Firefighter rescues kitten stuck in car engine

A cat, animal lovers believe, will choose the human he intends to spend his life with.

If that’s true, a 6-week-old black kitten named Jetta certainly accomplished it the hard way, by getting stuck in a crevice under the hood of a car, wedged so tightly that it took two hours for a firefighter and deputy to free her.

The ordeal with a happy ending began when Jimmie Gladwell, Assistant Chief of the Salisbury Fire Department, received a call from the Emergency Services operator Monday morning.

“She said, ‘You won’t be able to do anything about this but I got a 911 call in reference to a kitten being trapped in the motor of a vehicle,’” Gladwell told the Salisbury Independent.

He was assured the animal was alive, crying so loudly at the Julia and Garrett Kitchen residence on Parker Road that she could be clearly heard when they took the family dog out for its morning walk. Garrett Kitchen tried to remove it, but had to leave for work, so his wife called the fire department, asking for help, and her mother dialed 911.

“I didn’t have any units available but I said, ‘Give me the address and I’ll go out and look and see what’s going on,’” Gladwell recalled.

At around the same time, the deputy — whose name Gladwell didn’t catch but to whom he is deeply grateful — arrived.

Together they jacked up the Volkswagen Jetta – for which the kitten was later named – so Gladwell could slide under and reach into the radiator, feeling around for the scared animal.

“I couldn’t lay my hand on her at all. We could hear her. We knew she was in the front corner of the vehicle but we couldn’t lay our eyes on her for anything. We took off the fender shroud and I got my hand in there.

“Bless her heart, she was no bigger than nothing when we finally got her out. I got my hand in there but I couldn’t find her. We took part of the grill apart. We took out the corner support. That’s when I said we should take the headlight assembly out. We took the radiator bracket off. I put my hand down in there. I was about ready to give up,” Gladwell said.

But he didn’t.

And there she was, in a small hole in the frame rail.

“I got her rear legs out. Her torso was still stuck. Every time I got a piece of her out, she would pull back up in there. She was scared,” Gladwell said.

Salisbury Assistant Fire Chief Jimmie Gladwell discussing his rescue victim: “Every time I got a piece of her out, she would pull back up in there. She was scared.”

“I worked on it 25 minutes or so. I got her front shoulder to go through. She stuck her head out. I massaged her a little bit at a time and finally she popped her head out.  I kept working her and working her. I grabbed her by the back of her neck and held onto her with the other hand,” Gladwell said.

When he picked her up, she didn’t fight or spit, but rested in his arms.

Making him more determined was the heartbreak of recently putting a 4-year-old kitten to sleep and, nearly two months ago, losing the family’s 18-month-old Golden Retriever to a heart attack the dog suffered while being boarded in a kennel.

“The thought crossed my mind to take this kitten home and give it to my kids, but two weeks ago we bought two Golden puppies,” Gladwell said.

His daughters, Lacie and Haylie, 5 and 6 years old, were so proud of him for rescuing the kitten that they ran to him when he got home from work, shouting, “Daddy, you saved a kitty!”

Gladwell, though, remained humble.

“Anybody should have done what I did. I’m not special,” he said.

There are those who would disagree.

“These guys were amazing and super nice,” Mrs. Kitchen posted on Facebook.

More than 300 people responded with likes and smiles and dozens more commented, “Love this,” “Great job” and “What a wonderful humanitarian story.”

A proud Mayor Jake Day pronounced Gladwell “a perfect example of the type of leadership we have working for the city and Salisbury Fire Department.”

“He’s a good man and represents the best of what our people do, day in and day out, for the residents of our community – even the furry ones,” Day said.

Tuesday morning, Mrs. Kitchen, who is expecting a baby and who, with her husband, has a dog and another cat, took little Jetta to the veterinarian. Her gender was determined and she was found to be unscathed from being stuck near the engine. She has a cold, but is otherwise healthy.

She’s getting adjusted to her new home and doesn’t appear at all traumatized.

“No, she is fine,” her new owner said.

“She is super sweet and super loving. And these guys who saved her were awesome.”


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