Column: How a Local Cat Survived Harrowing Hours Atop an Electrical Pole Thanks to Some Good Customer Service

Edgar sits precariously atop an electrical pole before his eventual rescue. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)Edgar sits precariously atop an electrical pole before his eventual rescue. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

“Sorry to ask, but is the cat still alive?”

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The question was raised by a ComEd customer service rep. The cat she was referring to is Edgar, my family feline — a 9-year-old orange tabby on a special diet for his thyroid condition.

Edgar had spent a frosty night alone atop a utility pole in our alley earlier this week. We estimate he was up there for 15 hours on that 4-inch beam.

If he had backed up just a few inches, he would have lost all nine lives in one shocking flash. A ComEd spokeperson later told me the high voltage wires up there hum with 4,000 volts or more, adding “Yes, they’d kill him.”

Edgar’s ordeal began on a quiet evening in the not-so-wild west suburbs. I was making dinner, and Edgar (aka Eddie Cheddars) was begging for chow. I gave him a bit of chicken, wondering if the vet would notice that he’d veered off his diet.

Finally, I’d had enough and tossed him out the front door. Eddie is an indoor-outdoor cat and an expert mouser. He’s the block captain of the local kitties, and he rules with an iron paw. He’s a puss with clout.

But as Edgar was dumped on the porch, he stopped and hissed — an unleashed German shepherd with no owner in sight was climbing the steps to our small concrete porch.

Eddie’s hair raised and his tail got as bushy as a squirrel’s. He stood his ground and swatted at the pooch, who seemed friendly enough.

I left to get a treat for the canine stranger and a flashlight to help read his collar. The dog was clearly well-cared for, but I didn’t know him.

In the time while I walked away, my wife went on the front porch to check the shepherd’s tags. He promptly bit her thigh (a story for another day), and Edgar bolted.

A police report was filed. The responding officer wouldn’t go near the German shepherd, who was now wandering the block. Later, the dog was spotted in a neighbor’s yard. Ol’ Shep’s reign of terror ended late in the evening when he was impounded and brought to the Animal Care League.

But, for the first time ever, Edgar didn’t return home. Like dorks in the dark, we walked the neighborhood, calling his name and shaking a can of kibble. Nothing.

Edgar always comes home — to whine, to beg, to wake anyone who slept. He taps the door and asks “Meow? Meow?” like he’s saying “Yoo-hoo? Anybody home?”

So we went to bed with a touch of angst. I got up more than once to shake a can of food by the front and back doors. Still no sign of Eddie Cheddars.

Early in the morning my wife got up to scour the neighborhood. She came home and woke me. “You won’t believe this. Edgar is on top of a telephone pole.”

Um, say again?

“He’s at the very top of a telephone pole in the alley two houses down. You can see him from the back porch. I don’t know how he’s going to get out of this one.”

Edgar sits high above the alley below before his eventual rescue. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)Edgar sits high above the alley below before his eventual rescue. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

She rode her bike to the firehouse a block away. The fire-fighting folks got in their big engine and drove the 100 yards to our house. They took one look and said they couldn’t go up there. Too close to the power lines.

“He’ll come down by himself,” they told us.

We had doubts. Edgar is a lot of things, but he’s not much of a climber. The only tree we’ve ever seen him climb was a small Christmas tree. Now he was 35 feet in the air with one way down and electrocution a real possibility.

Then a firefighter added, “You might try ComEd.”

My wife called ComEd and told them that, no, we hadn’t lost power but we might lose a cat. The person on the other line told us that it happens sometimes — in fact, this was her second catcall, so to speak, this month. She said they’d have somebody come out and would expedite the request.

We figured it would be early afternoon at best. Our only complaint with the utility company is that they came out too soon. They arrived within the hour. When we saw the trucks, we ran into the alley — but we had missed the rescue.

I later spoke with Amin Aburomi, ComEd’s manager of regional electric operations, who managed the team of “troublemen” — the first responders who saved Edgar from getting roasted.

Aburomi told WTTW News, “It’s a risky situation. I’ve been on site for three different instances like this, and it’s scary watching a cat up there on the pole. Usually they don’t touch the wire. They step over it. I don’t know if it’s a cat’s instincts or what, but they tend to not touch the wire.”

ComEd does not keep official records of these incidents, but Aburomi noted: “The ones that I’ve been on have always been successful removals — no harm, no foul.”

My wife, who takes care of the bills, asked if we’d be getting a bill. Thankfully, the answer was no.

Aburomi told us the real heroes were his co-workers, Artur Majczak and Robert Sullivan, who went up in the cherry picker to snatch the cat.

“They take a lot of pride and dedication in their work. The safety of the public, themselves, and even cats are important to them,” Aburomi said. “The most important thing was to get the cat down safely. By the time they got down, the cat was getting antsy and jumped and took off. So we figured, OK, the job is done.”

Minutes after his rescue, Edgar was back at the front door. He got an extra helping of his special food, slept for a long, long time, and didn’t ask to go out that night. It was certainly Eddie’s riskiest adventure since his gotcha day — when my daughter found him as a tiny kitten in the middle of a street in Ukrainian Village.

So we’re thrilled that Eddie Cheddars will be around to greet the New Year and that we can laugh at what was nearly a family tragedy. And we’re grateful to ComEd for saving Ed — but they’ve definitely raised our expectations of service the next time the power goes out.

Edgar the cat in a much less stressful pose beneath the Christmas tree. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)Edgar the cat in a much less stressful pose beneath the Christmas tree. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

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