Lloyd Griffiths questioned his decision to volunteer himself and his wife Arlene Page for pick-up duty of 15 kittens living in North Carolina.
“I was a little bit anxious about how this was going to work out. We have an SUV, but we don’t drive our own cats very often — just to the vet and they don’t like it,” said Griffiths, a professor at George Mason University who served as dean of the Volgenau School of Engineering from 1997 to 2012.
The Oakton couple volunteered with a new rescue group called Pets Bring Joy to drive seven hours to Mooresville, N.C., a town near Charolotte, to pick up the 15 orange, pink-nosed kittens, which were found living under a forclosed home, which was abandoned several years ago.
After spending Saturday in a hotel, Griffiths and Page drove to a home on Sunday where a woman was temporarily caring for the kittens.
After loading their beige Lexus 350 with kittens divided between two soft carriers, the couple began the return trip to Northern Virginia.
“Partly because they were all tuckered out and because of the noises of the car, they all just fell asleep,” Griffiths said. “We only had to stop to empty the litter boxes a few times just to keep the smell down.”
Page said she and her husband, who enjoy a good road trip, spent much of the time talking on the way down, but whispering on the way back.
“On the way back with the kittens, we found that every time we started talking the kittens would wake up,” she said.
Driving 14 hours in two days and hauling a load of kittens might not sound ideal, but Griffiths and Page said the trip was an opportunity to aid a cause they believe strongly in: bettering the welfare of animals.
“We don’t feel like we’re in a position to foster cats because we have three. So we decided to volunteer to be transportation,” Page said. “It really does make you feel good to do something good outside of yourself.”
Once back in Fairfax County, the 15 orange kittens were divided into three foster homes, receiving care to get them healthy and add some weight before they are adopted. As of Wednesday, two of the 15 kittens were spoken for, but the others are in need of good homes.
This year has been a particularly busy year for needy kittens, said organizers of a new cat rescue group, Pets Bring Joy. The organization, which received its 501(c)(3) designation in April, serves as an umbrella organization for five small rescue groups fostering cats in the area.
“There are so many mom-and-pop rescue groups that are paying for things [like veterinary visits] out of pocket and don’t get a lot of recognition,” Pets Bring Joy founder Jacquie Barker said. “I think what happens to mom-and-pop shops is they get stretched to the breaking point and then they’re stuck... My goal with Pets Bring Joy was to help those mom-and-pop groups.”
When Barker received an email asking for help finding homes for the 15 orange kittens, which her group has dubbed the “Orange Crush,” she saw it as an opportunity to help animals while promoting the efforts of Pets Bring Joy.
“We’re hoping that Orange Crush will help us draw attention to other issues [facing cats,” she said. “My original idea [for Pets Bring Joy] was to become a kind of ‘Make-A-Wish’ organization for rescue groups. But the IRS doesn’t allow public charities to be just a fundraising arm for someone else. So, instead I’m sponsoring animals...
“I chose Pets Bring Joy as a name because I’ve had a lifelong love of animals. I’m a firm believer that all living things are sacred. Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, whatever you choose will bring joy to you.”
Pets Bring Joy volunteer Julianne Verrier, of Annandale, said populations of stray cats swell when owners do not have their pets spayed or neutered. Additionally, pets are often abandoned by families or students who move.
“This year seems to be the worst kitten season that we’ve ever seen,” she said. “People are just abandoning these cats that are not spayed or neutered.”
The group also runs a trap, neuter and release program, hoping to lower the cat population through humane means. Most recently, the group visited a Springfield residence where the owner, a retired military officer, wanted to treat cats that had roamed on to his property.
“When we’re on people’s property trapping cats they say, ‘Where have you been? We didn’t know about you.’ But [at that point] they’ve already gone from a few cats to 30 cats,” Verrier said. “It’s become a full-time job... We need foster homes and donations. We’re just a small army out here trapping and caring.”
This year, Pets Bring Joy has raised $17,000. The money is spent quickly, however, Barker said.
“The Orange Crush has really broken the bank,” she said. “There’s an upward [ceiling] of what we can charge for adoption fees [$150]. But each kitten is costing us about $500-$600 in veterinarian fees... The adoption fee isn’t covering what it costs to get these kittens healthy.”
Barker’s work and those of foster volunteers is inspiring, Griffiths said.
“When you see these foster parents giving so much... At least from my perspective, what we did was very little,” he said.
For more information on Pets Bring Joy, visit PetsBringJoy.org.