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Service teams avert cat-astrophe

Dealership service departments are used to customers complaining their engine is making knocking or pinging sounds. But the service crew at West Herr Chevrolet of East Syracuse in New York recently heard a different engine complaint.

"A customer pulled up in a big 2500 Silverado diesel and says, 'Don't laugh at me. This is probably going to be the strangest thing you've ever heard, but my truck is meowing,'" Service Adviser Jim Gustina said.

It's one of two recent instances — cat tales, if you will — of felines being rescued by dealership service departments. The other occurred in Fort Worth, Texas.

Cat in distress

The Silverado owner heard the meowing June 6 after a hospital appointment for, what else, a CAT scan. A group of people were around his truck saying they heard meowing. Then it stopped so he figured the cat had gotten out. As he drove down the freeway the meowing returned, so he headed to West Herr nearby.

The service drive staff heard the meowing as soon as the truck pulled in. They immediately closed all the doors to prevent an escape of the trapped feline.

"We could hear the cat when he pulled in; this cat was in distress," Gustina said. "It was not like an angry cat meow, it was like, 'Help me, I'm dying.' "

Gustina climbed up on the grille to look under the hood while technicians Mike Crapo and Jay Wahl searched with flashlights and wands with cameras typically used to check inside cylinders. Service Adviser Taylor Disco slid under the truck and waved a piece of salami to try to coax the kitten out.

The meowing stopped and the crew feared the worst, but after a short "pawse," the kitten let out another small meow that the workers thought came from near the windshield wipers. They asked the truck owner if it was OK if they took his truck apart, and he agreed.

Off came the wiper arms, then the cowl. That's when Gustina saw a paw behind the wiper transmission, which was then removed.

Gustina was able to grab the kitten by the scruff of the neck and pull it out.

"It was a little tiny kitten only 9 weeks old and really overheated," Gustina said. "He was really breathing heavy."

Service Adviser Sara Ano dipped a napkin in water and squeezed some fluids into the kitten's mouth. Another adviser, Ashley Kozekwa, ran to the store for food. Technician Tyler Gallo picked up a cat carrier at home and brought it back to the dealership.

The customer's truck was put back together, and he was so grateful he bought pizza for the service department. In all, it took about 30 to 60 minutes to find and free the cat now named Diesel, who has all nine lives intact.

"It was really a massive group effort to save this kitten," Gustina said.

Service Manager Tim Mahar said the dealership has received some publicity from it and he's glad to have his staff recognized.

"We've had people sending us pizza and candy and then a box came from Amazon that had the name Diesel on it," he said. "We opened it up and it had a whole bunch of stuff for little kittens — supplies and stuff like that. It's been pretty cool.

"And a lot of customers when they come in they ask about it."

West Herr made a $500 donation to the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Diesel's honor.

The truck owner entertained thoughts of adopting the cat, but Gustina beat him to it.

"I said, 'I'm going to take the cat,'" said Gustina, who has five other felines. "Because once I got a hold of it, I put it in my arms and he was belly up … and he looked at me like grateful that I just saved his life, you know?"

Service loaner meows

A quiet meow from the passenger side of a 2023 Mercedes GLB 250 concerned a customer every time he stopped at a red light. The customer returned the service loaner to Park Place Motorcars in Fort Worth with a warning: "I think there's a cat inside."

Service Manager Mauricio Zenon was informed by his valet, Sebastian Jimenez, of the situation and assembled his team of veteran technicians — Jacob Munoz, Mark Hawkins, Josh Brunk and Josh Chandler — to begin a rescue operation. It was 5:30 p.m. and the crew was tired and ready to go home, but there was a little animal in need.

They carefully removed bolts and belly pans, located the source of the noise and within five minutes found a 3- to 4-week-old kitten.

"There it was on a tiny little sliver on that skid plate," said Munoz, the first to spot the kitten. "As soon as I got into the car and looked through the drainage, I was able to see the cat's face."

Zenon said the kitten was "tucked under there, unharmed and in good spirits. Maybe it got stuck under there while trying to keep warm."

A rainstorm had rolled through and the customer said he noticed several cats sheltering under the car, which is perhaps when the kitten got trapped.

Hawkins is a cat and dog owner and decided to adopt the kitten.

"Our dog is always there watching it, and if it's crying the dog is ready and very attentive," Hawkins said.

The team is trying to come up with a fitting name for the cat "but nothing is coming to mind that would do it justice," Zenon said.

Once it has grown and regained its strength, "I am sure our little Mercedes cat will come back to visit," he said.

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