This Heroic Pet Groomer Crawled Through a Smelly, Pitch-Black Underground Sewer Pipe to Rescue a Missing Cat
Dwelling on what she was about to do was only making her more nervous, so Haley Dube decided she needed to get on with it. She fastened on a headlamp and climbed into a narrow, foul-smelling drainage pipe in search of a cat who'd been missing for six days.
Dube then endured roughly 20 minutes in the pitch-black underground tube that was barely big enough for her, all for a cat who wasn't hers. She soon found the urine-soaked Flaik, managing to push him back through the tube so he could reunite with his owner.
The Boise, Idaho, pipe was so narrow that Dube couldn't carry him normally. She repeatedly pushed him forward in the tube before dragging the rest of her body up to meet him. The video showing the rescue's conclusion shows just how exhausting that process was. Dube emerges breathing heavily, her shoulders barely able to exit the pipe.
"I could fit, and so that was why I did it," she tells Daily Paws. "... I'm not going to just weigh the pros and cons of whether that animal should die or not."
Dube has groomed dogs for the past seven years, and she owns her own service, Bark, Bath and Beyond, in Boise. But her love for animals expands beyond her day job. She and her daughter Kenadee also look after six rescue dogs, six rescue cats, and two turkeys. They'll even surrender their bathtub to foster kittens.
"We're the voice for the voiceless," Dube says. "Someone's got to stand up for them, and I feel like that's what God put me on this earth for."
In early February, Dube had seen Facebook posts about Flaik going missing. According to KTVB, the local fire department heard his meows from the pipe but could do little to free him, hoping he could make it out on his own. Cameras sent down the pipe couldn't find him either, the TV station reported.
Dube's friend Shae DeBerry later arrived at the storm sewer pipe, seeing if she could lower a trap to catch Flaik. Dube told her to text if she needed any help. The trap didn't work, and Dube got the text to come over.
"I couldn't believe I was going to go down that thing," she thought as she looked down the manhole to the pipe.
But in she went—clad in a sweater and jeans. It was dark, freezing, and wet inside the tube, which was maybe 2 feet wide. She only had a few inches of clearance once she started her journey, just enough to crawl forward. As if this wasn't terrifying enough, she later noticed some spiderwebs. Also, the drainage sewer predictably smelled awful.
"You know, that was pretty gnarly," Dube says, making a massive understatement.
She heard Flaik, though. He was crying more than he was meowing, but Dube kept speaking to him until she arrived at the end of the tube. She was below another manhole, almost a small underground room where she was able to stand—and Flaik was sitting there.
Dube grabbed the stranded cat—she has no idea how he ended up down there—and she re-entered the pipe, pushing him forward. The cat was still, letting Dube do the work before they finally made it out before their amazed audience.
"Everybody was just screaming and crying and thankful," she says. "I was just trying to get a breath of fresh air again."
'I Just Love Them All'
Several days later—after both had a chance to get cleaned up—Dube and Flaike met again under much less stressful circumstances. He didn't recognize her at first, but he soon remembered after Dube put her face right in front of him for a few nuzzles.
And if she even needs to do another Sewer Urchin impression, she's ready. If there is a next time—we sure hope not—she'll at least wear goggles. And maybe even a snow suit.
"It's for the animals," she says. "They don't have to be mine. I just love them all."