Town, county employees join residents in rescue effort
by Kara Lopp
One of Matthews’ smallest residents attracted a big crowd along Rice Road last month.
Officials from Matthews police, code enforcement, public works, animal control and Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities all played a part in the rescue of a kitten who was found stuck in a storm drain. The black furball with a white “bowtie” on her chest was first discovered by Matthews resident Peter Jareo and is now an official member of the Jareo family. Her name is Lola and she joins an animal-loving family of five humans and plenty of pets, including another friendly feline face – 2-year-old Blue who has lovingly taken on the role of big brother to this feisty feline.
One morning last month, Peter Jareo was on his daily run as his sons, Finn, 12, and Sully, 9, rode ahead on their bikes. He heard what sounded like the screech of a hawk, and as he got closer realized the sound was coming from the storm drain. A quick peek inside revealed a scared Lola, meowing.
But a skittish kitten and a stubborn, bent storm drain lid clogged with dirt and rocks made a quick, easy rescue impossible. She was out of reach in the about three-foot deep drain and a tug at the lid was no use, so father and sons returned home to Winterwood Drive to grab a sheet, hoping they could toss it in and Lola would climb her way to freedom. She didn’t. This time, though, the boys were joined by mom Mary, and daughter and sibling Luna, 14.
An employee with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities was nearby and spotted the family effort, even offering bits of her breakfast to lure Lola onto the sheet. That didn’t work, either. Matthews Code Enforcement Officer Carlo McKoy happened to be in the area and stopped to help, too. He called Matthews Animal Control Officer Jeremy Schnabel who arrived and then called for public works staff with tools to pry the drain lid off. Meanwhile, Matthews Police Officer Lance Paugh arrived, directing traffic along Rice Road around the rescuers.
Using a pry bar and a sledge hammer, public works employees got the drain lid off and one of the employees, Bobby Hoxit, was then able to reach down and pluck Lola from the drain.
A residue around one of Lola’s eyes made Schnabel, the animal control officer, suspect she had a respiratory infection. With that possibility, he couldn’t keep her in the Matthews kennel and knew she’d likely be euthanized if he took her to Charlotte Animal Care & Control. But the Jareo family had a plan.
“Before he even got out that sentence explaining what would happen to her, I said ‘No, we’ll take her,’” Peter Jareo said. And after a 72-hour waiting period for an owner to step forward, Lola officially became a Jareo.
She tested negative for a respiratory infection and is in perfect health, the family says.
“With the overabundance of cats, especially kittens, in Charlotte now, there’s no guarantee she would have made it,” Schnabel said. “Saving animals is great, but saving them only to have them die later is the stinky part of the job. The happy ending in stories like this – that’s what my job’s supposed to be for.”
At home with her new-found family this week, Lola was typical kitten: batting at anything that moved.
“She’s the most outgoing cat we’ve ever had,” Finn said.
“And the bravest,” his brother Sully added, smiling.