By KATE LeBLANC It seemed like it was just an average day working at PawsWatch at the Community Cat Center for Tina Conway. The North Scituate resident volunteers at the shelter throughout the week cleaning cages, mopping floors and organizing
It seemed like it was just an average day working at PawsWatch at the Community Cat Center for Tina Conway.
The North Scituate resident volunteers at the shelter throughout the week cleaning cages, mopping floors and organizing adoptions. Most days, Conway gets a lot of her adoption-related work done at home before heading over to the Johnston shelter to do more hands-on hours with the cats.
Not long ago, Conway received an email from a woman looking for a furry companion. The woman reaching out was a grandmother who had been feeling lonely and was drawn to an older cat named Arnie. Arnie had an embedded collar on his neck previously, and had to have surgery to remove it. The woman felt a connection to him and wanted to offer the extra time she had to care for him.
Sitting on her bed, looking at the freshly printed application and the email exchange with the woman open on her nearby laptop, Conway picked up the phone and called. The woman answered and they started discussing the adoption process to get Arnie.
Four minutes later and mid-conversation, Conway heard a sudden static-like noise on the other line.
Unsure if the woman just needed a drink of water, Conway waited a few seconds to allow her to get her bearings. As the noise continued, so did the panic Conway felt that something more may be happening with this future adopter.
“Are you OK? Are you OK,” she asked the woman repeatedly, shouting louder when she didn’t get a response.
Concerned about the woman’s safety, Conway ended the call to quickly dial 911.
After being transferred to the South County Emergency operator, she wasn’t sure what to say: she didn’t know anything about the woman other than she was looking to adopt a cat. As her thoughts raced and the adrenaline ran through her, she realized she had the woman’s information readily available on the open email in front of her. The operator calmly took the woman’s name, number and address from Conway, assuring her that he would call back by the end of the day to let her know what happened.
“She may be totally fine, but I just didn’t feel right,” Conway said. “I did feel weird calling 911, don’t get me wrong. I felt like this could be stupid, but I just felt the need to do it. So I did.”
As the day progressed, Conway went into the cat shelter and told her colleagues about what had happened that morning. She kept her phone close to her at all times, eagerly waiting for a call from the operator.
By 4:30 p.m., Conway had been to the shelter and already made it back home, when her phone rang. It wasn’t the operator, however, it was the secretary of the cat shelter.
“You’ll never believe who just called me,” the secretary said. “The woman that you had on the phone is in the hospital and her sister called because she’s trying to find out who saved her sister’s life.”
Shaken but relieved, Conway reached out to the sister, thanking her for contacting emergency service, and disclosed to Conway that her sister had been choking.
“The next day, the lady herself called me to thank me for saving her life,” Conway said. “Hearing those words out loud was weird; it was humbling. I was like, I just made a phone call.”
Conway joined the PawsWatch team last June after stopping by to donate an old cat tree she had at home. The director convinced her and her daughter to help organize the plethora of kittens being born at the time. After creating an entire kitten organization white board, Conway increased the amount of time she donated to the shelter and started taking on more responsibilities.
On the phone with the woman, Conway said she knew something was wrong; it was instinct. But she hopes her story inspires others to do the right thing in high-stakes moments like these.
“I really am a believer that things happen for a reason,” Conway said. “The fact that I had just spoken to her and her information was right on my screen was just meant to be that I was able to help her.”
Editor’s note: The woman who Conway saved did not return a call and apparently wanted to remain unnamed.