Amazing Rescuer Joan Bowell: God’s Little People are Her Treasures

Some of you may have read the wonderful rescue stories about Chili and Cookie, but the woman behind the rescues, is nothing short of remarkable herself.

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Joan Bowell, the generous woman behind God’s Little People in Greece, and several of her charges. (All photos courtesy of Joan Bowell)

 

Some of you may have read the wonderful rescue stories from God’s Little People of Chili and Cookie, but the woman behind the rescues, Joan Bowell, is, herself, nothing short of remarkable.  In chatting with her, we found that years ago she had heard about, and was inspired by, the amazing work being done by Lynea Lattanzio at The Cat House on the Kings, perhaps laying the groundwork for the future. This amazing woman was kind enough to take some time out to share some of her own story with Life With Cats, about how she came to Greece, her artistic talents, and, most of all, her love of cats.

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Dumpster kitties enjoying the spread.

LIFE WITH CATS:     Where are you originally from and what drew you to Greece?

JOAN BOWELL:      I’m originally from Denmark where I used to volunteer in one of the major Danish cat shelters. Then almost 7 years ago we decided to move to Greece for health reasons. For many years we’d found ourselves returning to the same largely unknown Greek island on our summer holidays and each time I found myself getting involved in feeding and caring for sick cats. I’d come to learn that cats had a very tough time throughout Greece. They’re considered a pest like rodents and I’d heard countless stories about them being poisoned, burnt, thrown in the ocean, kicked – and both sick cats and newborn kittens are regularly thrown in the dumpster. Basically it’s a very ignorant culture with an old agricultural mentality when it comes to animals. So part of the reason for choosing to come here was that I knew I could serve some purpose with the unwanted cats. Things were only gradually beginning to move in a different direction with regards to cats and animal welfare and I knew I wanted to make a positive change. Still, my involvement in cat rescue rather ‘happened upon me’.

 

 

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Benji, before and after, was Joan’s first street rescue.

 

 

LWC:      How did your cat rescuing begin? Was it something you had done before or was this a new venture?

JB:          We’d only been here for a few weeks before two tiny feral kittens appeared in our Greek garden. I discovered one of them had a bad respiratory infection and thus began my first experience with dealing with a feral kitten… not an easy task!! I managed to trap him and bring him to the vet. Kitten though was so feral that the vet couldn’t examine him and I was sent back home with the words that ‘it was very bad’ and I shouldn’t expect him to survive. But I’m a person with a lot of patience so I sat for hours each day luring sick kitten with canned food with antibiotics twice a day. After 14 days he was much better and he made a full recovery! He and his brother still live in our garden 6 years later.

 

A few months later I made my first “dumpster cat” rescue. It was overwhelmingly sad to experience just how many cats lived around the dumpsters – surviving by scouring through the garbage. I’d spotted this sad but incredibly sweet kitten. He was sat among a small colony of adult cats fighting over the scraps they could find in the dumpster. After noticing him a few times there was a cold and rainy day where I saw him looking really poorly and drenched from the rain. Apart from being sick with cold he had several bite wounds and a had a huge abscess on the side of his face – he’d clearly been attacked by a adult cat! I didn’t hesitate – I knew he’d die if he wasn’t rescued and so began a long string of rescues off the street.

 

LWC:      For how long have you been doing this and how many cats have you been able to take care of and save?

JB:          With no cat shelter to turn to I had no other option than to bring the sick and dying cats back home. By the end of the first year I’d rescued a total of 30 cats and realized just how big the problem was! I honestly had no idea!!

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Tiny, having a good time in the yard, was Joan’s very first rescue.

 

LWC:      The name of your rescue, God’s Little People, was inspired, correct? Can you share its meaning for you?

