Antonio M. Rosario, a Kensington-based photographer with a life-saving eye for detail, has a new subject and more web traffic than he’s used to after rescuing a kitten from a decidedly tight spot on Sunday.
Rosario spotted his calico companion, Mercedes, trapped in the turn-signal housing of one of her namesake cars while he was driving down Ocean Parkway on his way to Brighton Beach with his wife.
As he tells it, “I look out behind me and out the window and in the adjacent lane I see a Mercedes S550 with its left front turn signal light missing from the housing. In this housing is the little face of a kitten crying.”
Rosario flagged down the driver, and after a half-hour rescue mission that was complicated by a scorching engine block and the fact that the Mercedes’ driver didn’t know how to open the hood, he managed to lure Merci out from the car’s undercarriage with a morsel of hamburger meat.
“I can’t believe that I saw her,” Rosario told the Brooklyn Eagle. “The car is behind me and she’s in this dark, shaded housing 15 feet away. It’s an amazing piece of luck that my eyes locked on her. I’m just glad that the driver didn’t want the cat.”
Rosario and his wife postponed their beach date in favor of a trip to the Prospect Park Animal Clinic, and Merci, who seems to be about seven weeks old and a former stray, is now convalescing happily at her new Kensington home.
“Merci is turning out to be an incredibly friendly cat,” said Rosario. “She’s got a really attractive personality, which seems odd for a cat who was stuck in an engine.”
Serendipitous animal adoptions are nothing new for the 47-year-old, Manhattan-born photographer, who says, “In another, altered universe, I’m a crazy cat lady.”
He’s cared for more cats than he can count, and he says that merciful circumstances similar to the ones that brought him his latest pet, led him to one of his all-time favorites.
“The best animal I’ve ever lived with I found on Canal Street,” he said. “Some guy was throwing him out into the street, and I grabbed [the cat] and said, ‘What are you doing? Why are you throwing this cat out?’ He said, ‘You take him.’
"I got this little black kitten and it lived 20 years, became a 20-pound big black panther. One of the best cats ever, and if I had not been getting off the train at the right time it never would have happened. My ex-wife called him our Science Diet experiment.”
But it’s safe to say Rosario’s never gotten this much attention for one of his on-the-fly adoptions. He posted his account of Merci’s rescue on his blog, which he uses mostly to promote his photography work, on Sunday, and since then he’s drawn the attention of MSNBC, The Huffington Post, this publication, and, he says, 2,000 to 3,000 itinerant browsers daily.
It’s perhaps not surprising that a feel-good story featuring in-focus pictures of a rags-to-riches kitten won the devotion of the Internet, and Rosario doesn’t pretend ignorance to the publicity potential of a good cat story.
“It’ll help me pay for her vet bills,” he said. “I’m a person who loves animals and this crazy story happened and I’m not gonna not share it.”
Many Brooklynites have likely already seen Rosario’s non-feline photography. One of his borough clients is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and a current run of bus, payphone and subway ads features one of his shots of the garden.
He’s also working on a project he calls “Sitting on Ocean,” in which he snaps candid shots of locals sitting on the many park benches along Ocean Parkway with his iPhone camera.
As it happens, Rosario’s iPhone, as well as the smart phones of a group of concerned strangers, may have played a key role in saving Merci’s life.
According to Rosario, one of the first moves he made as he attempted to rescue Merci was to start canvassing passersby for advice on how to open the hood of an S550.
No one knew offhand, but Rosario quickly amassed a small crack team of roadside Googlers. Before long, they’d come up with an answer, and Rosario credits them with helping to save his new cat’s life. He only wishes he’d gotten their names to thank them.
“I had a real feeling of a like a good New York story where people are coming together for a little animal that they didn’t’ have to help,” he said. “They all supported me and my wife in making sure we got her out safe, the unnamed people.”