How I Conquered a Phobia

Originally posted in 2013

I think most people harbor a fear that borders on phobia. For me it’s snakes and small spaces. I understand why snakes give me the creeps, but small spaces? Maybe it’s the fear of suffocation or being trapped. Regardless, neither sound inviting to me.

I remember when we were kids, my brother put a pillow over my face as we played. I felt such terror that all rational thought left me; I screamed like I was dying. That feeling is still with me today whenever I feel confined.

So when I tell you this story, I think you’ll be proud of me. If not, you may be void of any feelings. Anyway, let me tell you what happened and then you can decide if something might be wrong with you.

You may know I work with a nonprofit feral cat rescue. If not, now you do. Mostly we trap unaltered feral community cats and have them spayed/neutered, vaccinated, etc. Then we return them to their outdoor homes and ensure they’re taken care of for life.

Anyway, part of this job entails things I never imagined doing. I won’t divulge them all now because I try to run a blog every Sunday. That’s 52 topics a year I need to come up with. Sharing the exciting details of being a feral cat trapper should give me at least 10 good blogs. So stay tuned.

Back on topic – Linda (my cohort) and I went to a home to catch a feral mom and her 4-week-old kittens living in the family’s basement. Catching mom was no problem. But then the exciting part begins.

Turns out the homeowners collected wine and their basement was loaded with enormous amounts. Cases upon cases stacked shoulder-high formed a maze inside 300-square-feet. So you can imagine the daunting task we faced.


Feral moms really know how to hide their kittens and this one was no exception. It was like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ except Waldo had no intention of being found.

Not deterred by the enormity of the situation, Linda and I started our methodical search. We moved boxes to the left, moved more to the right, stacked and re-stacked, looking inside each one as we went. We had only a tiny path that snaked through the basement. This made our hunt even more challenging. (Yippee.)

After hours of shifting boxes, we finally made it to the far corner where we discovered a hole in the floor leading to a sub-basement. Isn’t that always the case? Unfortunately for me, it was just large enough that I could squeeze through. The sub-flooring was a depth of about 2 feet but encompassed the entire 300-square-foot basement.

So I lowered down into damp, musty, cramped blackness. My flashlight illuminated 10 feet in front of me as I crawled deeper into what I could only imagine was under there. Then panic began to set in. I yelled up to Linda to keep talking to help take my mind off the notion I was surely crawling to my death.

I don’t know why this worked, but it did. With Linda’s help, I fought the urge to turn around and head toward freedom. Besides, leaving kittens down there was not an option.

Way dead rat

As I searched, I crawled past a couple fossilized rats. At least I think they were rats. Cobwebs suggested innumerable spiders had conventions down there. I figured a few were already nesting in my hair.

Now don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against spiders and fossilized rats. I just prefer not to be crawling over them. But duty called…

Poor Linda carried on a running monologue with only wine to keep her company. She went through her shopping list, told me her plans for the weekend – pretty much just jabbering. She even may have been singing; I can’t be sure. At that point I was pretending to be on a beach in Hawaii.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, I spotted 3 tiny gray kittens huddled in the farthest corner of the sub-basement. Again, isn’t that always the case? They were scared and hissing, blinded by my flashlight. I gently scruffed them one by one, then scooted on my stomach to the hole where Linda waited with a carrier.

Basement kitties

Basement kitties

Seven hours after arriving at this home, we had our kittens; and, lest I forget, one bottle of Pinot Noir as payment. I know. Their generosity was overwhelming. Don’t even get me started. But since we do this to help cats, we considered it a successful, happy day.

Living the good life

Months later, living the good life

The kittens were spayed/neutered and eventually adopted. In their honor, Linda and I opened that bottle of wine and made a toast.

It may not have been the most significant payment we’ve ever received for our services, but I have to say, the end result was definitely worth it.

To homes without basements

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