JB:          During the first year of rescue I started writing about the rescue on my blog God’s Little People. I started my blog before moving to Greece and it was just intended to share inspiring stories about animals under the mantle; “ANIMALS SHARE WITH US THE PRIVILEGE OF HAVING A SOUL” – a quote by Pythagoras. It resonated with the sentiments I’d come across in the teachings of a wise man. He spoke so reverently and respectfully about animals and referred to them as ‘God’s little people’ and humans ‘God’s big people’. He explained how humans have both a soul and a spirit and animals only have a soul. Therefore humans are Gods to animals and so whenever humans mistreat an animal – that would be how the animal experiences God. This understanding lodged so deeply within me. I couldn’t bear the thought of animals feeling God to be cruel at the hands of humans. So basically I wanted my blog to be all about a compassionate approach to our interaction with animals… My cat rescue came later but it felt natural to use the same name and carry on with this beautiful understanding.

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Some of the pack enjoying themselves.

 

 

 

LWC:      You shared that as things have progressed you found yourself in need of funds. In what ways are you reaching out to the public for support?

JB:          After privately covering all the costs for the cats for more than a year, the expenses became so huge that I started writing on Facebook, too, and involved people in the rescue stories and asking if they wanted to contribute to the cats. I was positively surprised at the wonderful response the first time I asked for help to raise funds for one of my rescues in need of dental work.

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LWC:      Can you tell me a bit about your artwork and how you decided to use it for the rescue? And is art something you have always done?

JB:         At this point I realized that I really needed to make much more of an effort to raise funds – I just simply couldn’t keep up with the costs involved. So I turned to my background in art and design – I studied at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts – and started making illustrations based on all the silly and whimsical moments I witnessed with the cats. I started selling the originals and made cards and prints for sale in my Etsy shop with all proceeds going directly to the cats. Also to keep things afloat I started doing sponsorships. All the while trying to hone my photographic skills to create nice photos of the cats and each day share new stories and images from the life of all the cats. Quite a task to do it all singlehandedly while also caring for all the cats. Since the first year it has steadily grown with 10 cats each year and we now have 60+ rescue cats plus feeding 15-20 stray cats each day.

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Some of the “crew members,” as Joan calls them, having a blast.

LWC:      How is your husband with your rescue efforts?

JB:         My husband is my greatest supporter and cooks all the meals and is always ready with a cup of coffee to keep me going. I’m responsible for all the cat rescues apart from one special character named Snowy. He is my husband’s one rescue from a time I had to leave the island. I was very proud to come back home and find this to incredibly sweet kitten which my husband had saved from the brink. Today he is the mascot of our place!

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Snowy, who has become the mascot around the house, was Joan’s husband’s rescue.

 

LWC:      What are your most immediate needs for God’s Little People at this time?

JB:         Sick and needy cats never cease to appear and each year comes with its orphaned and sadly discarded litters of kittens, but since we’ve basically just opened our home and garden for the cats – the lack of space and not least funding is a pressing issue and both sponsorships and the sale of my art is essential in keeping it all going. Adoption is another big and pressing issue. As it stands right now I simply couldn’t squeeze another cat in and the only way to make room for other needy cats is by some of all my amazing rescues to find loving adoptive homes.

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Tiny on one of Joan’s beautiful portraits.

 

LWC:      What might surprise people to learn about you?

JB:         My life is all about the cats but people might be surprised to learn that I’m not a collector of ‘all things cat’! My kitchen cupboards are not full of mugs with cute cat faces and my living room is not fitted with cat figurines or cat art on the walls and I don’t wear cat jewelry or T-shirts with cat prints! Still, I appreciate unique and whimsical cat inspired art and I LOVE making silly and whimsical illustrations based on the cat antics I observe on a daily basis. Right now I have a selection of cards and prints available in my Etsy shop – all proceeds goes directly towards food and medical care for all the cats in my private sanctuary and the many stray cats I feed each day. I post new stories and images each day. I have a great passion for photographing the cats in their world and my photography has become an indispensable way of recording all the rescues and daily stories.

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Chili “helping” Joan in the studio.

 

To follow Joan’s blog, please visit God’s Little People and her Facebook page or shop at Etsy to support her work.

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19 thoughts on “Amazing Rescuer Joan Bowell: God’s Little People are Her Treasures

  1. Joan, a lovely story. I hope with the awareness these media publications seem to bring, funds will start improving and more people will want to help the great cause.

