This, by no means, is the best picture I’ve ever taken. It won’t win any awards, the kids don’t look extra cute, it doesn’t even necessarily tell a clear story. It’s just a picture of some smiling people standing on the side of the road. The little girl is holding something, but what the heck is it? In any case, this picture is proudly displayed in our home. Not a single member of my family can walk by it without smiling, perhaps even touching it, pausing to reflect on what happened that day. You see this picture was taken just after one of the most traumatic moments of our kids’ lives.
In this picture, my Razzie is holding our beloved cat, Candy. We thought we’d just lost her forever. And those guys with my kids? They are two of the three heroes that saved her.
Here’s the story.
While driving across country on our move from Georgia to El Paso, we stopped for gas and lunch in Natchitoches (pronounced Nackaditch), Louisiana, on our way to Dallas, TX, to visit family and friends. The cars were full of gas, the kids were pottied and fed. Just as Ellie was closing the van door, Candy somehow did some master ninja moves (she’d been agitated on the drive), wriggled herself from her harness, jumped out of the car and darted down a storm drain!
The kids were in a panic (really, ZZ was screaming), Steve and I embarked on Operation Save Candy. I ran into the Burger King so they could call Animal Control and Steve started investigating where the drain tunnels led, and hopefully ended. The good news: the drains didn’t lead anywhere and it most likely Candy would come back out where she entered. The bad news, the “Animal Control Guy” told us that poisonous gasses could possibly be down there and there’s a chance she wouldn’t survive. Nonetheless, a nice guy named Larry stopped to help, and was able to pull the lid off the drain so it was easier to see what was going on down there. He said he had nowhere to go and he was going to see this thing out with us. The “Animal Control Guy” told us that “if” Candy was alive, she’d most likely come out…eventually. My sweet husband noticed that hotel you see in the background and had already decided that worst case, we’d get a room and take shifts. A plan was in place.
We’d also happened to stop by a spiritual store in New Orleans, so the girls were busy praying to Jesus, as well as using the Make-A-Wish and Come-To-Me potions we’d purchased in there. They were desperate, folks. ZZ was still crying and Gus was advising everyone to stay calm and be patient. Solid, that kid, he’s solid. Fast forward forty-five minutes later, all of us were still sitting outside the of the drain and Mr. Animal Control remembered he’d rescued some kittens that happened to be in his truck. He also had a cat grabber that he reassured our children multiple times wouldn’t hurt candy if she happened to make an appearance. The fast food restaurant workers came out periodically to get updates.
A little back story here. Candy had only been a part of our life for six months, since Christmas Day, to be exact. Nope, she wasn’t a present from us. There was no plan for a Christmas surprise on our part. Unbeknownst to us Razzie had asked for a “real cat” for Christmas, but knew that since that was highly unlikely realistic stuffed animal cats would be great, too. We may have helped Santa out a bit with those stuffed cats, but it turns out that Santa had his own surprise. Just after midnight on Christmas morning, I went to take out the trash and there was an adorable little kitty at our front door. We took her picture, told the kids about how she came to wish them a Merry Christmas, only to have her return Christmas morning as we were opening presents. And that’s how our Candy joined our family, a real Christmas Miracle, we like to believe.
Anyway, back to Candy and the drain. There we were, almost an hour later staring at the drain. Mr. Animal Control brought over the kitten and asked one of the kids to hold her near the opening. Larry the Good Samaritan was still there, too. And the cat grabber was in place. And guess what, in the shadows, that sweet gray face we know in love, faintly appeared at the edge of the tunnel. We knew we had ONE chance. We knew that if Mr. Animal Control didn’t get her on that first try, there would be no telling when she’d come out again. And…success!!! He grabbed her with his contraption and Ellie snatched her up and secured her in the carrier right away. More tears. Happy ones this time, and lots of them.
Sewer man showed up after the rescue and Mr. Animal Control left to go rescue more animals, so he’s not even in the picture and Sewer guy is, but I kind of think that makes the photo even better. Doesn’t sewer guy look happy? We did get Animal Contol Guy’s name and Larry the Good Samaritan’s address and this week, seven months later, I’m finally sending the thank you notes from our littles and they are EACH getting a copy of this photo.
It’s been a long time and they may have not even thought about us or this rescue since. But we think about it all of the time. We are forever grateful. These guys, even the Sewer Guy, will always be heroes to us. Without the kindness of strangers, we wouldn’t have our Candy with us today. So friends, go do something nice today, pay it forward, spread the love, you have no idea the lasting effects that your kindness will have.