It's a tale that happens in small towns, places where folks know each other's names and care about one another.

Outside a rural Petaluma-area home Tuesday, three animal-loving Rancho Adobe Fire Department firefighters rescued Carol Peek Griffin's 1-year-old cat, Bagheera, which had been stuck 50 feet up a redwood tree for six days.

It was the department's third attempt to retrieve the feline. The first time, Bagheera got scared and climbed higher in the tree, and the second, darkness curtailed rescue efforts.

But, as he promised, Capt. Larry Martinez and his crew returned Tuesday morning after handling other calls.

Firefighter Chris Foss climbed up the tree, while Engineer Ryan Rania assisted from below with the ladder and safety harnesses.

Foss, who grew up with cats and dogs, had the touch. And a bag of tuna.

"Oh, hi!" he cooed gently to Bagheera as he carefully climbed to within about 10 feet of the grey and white cat, about 40 feet up the tree. "Good to see you."

"Go slow," urged his captain, peering skyward from the base of the ladder. "No sudden movements. Get that tuna out."

"She's coming to me," Foss said. "Well, she made a move."

A bundle of nerves, Peek Griffin craned her neck, seeking a glimpse of her cat through the redwood limbs.

"Got her!" exclaimed Foss, nabbing Bagheera when she eased closer to check out the tuna.

Below, Peek Griffin clapped and hugged Martinez.

"You did it!" she exclaimed.

"I've got tears in my eyes," veteran fire captain Martinez admitted.

Peek Griffin said she felt a range of emotions at having her trouble-making kitty back: "good, great, embarrassed."

She said an ex-firefighter friend suggested she call Rancho Adobe for help when Bagheera didn't come down herself.

"That was so valiant," Peek Griffin said, thanking the firefighters with a bag of brownies and cookies to take back to the firehouse.

Martinez and Foss said it was all in a day's work. Last week, the department rescued a Penngrove horse whose rear legs got stuck in a caved-in septic tank.

"It's what we do," Foss said.

"If we can help, we help. A life is a life," said Martinez, who has four dogs at home and has had cats his whole life.

Bagheera later rejoined the other household pets, Scar the cat and Mack the dog, for a quiet afternoon inside.

Moved by the ordeal, Peek Griffin said she may look for a new, safer home for Bagheera. Foss said he'd consider taking her, but he had to check at home first.