by AMR aka EnglishTeachinVeganInkNBeauty

Have you ever felt alone; so alone, helpless and terrified not only for your own well being but for the life of another? Have you ever had a feeling of doom from life's selfish injustices when, looking back, you know you have given your all to everyone and everything you have ever known?

This was how I felt on Saturday, September 27, 2008 and it has taken me almost six months to write this because, quite simply, it pains me to remember the details of such a harrowing event. Two special men however, should be rightfully acknowledged and for them this piece is meant to honor.

That cool September day began, for me, as any other. I awoke to the tender purrs of my five rescue cats, hugged each one and fed them their favorite saucy-tuna breakfast. After brewing myself some coffee, I sat down to my customary hundred emails. As a tutor, youth mentor and animal rescue volunteer, I expect and welcome these diverse petitions for aid. But as I juggled to schedule others issues into my day, my attention twisted to uncover the source of an unfamiliar sound coming from my laundry room. When the noise became fierce, I raced behind my kitties who flew like lightening to the spot. In an instant I knew the clamor was not in my imagination, or outside my home. It was coming from the furnace. There was something alive in there!

First, I feared for my felines- afraid some rabid creature would break free from it's metal confines and infect my healthy critters. Then, I worried helplessly for the defenseless being inside- struggling to survive it's tiny metal prison. Finally, I contemplated the expensive damage that could occur to my heating element as this undetermined character violently wrestled within it.

As a first time home owner and still new to my surroundings, I thought of few I could call for help. So, my fingers frantically dialed the Rockaway Township Health Department. Unfortunately, a voice recorded message told me that animal control officers maintain the same schedule as average working citizens: 8 am until 5 pm - weekdays only. I was forced to assume that they were either short staffed or that animal emergencies didn't occur on weekends, here in Rockaway Township. I wished the animal inside my furnace and I were as fortunate.

Growing desperate, I contacted my non-emergency police department but again my sense of urgency seemed insignificant. The answering woman asserted that police officers do not assist homeowners with animal crises and animal officials would not accommodate wildlife fixed in furnaces. As I thought back to my countless acts of volunteerism, including the day prior when I surrendered my morning to animal control and authorities at Park Lake to help three belligerent swans, the knot in my throat intensified.

With sheer distress, I phoned my mom who was recovering from a series of epidural back injections. After suggesting I contact my furnace installer, she put her pain aside and darted to my home. Meanwhile, a knowledgeable business owner soon explained the animal inside my furnace had to be a small bird which ended up there after falling through a space in the pipes above my roof. Then just as my ordeal began to make sense, the nightmare became worse. Though the man who installed my furnace was able to identify the source of my trouble, he was unable to provide assistance until the following week- at which time he uttered, I would be paying him to remove the remains of my deceased winged inhabitant. He acknowledged my horror and counseled me to call the gas company who might provide more sympathetic support.

My mom arrived and we phoned my working dad. Unskilled at opening a furnace, he offered whatever support he could, urged me to call the gas company and told me to keep him posted. Moments later, a supervisor at New Jersey Natural Gas tore apart what little hope I had left. He explicated that their business is not to risk involvement with wild animals. This was despite my offer to assist them, as an animal rescue volunteer for almost a decade, and my plea for them to work in unison with animal control officials. He delivered what sounded like a soft chuckle and then a firm, "I’m sorry."

Conceding to my anguish, Mom decided she may have more luck with her heating contractor. The group responded favorably, if you consider their proposal to ignite my furnace, wait, and then remove the carcass, as something less than barbaric! "Am I being Punk’d?" I screamed, emphatically. Three more calls to a chimney company, the handy man, and a landlord proved to be in vain. In tears, I paced hysterically breaking only to whisper assertive promises to free my unfortunate feathered victim.

Some time later, my neighbor John Petit arrived home. He tried diligently to assist me. His concern reminded me of my ex-boyfriend, from three years ago- who now lives over an hour away- but has HVAC experience. It was a long shot, but I held my breath and called John Jediny. My former lover’s voice put air back in my lungs and faith back in my heart. He packed his tools and began driving in my direction. I waited anxiously, knowing the helpless creature in my furnace would soon see daylight and be free to live out it’s life -thanks to the acts of two unselfish men, who sacrificed their time to help one hysterical animal lover and a bird at our mercy. Twelve hours after the start of my ordeal, the bird was finally freed. I named her Lily to represent a flower and the spirit of all that is innocent, beautiful and pure.

What I have learned is; to suggest that ours is a land progress, as many modern thinkers do, would be fallacious. The real truth is; if the morals and ethics of humanity were greatly improving in a desirable way, no desperate towns-person's plea- my plea- would have been left by officials to drown in a sea of neglect. That two lay people came to my and Lily’s rescue says something for society, however, this is proof that we are merely on the wing of progress and nothing more.