Thought you might enjoy this story that occurred a couple of weeks ago whilst on our first attempt at taking our 18month CAG Ruby on holiday.
Sorry its a bit long but it was an event and a half...
We picked up a narrow boat in Cheshire with the plan to sail it to Skipton in North Yorkshire and back a trip that takes a full fortnight averaging 8 hours travel per day.
Ruby is used to her Aviator harness and for the first 4 days things went great with Ruby sitting on her perch on top of the boat rapidly learning all the waterside noises but mostly specialising is ‘Duck’.
All was well and she was being particularly well behaved and I kept a close eye on her harness in case of rubbing causing soreness which never occurred but I was careful. The wrist loop was ‘safely’ shackled to an eyelet on the boat (or so I thought).
On the Wednesday we were going through some locks in the northern town of Blackburn when the boat veered sharply and banged on the lock side. I new she would be startled and would probably fly as this occurred a couple of times a day when the shock cord would cushion her flight and she would turn and land on my shoulder. But this time much to my horror she just continued to fly, and the last view I got was her disappearing over a nearby rooftop dangling her harness cord.
Oh God! What a sinking feeling I ran like mad calling her name but she quickly flew straight out of sight. When I got to the other side of the building I was faced with a very busy road and with housing and messy shrubbery and trees going on for miles. I couple of chaps had seen her due to the ‘string’ hanging below her and confirmed she had flown into the distance somewhere and the direction they indicated was roof tops and derelict fenced land for miles.
With her harness still on the strong likelihood was she would get caught up in whatever she landed on and stood ever chance of a slow lingering death.
I ran in the general direction for about 30 minutes but could find no trace so returned to the boat to get my wife Annie who had been helped to moor the boat in my sudden absence by a friendly lock keeper and we tried to stay calm and plan logically. I was convinced I’d killed her by carelessly leaving the sprung shackle on the spring only and not the thread as well but this was not the time for beating myself up over it. We needed a plan.
We phoned the police in case anyone reported finding her but could not get through to the RSPCA and walked back to the place the last witness saw her in a big open pub car park and low and behold there was 4 or 5 people around a medium sized tree and who should be up it but Ruby who amazingly had managed to fly back most of the way from wherever she had got too.
One of the group of friendly onlookers had had more success in getting through to the RSPCA and reported her after having been attracted to the whistling a duck sounds emanating from her location some 20’ (6m) in the air.
Our attempts at attracting her down with calls and her favourite treats got us nowhere and there was a real fear she would fly once more and she would be out of sight behind large buildings in seconds.
We tried for about two hours with no success and all the ladders we could beg were too short and still no sign of the RSPCA although we did manage to get through in the end and had it confirmed that the passer-by’s call had got through and ‘someone’ would be with us ‘sometime’. The Fire brigade would not, nor should they help without being called by the RSPCA.
I went in search of a longer ladder and found a stockists of new ladders who agreed to lend me one in fact he came with me with this 30’ ladder to help, Blackburn folks are great. But whilst we were trying to erect this multi part monster ladder Ruby decided that things where turning for the worse and flew. Well up she soared in a huge circle getting further out and higher eventually landing in the uppermost branches (twigs) of a very tall tree now at least 50’ (18m) from the ground and way out of ladder reach. To make matters worse we could barely see her with only an occasional glint of a red tail to be seen with binoculars and the tree was blowing alarmingly but she hung on in there. We dare not take out eyes from the tree in case she gain flew and we would not even see the direction of flight. So another agonising hour and a half passed whilst we continued to wait for the RSPCA who were now our only hope.
The RSPCA officer eventually appeared but had no experience of this situation but would not call out the fire brigade if the bird was still able to fly free. I managed to convince him that there was every chance she was caught in her harness but in truth I did not know for sure.
After due consultation with his boss he called the local brigade for assistance and boy did things happen then, within a few minutes the sirens where heard and blue lights seen as a fully manned (5 men + 1 woman fire fighters) fire appliance pulled into the carpark causing quite a stir but thankfully Ruby stayed put. After some discussion and searching the tree tops with an infrared search camera the leading fire man was convinced that indeed at the top of this tree was a parrot who was now making her presence known by a steady stream of decapitated leaves raining down... obviously stressed to bits I think not.
The firemen agreed that they could not help with their ladders either and even they had to call for support...so... another appliance was called from a distant station and this turned out to be the mother of all cherry pickers. Whilst we waited the cheery firemen explained that they were only too pleased to help with this problem and as they put it: you’ve paid your taxes and we are here anyway so all it’s really cost is a bit of diesel and they get some practice in to boot.
Anyway a red six axle specialist appliance again screeched towards us with the statuary sirens & lights some 10 minutes later and the fire crews swung in to action closing down the very busy roads to allow the new arrival room to extend all its huge stabilising legs. Emergency road block signage went up and the crew manned them turning back all traffic from this major incident.
I was instructed on how to put on a harness to ride the monster with its driver and whilst this was going on guess who decided it was time for a another wee flight, but this time we got lucky and Ruby flew in three tight circles around the tree top definitely snagging her harness lead to some extent at least.
So up I went, we needed to clear some power lines so actually went up and up higher than the tree top where I could see into the distance and the eyes of hundreds of onlookers across that part of the town. As we got close coming down from above I could see her watching me and now hanging upside down not unlike a trapped parachutist. Not stressed more bemused at dad coming to rescue her because she knew I would.
It only took a few moments for me to clamber out onto a ledge of the platform and reach down to untangle her. Now I had the cord safely on my wrist I let her go when she flew onto my shoulder and said ‘Am I a good Girl?’...humph.
It was all a happy turnout and smiles all around from hard-bitten fire-fighters who I made sure got an individual thank you from both me and Ruby.
What an experience and a huge thanks go to the RSPCA and the terrific chaps from both Blackburn & Accrington fire services.