    Love to you and the crew,
    Glenda

    1. I agree, Angela, and I think there are many of us that wish we were able to do what Joan and so many others are able to see through. That said, supporting people in their good works can go equally as far and is so appreciated. Wishing you warmest of holidays, too.

  2. Joan, you’re such a wonderful lady and I love that the cats thrive under your and your husbands loving care.
    I would love to look after and care for the cats in the sanctuary as it would be very rewarding.
    I have had cats around me since I was tiny and to this day am looking after 3 cats and a visiting cat , all of who are happy and friendly.
    Wishing you well and much happiness.
    Kind regards xx

  3. The more I learn about your rescue and work and the cats my love for you grows. I had no idea cats were so mistreated in Greece. The cats stories are amazing. It brings be joy to see how beautiful and happy the cats are. It must be extremely difficult to see the cats that are not in sanctuary and having to limit the amount of cats you can take in. In the city I work in there is an abundance of stray and feral cats. We get constant citizen complaints about them. Some people will feed them but then become overwhelmed when the population reproduces so quickly. At least overall most people are not cruel to the cats. It is very difficult as only so many cats can be brought into the shelter and adopted out. Thank goodness for you and your care for the cats 💜😸 on the island.
    Kindest Regards,
    Elizabeth Summerfield USA

  4. Dear Joan,
    I don’t have a facebook account so I am writing you over this found page an hope this message finds you well.
    When I read your actual offer to take responsibility for the 55 or more cats under your care I thought you must be a soul mate to me. Since I am 35 years old, my wish has been to develop a rescue place especially for cats. Unfortunately I never had the place, the time and enough money to create such a lovely place you did. I was many times on Greek islands and land (Santorini, Rhodos, Peloponnes, Chalkidiki) and always saw the so sadly and drastic situation of so many street cats and also dogs. Each time I spent there the first thing I did was going to the next supermarket to buy cat food to feed some of the many so beautiful but hungry and thin (often like a sheet of paper) creatures. Each time when my holidays were over it was heartbreaking to leave the cats which came for their daily meals and trusted me. I am 51 years old now but I never gave up my ambition and wish to support and take part in such a great idea. I would love to take care of all your rescued cats but I would never ever leave my own above all beloved cat (suffering from cancer and other chronic diseases) alone as long as she is alive. She needs different medication everyday and I am more than grateful that she is still here with me. One day when she is gone I hope that there still will be such a great and unique offer you made.
    Best regards,
    Jeannette

  5. If you are looking for an opportunity with someone who will be helping to sponsor you check out my website,ottercreekanimalsanctuaryandshelter.com

    we . have over 100 cats and in total almost double that in over a dozen categories of domestic and farm animals, outside of Ottawa, Canada.

    check me out, I am looking for that special party to take over….

    stephen overbury

  6. Im a certified millwright and would love to help out there i would be content caring for kittys prr prr prr I’ve had kitties all my life a lot of died in my arms it never gets any easier I used to help out with the spay neuter program for low-income and seniors and catching feral kitties and trying to find homes for them if not we would let them live out their lives on my property but they’re all gone now and they’re sold my property

  7. I count among the huge cat lovers and this just touched my heart. Joan, you are an angel and whatever your are doing is priceless and no one will ever pay you enough for it. Its so encouraging and challenging too. I definitely will dedicate more time not only to my cats but also to the rescue mission. Thanks a bunch.

  8. Hello madam bowell! ive informed by your need so that i am very interresting to do tis work.Give love for keeping a chat or many chats it is my options and my desire.i’ve looking for this job for a long time please i like chats i am ready to come there immediately please if you will choose somebody don’t forget me because i am a one who you are looking for.You just touched my heart to give me this opportunity you are so very kind may God bless you.Thanks for your comprehension

  9. I would like to be considered for your program to help. I have 3 at the mo all rescued. The position in Greece would have been ideal but if you know of any others please let me know. I am also a devout Christian.
    God Bless
    Morgan Slessor

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