It turns out that you can make a career out of taking care of cats while living on an amazing European island. Now, who could say no to that?
Last year, God’s Little People Cat Sanctuary on the Greek island of Syros posted a job opening on their Facebook page. The job entailed taking care of 55 cats that Joan Bowell, artist, and her husband rescued over the years.
Stray cats are all over Greece so it’s not hard to imagine the need for a sanctuary. The location of the sanctuary, and the home that comes with it, is incredible. You can enjoy spectacular views from nearly every spot on the island.
Joan Bowell needed a break so she posted the job advertisement on Facebook, saying: “This is genuine and NOT a joke – friends, please feel free to verify!” The ideal candidate was “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 the post on Facebook was published, 35,000 applications came in. Out of all of these cat-lovers, Bowell chose Jeffyne Telson to spend the winter caring for the cats.
Telson lives in California but spends most of her winters in Oregon. She is a cat lover with a lot of experience taking care of the furry creatures at her own domestic rescue organization RESQCATS.
Recently, she reported on her unforeseen trip to Greece on Facebook.
Telson almost didn’t even send out her application, despite her husband Mitch’s encouragement.
“…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.”
Mitch encouraged his wife to apply for the job, saying “…this job has your name written all over it! It’s a chance to live your dream…”
Telson told Bowell all about her 21 years of experience with rescue cats and so, Bowell decided to fly out to Santa Barbara to meet up with Telson and offer her the job. She accepted the job, under one condition:
“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.”
Not much later, Telson flew out to the small island with a population of only 22,000 people and about 13,000 stray cats. When she arrived, she had to get used to the care of the outdoor cats since her own organization keeps the pets inside.
However, the sanctuary is located inside of a nature preserve so the cats could safely enjoy themselves outside chasing butterflies or laying in the sun.
Bowell and Telson also decided to take on 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.”
They encountered a lot of cats in need which was emotionally testing for Telson.
“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.”
Telson couldn’t let these emotions stand in her way and she continued doing all she could do.
“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.”
After experiencing this incredible once-in-a-lifetime adventure, she has changed the approach of her own service.
“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!”
It seems like Bowell chose the right person for the job out of all of those thousands of applicants. Telson describes her experience at God’s Little People as follows:
“Saving one cat will not change the world, but for that one cat…the world will change forever.”
Would you like to visit the sanctuary? That is possible! Bowell has created a guest house that can be rented. Get in touch via the rescue’s Facebook page.
In case this article has made you envious of Telson, Bowell is looking for another caretaker while she travels. Anna Novak, another American, is in the running of becoming Telson’s replacement but it seems like the position hasn’t been given away just yet.