UPPER EAST SIDE — A crew of firemen on the Upper East Side are in the midst of one of the year's biggest rescue missions — finding its 5-month-old kitten, "Carlow," who disappeared over the weekend.
Carlow, a little orange and white tabby with bright amber eyes, went missing Saturday night from the firehouse on East 85th Street between Third Avenue and Lexington as the firemen went out on an emergency run.
Now the kitty, who is named after a neighborhood bar, Carlow East, that the firefighters frequent, is out wandering on his own after slipping out unnoticed amidst the noise and bright lights of the exiting fire truck.
"At first we were worried that we had run over him," said David Santiago, a firefighter who works in the station.
"This is not a normal environment for a cat," he said, adding that they had checked the truck to make sure that wasn't the scenario. "But he's smart. Every time the trucks started up, with the siren, he would hightail it away to the back."
The stationhouse dalmation is not a suspect, either, since "Woody" is about a foot tall and made out of wood.
Instead, the firefighters worried that little Carlow ran the wrong way when he heard the sirens — right out the door.
"He's the equivalent of a teenager that kind of did something dumb," said Astrid, a volunteer cat rescuer who is helping the fire department find their kitty. "He was being a little brazen."
Astrid, a volunteer with Anjellicle Cats Rescue and graphic design artist who declined to give her last name, made posters to help the firefighters find their kitty so there wouldn't be complaints "about using city resources to help them find their cat."
In the posters, she spelled the cat's name "Carlo," but firefighters confirmed that the cat's name is spelled the same way the bar's name is spelled, "Carlow."
"It's nice to do something nice for the firemen because they do so much for the city," Astrid added. "They really do try to save every living creature."
The posters, slapped on light posts around the firehouse and East 86th Street, depict an unnamed firefighter in a blue shirt holding the tiny cat.
The story of the wayfaring FDNY feline was first reported by Gothamist.
This won't be the first time the firefighters have rescued what they lovingly refer to as their "firehouse kitty," according to members of Anjellicle Cats Rescue, who met the cat right after the firefighters first found him.
Carlow originally became a member of the East 85th Street firehouse crew after he was found by the firefighters about four months ago in East Harlem, while on a run at 115th Street and First Avenue.
The kitty was stuck in a tire rim and was very dirty, scared and hungry, according to the volunteers and a video showing the firefighters with Carlow at Petco shortly after they rescued him.
"This is Carlow the cat," one of the firefighters said, while holding him and trying to figure out how to take care of him. "Is he peeing right now? I think he is, a little bit."
The firefighters had brought the kitty to Petco because they were trying to figure out what to do with him. Anjellicle Cats Rescue has a station for emergency rescue pets inside the store to give animals like Carlow their necessary boosters and vaccinations.
Although the organization doesn't normally allow pets to be rescued unless they're taken in pairs, the volunteers made an exception for the firemen from Engine 22 and Ladder 13, because Carlow seemed to be going into such a loving home.
"The firefighters even come in [to work] on their days off to be with the cat," said Kathryn Willis, director of Anjellicle Cats Rescue. Willis and the other volunteers say they have become quite close to the cat and have been following his progress, even coming by the firehouse to give him a bath.
In one of the videos she took, Willis can be heard talking to the firemen as they crowd around and pet Carlow.
"He's pretty good for having been so traumatized," Willis said, to which the firefighters responded, "Yeah."
"We all know the little guy, and we really care about him," Willis said. "I mean, I just gave him his booster shot."
Carlow isn't the first cat to be the object of this firehouse's affection.
Murray called the station home from 1991 until 2005, when he died of natural causes. Murray even has a little plaque devoted to him outside of the firehouse, under the pictures and names of fallen firefighters.
Santiago says the station used to have a dog, but the firefighters decided to switch to cats when they realized that dogs didn't always get along with the public.
"We were afraid someone would get bitten," he said. "Anyway, we started getting rats again, so we decided to adopt another cat."
Barbara Langlois, another volunteer cat rescuer with Anjellicle, says she realizes how important pets are to these firefighters. She is even organizing a search party at midnight to meet at the firehouse to look for Carlow the cat with cellphones and flashlights.
"Everyone loves firemen and everyone loves kittens," she said.