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April 10th began as a fairly typical day for Evon Handras, a Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals staffer who spends a lot of her spare time helping feral cats (unsocialized, homeless cats) and stray cats in the New York City area. In fact, she had just dropped off a feral cat at the ASPCA Stationary Spay/Neuter Clinic in Queens, and was now focusing on navigating the rush hour traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) so she could get to her job in Manhattan.
Suddenly Evon caught a glimpse of something she didn’t expect to see. There was a cat on top of a five-foot-high concrete ledge running along the expressway on her right. “At first I thought someone must have hit her and then placed her there,” Evon recalled, “but then I realized she was hunkered down with her eyes closed. She was probably alive!”
Evon instantly decided she had to turn around and go back to see if she could help the cat. As she worked her way through the bumper-to-bumper traffic she tried to figure out what she would do if the cat were indeed alive. “How would I get her?” Evon remembered wondering. “I had no carrier, no net — nothing! This was a situation I had never come across before.” Evon’s paramount concern was to make sure she did not do anything that would cause the already extremely distressed cat to take off and wind up on the expressway.
Once she was heading back toward the cat, Evon drove slowly with her hazard lights on, while trucks and cars barreled past her. There was no shoulder or safe area to pull over at the cat’s location, so Evon had no choice but to block the right lane. Then she rolled down the window on the passenger side and, amidst all the sounds of a rush hour commute, she began to talk softly to the cat. “The cat opened her eyes and turned her head to look at me,” Evon said. “I now know what complete terror looks like in a cat’s eyes and I hope to never see it again.”Evon quickly called two close friends and rescue colleagues who immediately agreed to come and help: Debi Romano, President and Co-founder of SaveKitty Foundation, based in Queens; and Sandra Conway, who does independent rescue work. Then she called 911 and explained the dangerous situation that both she and the cat were in. She asked if they could send police to help divert traffic in order to avoid any potential accidents.
About 30 minutes later a tow truck sent by 911 arrived. As the large, loudly beeping vehicle backed up toward Evon and the cat, Evon was afraid this latest development might cause the cat to bolt. “But she remained perfectly still, with her eyes closed,” Evon recalled. Once the tow truck driver understood the situation he offered to help by staying. The very sight of the tow truck served to alert drivers that something was happening in the right lane.
Shortly afterward, Debi, who has more than 30 years experience rescuing cats, drove up and assessed the situation. She determined that this was a severely frightened stray who was not about to move, let alone run. So she calmly and slowly walked right up to the cat, got a firm grip on her, and lowered her into Evon’s car. The cat crawled under the passenger seat, where she undoubtedly gave kitty cat prayers of thanks for the people who had risked their own safety for hers.
Sandra arrived next on the scene and followed Evon home to help her get the cat from the car to Evon’s house. They coaxed the kitty out from under the seat and into a carrier by using that time-tested method known to all cat parents who want their felines to put in an appearance: they popped the top of a can of cat food.
For the first time, Evon got a good look at the reason she was going to be very late for work. She saw a beautiful cat with bright eyes who was hungry and appeared uninjured. “I named her Hyacinth,” said Evon, “after the flowers in full bloom in the garden, since they were the next beautiful image that caught my eye.”After this much-needed but short rest stop, they headed to the One Love Animal Hospital so that Hyacinth could have a complete check-up. Despite her harrowing ordeal, thankfully, all Hyacinth had was a broken tooth, a few broken claws, and some minor lacerations on her face and hind legs. She did not, unfortunately, have a microchip, so not only could Hyacinth not reveal how she wound up on the BQE, she could not be reunited with her pet parents if she indeed had had any who were looking for her.
But Hyacinth is still one very lucky girl. She has healed nicely, has been renamed Rosie, and is now waiting for her forever home — and a better stretch of road.