy for our plight
Officer Tom had another idea. "You know," he said, "I think the reason we can't get him out is the angle of his head and body. If we could just get the sink out and lay it on its side, Ill bet we could slip him out." That sounded like a good idea at this point. ANYTHING would have sounded like a good idea, and as it turned out, Officer Mike runs a plumbing business on weekends; he knew how to take out the sink! Again they went to work, the three pairs of legs sticking out from under the sink surrounded by an ever-increasing pile of tools and sink parts. They cut the electrical supply, capped off the plumbing lines, unfastened the metal clamps, unscrewed all the pipes, and about an hour later, voila! the sink was lifted gently out of the countertop, with one guy holding the garbage disposal (which contained Rudy's head) up close to the sink (which contained Rudy's body). We laid the sink on its side, but even at this more favorable removal angle, Rudy stayed stuck.
Officer Tom's radio beeped, calling him away on some kind of real police business. As he was leaving, though, he had another good idea: "You know," he said, "I don't think we can get him out while he's struggling so much. We need to get the cat sedated. If he were limp, we could slide him out." And off he went, regretfully, a cat lover still worried about Rudy. The remaining three of us decided that getting Rudy sedated was a good idea, but Rich and I were new to the area. We knew that the overnight emergency veterinary clinic was only a few minutes away, but we didn't know exactly how to get there. "I know where it is!" declared Officer Mike. "Follow me!" So Mike got into his patrol car, Rich got into the driver's seat of our car, and I got into the back, carrying the kitchen sink, what was left of the garbage disposal, and Rudy. It was now about
It was lucky that Mike got to the vet's ahead of us, because we hadn't thought to call and warn them about what was coming. (Clearly, by this time we weren't really thinking at all.) We brought in the kitchen sink containing Rudy and the garbage disposal containing his head, and the clinic staff was ready. They took his temperature (which was down
Rich and I got back home about 3:30. We hadn't unpacked from our trip, I was still intermittently dizzy, and I still hadn't prepared my
I slept late the next day and then badgered the vet about Rudy's condition until he said that Rudy could come home later that day. I was working on the suitcases when the phone rang. "Hi, this is Steve Huskey from the Norristown Times-Herald," a voice told me. "Listen, I was just going through the police blotter from last night. Mostly it's the usual stuff breaking and entering, petty theft but there's this one item. Um, do you have a cat?" So I told Steve the whole story, which interested him. A couple hours later he called back to say that his editor was interested, too; did I have a picture of Rudy? The next day Rudy was front-page news, under the ridiculous headline "Catch of the Day Lands Cat in Hot Water."
There were some noteworthy repercussions to the newspaper article.
I don't know what the moral of this story is, but I do know that this "adventure" cost me $1100 in emergency vet bills, follow-up vet care, new sink, new plumbing, new electrical wiring, and new garbage disposal, one with a cover. The vet can no longer say he's seen everything but the kitchen sink. I wanted to thank Officers Tom and Mike by giving them gift certificates to the local hardware store, but was told that they couldn't accept gifts, that I would put them in a bad position if I tried. So I wrote a letter to the Police Chief praising their good deeds and sent individual thank-you notes to Tom and Mike, complete with pictures of Rudy, so they could see what he looks like with his head on. And Rudy, whom we originally got for free (or so we thought), still sleeps with me under the covers on cold nights and unaccountably, he still sometimes prowls the sink, hoping for fish.