BOISE, Idaho — Local groomer Haley Dube has always had a heart for animals. She owns Bark, Bath and Beyond, LLC. She loves to take care of her clients' pets, and any other animal that may need her. That's just who she is.
"I've always been that way, when I was a kid I was always bringing home stray animals and my mom was always kicking my butt for it," Dube said. "Now, I've got way too many animals, and I run a grooming salon that is home-based so they are not in kennels all day. That's all I do, animals are better than people. I say it every day."
Recently, she saw a post on Facebook about a cat in trouble on South Kerr on the Boise Bench. The cat, named Flaik, was trapped underground in a storm drain pipe. The cat's owner, Wendy Olivier, was desperate to save him. She had called the fire department in the first few days. They came out a few times to help and they heard the cat down faintly, but they couldn't see him or get a good idea of his location. Cameras were even sent down into the hole, but there was no sign of the cat. Fire crews were hopeful he would make his way out the same way he went in.
But, by day six, Flaik was still in there. No one was sure exactly where, but they could hear him. There was a group of people trying to coax the cat out, and Dube volunteered to help.
"I said 'hey, if you need any help let me know. I'm small,'" Dube told KTVB.
It turns out, Haley was needed. She is petite and thought she could possibly fit in the tight quarters that the cat was suspected to be stuck in.
"So, I headed down there to where everyone was gathered," Dube said.
When she arrived on scene, she saw the storm drain, and said she knew she had to go in. Dube thought she could do it safely. Looking back, she said she didn't really think about it, she just went in. She wanted to save the cat.
"Okay, I'm just going to do this, I got down there and I looked at this pipe that was literally big enough for me to fit my shoulders through. I started crawling through, I was halfway, had my headlamp on and I heard this really loud meow," said Dube. "I was like, I'm coming bud, I'm coming!"
Dube said it was dark and cold, the smell was awful, and it was hard to breathe. But, she knew the cat was close. She says she had to keep going. Then, she spotted him!
"Right to my side, there was a pipe and there was a black and white cat was sitting right in there! He was looking at me and I started crying and I said 'I gotcha bud!' I grabbed him and he latched onto my shoulder," said Dube. "This whole time this cat just held on. I remember looking at the pipe thinking you are a really big cat, how are we going to get back in there. We kind of just dove in, I had him by the scruff so I would pull him and then pull myself forward."
When she finally came out of the pipe with Flaik, it was emotional, not only for her, but for everyone watching. It was all caught on video.
"I had to lay down flat and army crawl my whole way through the entire way, and when I watched the video later, I saw the cat looking up at everybody."
Dube said you could almost see the relief on his face.
"I'll never forget the meow, he meowed when he heard me, and I'll never forget that face. I couldn't imagine being down there for six days with no food or water," said Dube.
The cat's owner was overwhelmed with gratitude.
"I do remember her crying and saying 'thank you so much.'"
Dube says it was a team effort, one that she was so happy to be a part of. Looking back, she says it was worth the risk to get to the cat.
"That was probably one of the most successful things I've ever done. It was so exhilarating!"
A couple of days after the rescue, Haley went to visit Flaik at home with his owner, Wendy.
"He looked at me and he didn't recognize me at first, I was kind of giving him loves and then all of a sudden he started doing face nuzzles. He put his paw out at me like keep petting me."
Dube wanted to check in on him to make sure he was healing well.
"I just remember seeing his belly, the burns, it looked like a pink pig, he was just burned by his own urine. Wendy sent me some updated pictures of him and he's looking really good now."
Facebook posts about the cat rescue were shared dozens of times, many fellow animal lovers calling her a hero for what she did.
"It's all those people who I love that shared the post, friends, and clients, it's amazing."
Dube says she would do it all over again. She is so happy that the cat is safe with his loving owner. Right where he should be.
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