Junior the kitten had been stuck in the tree for about three days.
And not just any tree.
A 70-foot tall Cypress in the backyard of the Lozano family in Escalon.
The family’s two young daughters, ages 10 and eight, were beside themselves with fear for the fate of their kitten.
Husband and wife Alejandro and Ayde Lozano tried everything they could think of to accomplish a rescue – from calling the local fire department – which doesn’t have a ladder truck that tall – to inquiring about renting a scissors lift themselves to do it. Everywhere they turned, it seemed to be a dead end … or a very expensive proposition.
But they finally made the decision to head out to rent a scissors lift, at a cost of about $800, to get four-month-old Junior out of the tree. But as fate, and luck, would have it, a last gasp call to the Escalon Police Department regarding the situation eventually got them in touch with Animal Control Services Officer Crystal Pascale, who actually had become acquainted with the family previously.
It was Pascale who suggested contacting a tree service but, again, they all seemed to have steep prices for the service. Except for the final one they tried: Mackman’s Tree Care in Modesto, with owner James Mackman confirming that they offer cat rescues as a free service.
“They got to our house about 1:30 p.m. and they were just super professional,” Ayde explained of the Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 29 rescue.
Utilizing a series of ropes and pulleys, climber Dauki Willburn was eventually able to make his way up to where four-month old Junior had been huddled for three days and two nights. While trying to keep the kitten calm, Willburn had to grab him by the scruff of the neck, as mother cats do, to keep him from scrambling and potentially climbing higher or falling.
“He’s the real hero,” Mackman said of Willburn. “He’s the best tree climber around.”
Then it was a joyful reunion with the family once climber and kitten were safely on the ground.
“They were very kind, very energetic; once the kitty was down I wanted to offer them at least $100 each but they said no,” said Ayde.
As far as the family is concerned, the rescue was priceless, as Junior had scrambled up the tree shortly after Christmas and made it back down in time for the New Year.
Ayde said when Mackman and Willburn would not take any donations for the service, the family did go on the tree care company’s website and make a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in their honor.
“They were really awesome people and that was our holiday, our Christmas present” Ayde said of getting Junior back safe and sound. “The girls were super excited.”
For his part, Mackman said they enjoy the ‘rescue’ portion of the operation and have gone to areas including Oakdale, Stockton, Escalon and beyond. They also are appreciative of the people that have supported them as they work to make a name for themselves in the tree care business as well.
“We’re starting up a business but still want to give back to the community,” Mackman said of the reasoning behind offering the cat rescue services at no cost. “It’s for everyone who gave us a chance, trusted our word that we would do what we said we would do for their trees.”
Seeing the happy family reunion when Junior was safe was payoff enough, he added.
“The family tried so hard to offer us money,” Mackman said. “But it’s not a good deed if you take the money.”