DALTON, Ga. - When Rodney Belfry realized a kitten had fallen into a large storm drain outside the restaurant where he works, he knew something had to be done soon.
"It's been raining so much," Belfry, a delivery man for Papa John's Pizza in Bryman's Plaza on Walnut Avenue, said. "If it rained really bad, the kitten would have slowly drowned. I had to figure out some way to get it out of there."
After recruiting his sister-in-law Jennifer Case and co-worker Raven Bonds, the three began making phone calls on Aug. 20. They became frustrated when it seemed no one would help rescue the kitten, Case said.
The Dalton Fire Department sends most animal-related matters to Whitfield County Animal Control, Deputy Fire Chief Gary Baggett said. Animal Control typically only works with dogs, a dispatcher said, and doesn't generally come out in such situations.
"We tried everything," Case said. "I was so frustrated because no one would help. I wasn't going to sit down and let it die."
Case, as a "last resort," turned to Facebook.
"Facebook friends, I have an emergency problem," Case posted Tuesday night on the "One Man's Junk" online yard sale Facebook group, which has more than 10,000 members. "There is a kitten stuck in a drainage ditch."
More than 300 comments later, Case had gotten a direct line to the fire department, she said. A wife of a firefighter saw the post and told her husband, who went to Battalion Chief Chris Cantrell at Fire Station 2 on Abutment Road.
"No one was showing up to help and it's in our nature to help," Cantrell said.
"We leave it up to battalion chiefs on how to handle these kinds of things," Baggett said. "We don't have a written policy that guides them. We just try to walk a fine line because we could get into an issue where we have resources tied up."
Cantrell decided to dispatch a team. Late that night, firefighters arrived at the storm drain, he said, but after a few hours they couldn't reach the cat and gave up.
"We attempted to reach it several times," he said. "We were just doing this on our time. We tried to do something for it. But we couldn't get it out."
Belfry said he tried to reach the cat himself at one point.
"I couldn't reach down there," he said. "The cat was pretty far down. You couldn't even see it. You could hear it crying and meowing. I tried to reach her with my arms, but there's no real access down into the drain."
It was the same problem the firefighters ran into.
"They couldn't get to the kitten," Case said. "They tried everything."
Case said she couldn't sleep that night knowing the kitten, still stuck early Wednesday morning, could freeze or drown if it began to storm. When she woke up the next day and went to Papa John's she was told the cat had been rescued.
No one seems to know who it was, though some said it was possibly two or three workers from Dalton Utilities who learned about the situation through the Facebook post. A message for a utility spokeswoman left Thursday afternoon was not immediately returned.
Whoever it was delivered the cat to a Papa John's employee. Nancy Garner of Dalton had also seen Case's Facebook post. One friend request later and Garner was asked if she'd like to house the cat.
"I don't get on Facebook that much," Garner said. "But when I saw that post I could see the cat's future. It might go to the pound, not get adopted and get euthanized. I said, 'I'll take the cat.' I call her Miracle because she's a little miracle."
Which is uncanny, Bonds said, because the variance in the kitten's fur makes it look like the letter "M'' is imprinted on her forehead.
"It's crazy when you think about it," she said.
To Garner, the experience shows people "who had the heart to go out and get help."
Two in particular, Garner mentioned, were Jennifer Hays and Judy Dyer. Both came out with Case Tuesday night after reading the Facebook post and helped Case try to find officials who would help, Garner said.
"They're amazing women," she added. "I'm no hero. They are. I wish the world's riches for these ladies. They spent a lot of time seeking help for this poor kitten."
Garner said because she also owns dogs that might not get along with the kitten she is seeking a more permanent home.
"If we can't find a good home between us all, I will take care of her," she said. "I'm not going to let her go to someone that won't give her the proper love she needs. She deserves to be spoiled rotten after all she's been through."