It was pitch black and the rainwater was gushing an inch or two from his front paws.
The 4-week-old kitten crawled as high as he could along the inside of a drainage pipe. The pipe was more than a half-mile long and led to a large retention pond with water about 3 feet deep.
Lauren Anne Rodgers did all she could the night of April 20. She put on gloves, a mask and a pair of knee pads and crawled inside the pipe.
"I saw it in there and I thought, 'I've got to do something,'" Rodgers said.
Before she crawled into the muck and flowing water, she tried other ways to save the animal.
Rodgers bought some supplies at the nearby Walmart, pieced them together and built a makeshift raft. She placed some food on it and floated it toward the kitten in the hopes he would jump on it and stay afloat. The current was so strong, the floating device traveled through the pipe and into the pond. The kitten never got on it.
Rodgers had no chance to grab him. The feline continued to cry in fear.
Before long he was washed away.
The kitten's mother also was in the vicinity, but she, too, wasn't coming out of the drainage pipe. She was backing up and hissing. Her other three kittens were dead.
Rodgers called 911, even though she wasn't sure whether paramedics could help.
Spring Hill firefighters from the station along Mariner Boulevard responded.
"They got there and acted quickly," said Rodgers.
Firefighters initially couldn't reach the mother. They went to the other end of the pipe looking for the remaining kitten and found him — in the middle of the pond struggling to keep his head above water.
"I said, 'Well, I guess we're getting wet guys,'" said Capt. Tim LaRoche of Spring Hill Fire Rescue.
He and two of his firefighters walked about 25 feet into the water and saved the kitten, who trembled and cried all the way to dry land.
Rodgers "was very happy when we got it out of there," LaRoche said. "We made her day, which made my day."
The kitten's mother, a stray Rodgers suspects was once someone's pet, still lives in the area of State Road 50 near Walmart. Others are trying to trap her and possibly offer her for adoption.
Rodgers said an emergency veterinarian told her the kitten had such a low body temperature that he and his technicians used a blow dryer to get the animal warm.
The kitten was about 15 minutes from dying, she said.
Rodgers named him Wally Miracolo.
Miracolo is Italian for miracle.
He was given an antibiotic and ever since he has been healthy and happy.
Two people have asked to adopt him, and either would make a fitting owner, Rodgers said. She will care for Wally a while longer at her house and make a decision.
She said several times how thankful and relieved she was that firefighters acted the way they did. She wasn't sure they even rescued animals anymore.
"We're not supposed to risk anything to save an animal," said LaRoche, "but if we can safely do so, we most certainly do it."