In 2010, two expats, Joan and Richard Bowell, were living on the Greek Island of Syros when a stray cat gave birth in their garden. The cat-loving couple quickly adopted the mother, Pepper, and her kittens, Tiny and Ninja, all of whom quickly assimilated with the other felines already living within their animal-friendly home.
Years later, however, this mixed feline brood had grown into collection of 60 plus cats, largely owing to the islands’ reputation for strays, and an island sanctuary called God’s Little People Cat Rescue. Such a sprawling family couldn’t possibly accompany the couple back to New York, where they had been temporarily posted for Richard’s job at the UN.
This conundrum drove the Bowell’s to advertise for a paid caretaker to watch over the cats in August 2018, only to drew 40,000 applicants in a matter of weeks. The surge in support caught the couple off guard – largely because they’d put out similar calls in previous years only to receive 25 to 30 applications. Within weeks, they’d had to modify their Facebook posting to encourage people to stop applying.
Despite the remarkable surge in interest, the Bowell’s still managed to find their perfect candidate. a Santa Barbara resident who’d been running her own cat rescue organization, ResQcats, for the past two decades. Jeffyne Telson had even visited the Greek Islands on three different occasions, each time photographing the sheer number of strays that she found there.
Telson had read the couple’s advert with interest, but ultimately put it aside because she knew thousands of people were applying for this dream position. It was actually Telson’s husband, Mitch, who insisted Jeffyne follow through on her application.
“Jeffyne, this has YOUR name written all over it,” he said. “You have dreamed of going to Greece to make a difference for the cats! Are you going to wait until you are too old to try for your dream?!”
ResQcat’s mission dovetailed so perfectly with what the Bowell’s were doing in Syros that the couple responded to Telson immediately. Within weeks, the trio had met up in Santa Barbara, and soon thereafter Teflon had the job.
And despite feeling slightly bad for the 40,000 disappointed cat lovers from 90 countries who applied, we’re also thrilled for the 60-plus felines who will find themselves under the care of an imminently qualified cat lady! The rest of us will just have to settle for the upcoming film that’s being made about what’s certainly the world’s most idyllic animal rescue operation.
J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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