If you’ve ever wanted to just settle down in paradise and hang out with cats all day, it turns out that’s a viable career option!
God’s Little People Cat Sanctuary on the Greek island of Sysos posted a job announcement on their Facebook page last year looking for a caretaker for the 55 cats artist Joan Bowell and her husband have rescued over the years.
And if you’ve ever been to Greece, you know that stray cats in need are everywhere, so you can add to your menagerie every day of the week!
The home and rescue center is located in a “secluded nature preserved area” and you get quite a view from just about anywhere on the island!
The job advertisement assured people that “this is genuine and NOT a joke – friends, please feel free to verify!”
It turns out Bowell needed a break and was looking for “a mature and genuinely passionate cat lover who knows how to handle many cats and would love their company.” Preferably someone with “cat-whispering” skills.
After receiving an unbelievable 35,000 applications(!), Bowell chose an American to spend the winter at her cat sanctuary, Jeffyne Telson.
Telson is an animal lover who lives in California but typically spends winters at her home in Oregon. And she has plenty of experience working with cats at her own domestic rescue organization, RESQCATS.
She recently described her unexpected journey to Greece on Facebook.
It turns out Telson almost didn’t apply for the position and even deleted the e-mail with the application, despite encouragement from her partner Mitch to check it out!
“…I never imagined myself applying, although I had always dreamed of returning to the islands to help the Greek cats. The job would require me being away from Mitch and all my animals for several months.”
Telling her he would support her efforts 100%, Mitch encouraged Telson to apply, saying “…this job has your name written all over it! It’s a chance to live your dream…”
After writing to Bowell about her 21 years of experience with rescue cats, the artist traveled all the way to Santa Barbara to meet Telson in person and offer her the job.
Telson accepted, with a caveat:
“I ecstatically accepted under one condition: the offered salary was to be donated back to the cats.
Understand, I wanted the position, not because of the view and chance to live on a Greek island for free; I only wanted to help the cats and live my dream.”
A few weeks later, she set off for the tiny island of 22,0000 people and 13,000 stray cats.
Telson says she had to get used to caring for outdoor cats since her own organization requires adopters to keep their new pets inside.
But the property is safely nestled inside a nature preserve and she enjoyed watching the cats sun themselves and chase butterflies without fear of predators.
The two women also undertook a special project together:
“[Bowell] picked a colony at a Greek Orthodox church at the end of a mountain road overlooking the Aegean Sea. We spent the next four months rescuing the sickest and most vulnerable, as well as, spaying and neutering as many in the colony as possible. Eventually, homes were found for many of the rescues we saved.”
The experience also tested her emotionally since she encountered so many needy cats.
“I wondered, ‘How can I possibly help all these cats? How do I choose which ones to save and which to leave behind?’ I knew early on that I would have to find a way to cope with so much sadness. I’ve always said that we can only make a difference…one at a time. Somehow, I felt like I was now being put to that test.”
Like all people with a big heart, Telson realized she had to stick to doing what she could.
“I had chosen to see things in a different, more uplifting way. I had important work to do and in order to accomplish it, I talked to myself daily about focusing on the good and not being overwhelmed by the sorrow. I needed to stay in good spirits.”
Now that she’s home and reflecting on her once-in-a-lifetime experience, Telson is approaching her own service in a new way.
“We all have a chance to make a difference whether it is volunteering, donating to a non-profit or standing up for a cause. So remember, even the little things you do make a difference…and doing something is better than doing nothing!”
While tens of thousands applied for the position, it looks like the right person was chosen for what turned out to be a lot of hard work and emotional labor.
Telson summed up her description of her experience at God’s Little People by saying
“Saving one cat will not change the world, but for that one cat…the world will change forever.”
For anyone interested in visiting the cat sanctuary, Bowell now has a guest house available to rent and you can get in touch about it via the rescue’s Facebook page.
And Bowell is still looking for people to serve as caretakers for the sanctuary when she travels. Another American, Anna Novak, is in line to take Telson’s place, but it sounds like you can still get in touch if this is your dream job!
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