Weeks-old Styx pulled out by boat
By Scott Bellile
A team of five cat lovers banded together to save a stray kitten from what could have been a tragic ending on the Wolf River.
Styx, an approximately eight-week-old “gray, fluffy, tiny little ball of fur” as described by one rescuer, Melissa Van Wyk, got herself into a treacherous situation in downtown New London on Sept. 15.
Van Wyk was working at Karen Gething’s State Farm Insurance office next to the Pearl Street bridge before closing time that Friday when she heard a mother and daughter coaxing Styx outside.
The mother had nearly struck Styx with her vehicle and pulled over to direct the kitten somewhere safer.
“I don’t know what that little thing was thinking but I’m sure it was scared to death. Probably was never away from its mom before,” said Van Wyk’s coworker Sheri Gose, who witnessed the rescue but was not involved.
What happened instead was Styx leaped through the safety bars between the bridge and the State Farm building, Van Wyk said.
“Luckily the water was low so it landed on the sand,” Van Wyk said.
Van Wyk ran around the building to the riverbank and walked on the rocks toward the kitten. Styx was in a nook of the building, visibly upset and hissing, Van Wyk said.
Expecting Styx might stay put, the mother went to find gloves to handle the cat while Van Wyk returned to the office to close up.
Van Wyk heard the mother return and exclaim: “It’s in the water! It’s in the water!”
Styx was swimming against the Wolf River current and had gone under a couple times. The water pushed her in front of St. John’s Park where the river wall is being repaired, but crews were gone for the weekend. She appeared ready to drown.
Unable to safely enter the river, the trio felt helpless.
“We just thought about walking away because to watch it die is kind of horrifying,” Van Wyk said.
Then, in a deus ex machina moment of sorts, a fishing boat with a married couple on board happened to appear.
“They came out of nowhere. I think Melissa was ready to jump into the river to save the kitty,” Gose said.
Van Wyk, the mother and daughter shouted for their attention. Initially their cries of “There’s a cat!” were mistaken as “There’s a hat!”
Once the couple understood, they steered the boat on over. One of them scooped Styx out of the water with one hand and wrapped her in a towel.
The women do not know the identities of the two boaters or the mother and daughter who helped with the rescue. Van Wyk said she thinks the mother’s first name is Rhonda and the daughter’s is Olivia.
Styx was taken to Wolf River Veterinary Clinic just a block away.
“She was soaking wet,” but not injured or sick, certified veterinary technician Stephanie Weisshahn said.
“She did really good once she was warm and dry,” Weisshahn added.
The veterinary staff called the nameless animal Styx. In Greek mythology, the River Styx is the water boundary that separates Earth from the Underworld.
Having no known owner, Styx will be put up for adoption this week, Weisshahn said.
Depending on if she remains available by this weekend, Styx may appear aside other adoptable pets at the vet clinic’s seventh annual Dogtober Walk in the Park. The fundraiser for stray animals takes place Saturday, Oct. 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hatten Park pavilion. Admission is $20 per family.
Van Wyk and Gose are both cat owners, and the four people who helped Van Wyk indicated a fondness for cats. Whoever the helpers are, Van Wyk and Gose appreciated their help in preserving a life.
“I just think it’s really neat that five people ended up saving that little kitty,” Gose said. “You hear so many horror stories and this is just a really heartwarming story for that animal.”