Courtesy of North Shore of Long Island
When 17-year-old Cheyenne Snider didn't see her two black kitties around the house on a recent Sunday she figured they were hiding in a corner or under a piece of furniture, as cats are known to do.
But the daughter of Dee Snider of Twisted Sister fame soon found that the duo, Luna and Chibi, were gone from the house and would be missing in the midst of a major snowstorm.
The cats are about 6 months old now, Snider said, and she had been their adoptive mother since they were about 2 weeks old, when she bottle-fed them. She and her mother, Suzette, had adopted them — Luna for Cheyenne and Chibi for Suzette — from The Groomery in Stony Brook, where Cheyenne works.
"I taught them everything; they're like my babies," she said.
So she gathered friends, classmates and neighbors to help her look for the little ones in her Setauket neighborhood, hoping to find them before her parents returned home from a vacation.
She looked for days, and five days after they had gone missing, looking on her street "I hear the littlest, littlest meow," she said.
Soon she narrowed down the search to a storm drain. In the dark of the drain she couldn't see their little, black bodies: "All I could see was their eyes."
She and her brother tried to pry the heavy grate off the drain but had no luck.
"I started to freak out because I thought, 'How do I get these cats out of here?'" she said.
A call to the Setauket Fire Department yielded a group of firefighters, headed by 2nd Assistant Chief Bill Rohr, and within 25 minutes, the crew had the shaken cats out.
"Literally, like 15 guys showed up," Snider said. "They ripped the sewers up. It was crazy."
She was so grateful to the fire department and specifically to Rohr, whom she recognized as a customer of The Groomery.
Rohr said the fire department's policy is they don't automatically respond to animal requests but the chief officer decides whether or not to respond, depending on the crew available and the specific situation.
"I happen to be an animal lover," he said. "I would do it myself because I [wouldn't] ask someone to do something too dangerous."
Rohr said they sent a firefighter into the sewer drain after an air-monitoring test revealed no methane or other harmful chemicals were present.
Melissa Van Horn, owner of The Groomery, called Rohr a hero on a Facebook post about the rescue and said in a phone interview, "He is so good. He's my go-to guy for anything animal-related."
The assistant chief said while the first cat was easy to get out, the second was scared and cowering in the back of the drain so the rescue team opened up the other side of the drain and coaxed her out.
"It's nothing heroic about it; it's just helping somebody out," he said. "It all worked out. I'm glad it was a happy ending."
Van Horn and Snider know Rohr from his interaction with The Groomery, which has given the fire department small animal oxygen masks for pets that have inhaled smoke in fires.
Van Horn runs a charity called O2 For Pets Too and donates the oxygen masks to fire departments. The Setauket Fire Department was the first to get these masks when the group was started.
Rohr said there was a small fire last February and the fire department used those pet oxygen masks.
"They definitely worked, they definitely saved them," he said.
The next day after rescuing her lost kitties, Snider headed to The Groomery to buy collars and tracking devices for the cats so they're never lost again.
She is thankful for the crew who came to her aid and was especially happy to see a familiar, animal-loving face in Rohr.
"If he didn't come I wouldn't have been able to get those cats out," she said.