LEESBURG — When Ron and Dot Gilbert heard a “pitiful cry” coming from the side of their Leesburg home, they didn’t mind ripping apart their hedges and flower garden to find the source: a tiny female kitten they rescued, shivering from hunger and fear. However, when the sound of furious meowing continued emanating from underground, the elderly couple knew they needed professional assistance.
The pair called Lake County Fire Rescue, and dispatch sent Firefighter/Paramedic Valerie Ligi and Lt. Jeffrey Coulthart, assigned to Station 71 in the Bassville Park area, to investigate.
What they found was another kitten, deep inside a fence post and completely out of reach.
“We explained the situation and the two immediately got to work, which was no small feat, not knowing where in the fence the kitten was and how to get him out without causing harm to him,” said Ron Gilbert.
With permission from the homeowners, the pair dismantled the fence, finding out that the kitten was more than two feet underground and lodged inside the post, which was anchored in cement. Firefighter Ligi, lying on her side, was able to reach into an opening and finally grasp the screaming and squirming kitten.
“I can’t say enough about how impressed we were by Lt. Coulthart and Firefighter Ligi,” wrote the Gilberts in a letter to Lake County Public Safety. “They were both professional, courteous, compassionate and determined to effect a rescue. Had it not been for them, the kitten would surely have been doomed to an agonizing demise.”
The Gilberts took home one cat, and Firefighter Ligi took the other.
“I thought it was a girl, but after I took him to the vet for a check-up, the vet confirmed that it was actually a little boy that was just about 4-weeks-old and weighed 10 ounces,” said Ligi. “I named him Pickles.”
Ligi reports that Pickles, after having been bottle fed for two weeks, is now completely weaned and is eating and drinking on his own.
“He is loving his new home and his new big brother Lambert,” said Ligi. “This particular 911 call turned out to be a very happy ending for all of us.”
For more information about Lake County Fire Rescue’s operations, visit www.lakecountyfl.gov/firerescue, follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LakeCountyFireRescue, or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lakefirePIO.