It was a normal January night like any other. Members of Boston Local 103 were doing routine maintenance on an above-ground part of Interstate 93. They had no idea they were about to turn into local heroes.
The crew were ringing out some wires they had just pulled in. That’s when they encountered something they had never seen before: a cat stranded on a steel girder, 80 feet in the air.
“I have seen a lot of strange things out there, but this was definitely something new,” Local 103 member Jay Dondero told the Boston Globe. “That’s totally impossible to think a cat would be in the steelwork.”
The cat looked familiar, like the one they’d seen in recently posted fliers. So apprentice Phil Donadini and member Jay Frasier figured it was Juno, the 6-year-old slate gray female who had fallen onto the highway when her owners briefly stopped to fix the car door. She had been missing since Christmas Day.
So Dondero, Frasier and four other members set to work on the delicate task of coaxing the frightened feline down. She ran away at first, scrambling down a beam, Frasier said. Undeterred, he and member Mike Maffeo bought a can of cat food from a nearby gas station.
Frasier then went back up to the underside of the highway, which cuts through the city, and slowly crawled toward the cat, offering a food-covered finger. After about 10 minutes Juno, who had been missing for nine days by then, came close enough that Frasier could scoop her up and bring her down.
“She was squirming. I was just holding on so she wouldn’t jump and get away again,” said Frasier, an inside wireman.
Juno’s owners got the news while on vacation in Mexico.
“After I got off the phone with the guys who found her, I instantly burst into tears,” owner Erin McCutcheon told the Boston Globe. “My boyfriend started crying … I just couldn’t believe it was her.”
With the couple out of town, Frasier, who has two dogs, took the cat home for the night. McCutcheon’s brother picked her up the following day, Frasier said.
“I’m a huge animal lover. I can only imagine what she must have been going through,” Frasier said.
The story spread around town, with help from the local press. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals lauded the members for their compassion. McCutcheon offered a cash reward to whoever found Juno, but the crew turned it down.
“That lady went beyond the call of duty and spent a lot of money,” Frasier said of McCutcheon’s efforts to find Juno, which included hiring an animal tracking expert and setting up cameras. “All she had to do was call 103.”
“Knowing the individuals, I’m not surprised they’d do that,” said Second District Vice President Mike Monahan, of both the rescue and the members declining the reward. “That’s who they are. It speaks to their character and their commitment to the community. And that of their NECA contractor, Dagle Electric. The owners, Jim and Maureen, couldn’t be better partners.”
Frasier says that ever since they first saw the fliers they had been keeping an eye out.
“None of this stuff, us helping the community, usually gets printed,” Frasier said. “You only hear of ‘union thugs.’ But us electricians, we got heart.”
McCutcheon and the rescue team plan to meet later this month.
“Jay, Mike and Phil are examples of our membership understanding that being IBEW also carries with it expectations of community responsibility. Recognize the greater good and add to it,” said Local 103 Business Manager John Dumas. “That’s the 103 advantage we strive for every day. It’s great to witness.”