By: Tom Lambert

As Tony Reichle exited his work vehicle, he craned his neck searching for the reason for his unexpected visit.

He finally locked onto the furry feline, suspended helplessly 40 feet high and apparently stuck.

The owner of the Wolf Lake home – a suburb east of Muskegon – and property where the tree was located approached Reichle. The homeowner told him her dog chased the orange and black cat up the tree. She tried for more than 24 hours to coax the cat down, to no avail. She was worried it wouldn’t survive much longer with lack of food and water.

Reichle, an electric service worker, got his bucket truck ready and carefully approached the cat, who appeared to have one of its legs wedged in the “Y” section of the branch.

“I wore an extra coat just in case it went a little wild when I approached it,” said Reichle, in his fourth year with the company. “I’m all about helping a furry friend in need – I have one myself.”

The cat appeared to be domesticated because it didn’t hiss or clench up, Reichle said. He calmly grabbed the feline and carefully cupped it with his hands and brought it down in the bucket truck. It didn’t appear hurt and once he placed it on the ground, it scurried off to a nearby home.

The chain of events that led to the cat being rescued shows the importance of clear, immediate communication.

Reichle got the call from his supervisor Jon Sutton, a senior field leader. Sutton received the request after a colleague received a call from Trevor Thomas, Executive Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, who got a text from a customer notifying him about the cat being stuck in the tree.

“Jon told me the situation, and I was thinking this is a first,” said Reichle when told of the cat’s dire situation. “I never rescued a cat before. I let him know I could handle it and I would be on my way.”

Thomas said he was impressed with how everyone sprung into quick, concise action to save the cat.

“It’s amazing to see our team members living our values by running to a crisis,” said Thomas. “For the customer who contacted me it was truly a crisis. The end result was a positive one and credit goes to the field leader and service worker.”

He added that the mindset of putting the customer first is something we need to do more of.

“It’s a great example of putting the customer at the center,” Thomas said. “And for us to go above and beyond for our customers is a fantastic thing. They don’t want to hear about policies and procedures. We have to adjust our thinking around the customers to have success – as we did in this case.”

Reichle said unexpected events come with the territory of helping customers.

“It’s important for us to be there for those who need us. It took all of a half an hour to save the cat,” he said. “It’s what we do.”