COEUR d'ALENE - The crowd of 15 onlookers cheered when the cat leaped safely from 20 feet up in a tree to the snow-covered ground.
After being stuck in the tall pine at Ninth and Best for about a week, after a few failed rescue efforts, after much worry and phone calls and pleas for help, the feline was alive and well. It still had all nine lives.
It was over.
Well, maybe not.
"I thought we were home free there for a minute," said Ken Roberge, arborist with Specialty Tree Services, who spent 15 minutes in 30-degree temperature pursuing the cat as it leaped from tree to tree to tree to tree.
Once the cat's paws touched down, it promptly raced across the yard - and climbed right back up the first tree, and disappeared into darkness.
Disappointed, the audience turned away, seemingly no longer sympathetic to the cat's plight. Nothing but groans and head shakes. Arms went up in exasperation. Dumb cat, many muttered.
"It can stay up there," said one person as she walked away.
"At least we know it can come down," Roberge said.
Sarah Gott with the Altar Church said the cat's yowling and meowing could be heard coming from the tree for the past week.
"It's so sad," she said.
She called police, fire and animal control officials. None, she was told, could help her.
Neighbors used a ladder to try and reach the cat, but it just scurried higher.
Jonathan Locke tried to climb the tree, but his fear of heights got the best of him when he was about a quarter of the way up the 100-foot pine.
"It was scary," he said
Food placed on the lowest branches failed to bring the cat down lower - though the two friendly Akitas in the yard might have discouraged it, too.
So Tuesday afternoon, Gott dialed Specialty Tree Services and within an hour, Roberge rolled up with his truck and cherry picker.
The light brown cat, whose owner is unknown, was perched on a branch some 60 feet above ground, in the tree nearest the road. But the closer Roberge came, the more it fled, making acrobatic leaps to the next tree,
Roberge didn't give up.
Using a pole, he managed to direct the cat lower, until it jumped the final 20 feet. Unfortunately, it decided it preferred the higher viewpoint.
"I've rescued a lot of cats over the years," Roberge said. "Most of the time they climb to the top. I've never seen one transfer from tree to tree like that."
Most cats, he said, will come down with a little coaxing. Or, just leaving them alone. Considering the cat had been there a week, and considering the cold temperature, he thought it best to try and get it down.
"We gave it a good effort," he said.