For ‘pole’ cat, co-op linemen to the rescue

lineman-shawn-juaire-with-cat-180x240Cold, alone and stranded 40 feet above snow-covered ground, things looked pretty bleak for a black cat precariously perched atop a Vermont Electric Cooperative power pole.

One wrong move could have dashed the feline onto energized lines or sent it careening toward the landscape four stories below.

When system operator Melanie Butler got a call for help at the co-op’s operations center in Johnson, no nearby line crews were available. So she called the co-op’s Grand Isle office and found a lineman in the shop waiting for his partner to return from off-site training.

Shawn Juaire was willing to help, but knew he’d need a second qualified lineman to operate the bucket. Butler arranged for the co-op’s Gerald Gates to join him from the closer Richfield office.

By the time Juaire completed the 39-mile drive, Gates was already on site.

The cat was crouched on the center of the pole when they arrived. A move in any direction would almost certainly have been fatal.

Juaire put on his protective gear and attached his safety line to the bucket. Once Gates raised it into position, Juaire secured the energized line with rubber insulation, and carefully reached for the animal clinging to the pole top.

With the cold cat safely wrapped in a spare shirt and tucked into a tool bag, Gates lowered his temporary partner and the cat safely to the ground.

Nearby residents did not recognize the animal, according to co-op officials. It didn’t have a collar which gave them very little chance of finding the owner, so they released it at a nearby barn to recuperate and eventually find its way home.

Shawn may even have earned himself a new job title—cat whisperer.

“This was an unusual assignment to say the least,” said Dave Hallquist, Vermont Electric Cooperative CEO. “But we’re glad Shawn and Gerald were able to respond and bring the cat down safely.”

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