An old orange cat who now spends his days sleeping and relaxing in a Findlay home seems to have forgotten the dramatic rescue that made him a local celebrity.
Piper, estimated at 12 years old, was pulled from a drain pipe at Donnell Middle School in January after at least three days trapped inside. He was emaciated and hypothermic, soaking wet, and caked in mud. He had a broken leg, a little frostbite on his ears and nose, and was close to needing a blood transfusion because of low blood counts.
“He was in really bad shape,” Kyle Ford, one of Piper’s many rescuers, said.
Mr. Ford and his wife, Kris Hepperly, and their two children, Ryan and Shae Golden, adopted Piper in late January. Mr. Ford is a grounds and maintenance employee for the schools, one of five district employees who with the Hancock County Humane Society helped rescue Piper.
Dana Beger, a humane law enforcement officer and dog warden with the humane society, said Piper had likely been chased into the pipe by another animal. The cat would have gotten in though a street drain, continued through a catch basin, and crawled into the pipe leading to the school. When the pipe narrowed and turned upward near the foundation of the school, Piper was stuck.
“He couldn’t turn around,” Mr. Berger said. “And he didn’t want to back up, either.”
Mr. Ford estimated Piper had crawled about 75 feet in total. A neighboring property owner heard his cries echoing down the pipe, and the next afternoon, crews arrived to begin the rescue effort.
Workers cut the downspout near the school, but the cat was too big to pull out that way. So they began the laborious process of digging up the pipe, working until it was too dark to continue.
The effort resumed the next day.
“We were supposed to get rain that evening, and we were worried he could drown,” Ms. Hepperly said.
Workers began cutting into the pipe, which scared the cat into backing himself down the pipe to about 10 or 15 feet from the catch basin. People began calling to him from the catch basin, even using cell phone applications that meowed.
“We talked to him, and he talked back to us,” Mr. Ford said. “Finally, with a lot of coaxing and an open can of tuna, he came out.”
Piper was immediately taken to a veterinary hospital, where he spent 10 days recovering from his ordeal. He had already been neutered and declawed.
“He was someone’s cat at some point,” Ms. Hepperly said. “But he’d been on his own for a long time, probably for years.”
Paula Krugh, director of the humane society, said Piper’s story spread quickly, bringing in much needed funds to cover his $600 in medical bills.
“Many people from all over the United States sent some form of a donation,” she said.
A few people filled out applications to adopt Piper, though the humane society already had one of their foster families in mind. Mr. Ford and Ms. Hepperly have fostered more than 30 animals for the organization since December, 2012.
“I thought it was cool the humane society thought of us as a family for him,” said Shae, who also volunteers at the shelter as a pet pal. “I was excited. Everybody was talking about him.”
The laid-back cat has claimed Ryan’s room as his own and has bonded especially close with him.
“He likes to be right up by my face when I’m sleeping, either that or on my feet,” Ryan said. “He likes to be right up against me.”
Piper has a mass on his face which the family suspects is cancerous. But given his age and that the cancer wouldn’t be treatable, Ms. Hepperly said the family decided against putting Piper through a battery of tests to confirm it.
“He’s doing well now. His [blood] tests came back good,” she said. “If we have him six months or six years, he can stay, eat all he wants, and be happy.”
Contact Alexandra Mester at: email@example.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.