Two Rescue Kittens Are on Cloud Nine After Finding the Right Adopter

October 10, 2018

a rescued cat

Recently adopted Fus sits on co-pilot Steven Thomas’ lap during the flight from St.Croix to the U.S.

Last year, eight days before Christmas, Ted DuPuis, founder and pilot of Cloud Nine Rescue Flights, made his fifth and final trip from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, transporting orphaned cats and dogs from the ASPCA’s emergency shelter to mainland rescue groups where they would be made available for adoption.

Cloud Nine Rescue Flights team

Cloud Nine Pilot Ted Dupois with ASPCA responders in St. Croix.

Of the two dozen precious cargo on that last flight, one pair of kittens had already been adopted by Ted’s co-pilot, Steven Thomas. They occupied a crate near the front of the twin engine turboprop plane.

“When we were in cruise mode, we took them out and played with them,” recalls Ted, who has flown more than 2,500 animals to their rescue over the past 10 years via the all-volunteer, non-profit organization.


Steven’s newly adopted kittens on his lap during the flight.

Saving Lives in St. Croix

After first being contacted in October, ASPCA responders spent three months on the island assisting local authorities with animal search-and-rescue, emergency sheltering for displaced animals, reunification efforts for lost pets and pet supply distribution and transport.

rescued animals ready for transport

Homeless animals in St. Croix wait to be loaded onto Ted DuPois’ plane for a flight to the mainland and a chance at adoption.

“We were dealing with a pet overpopulation problem made worse by the hurricane,” says Jessica Rushin, Partnerships Senior Manager for the ASPCA’s Field Investigations & Response team. “Relocating homeless animals out of the disaster zone allowed us to focus on helping owned pets and animals needing medical care and boarding.”

Ted, who in 2011, transported 52 cats to Seattle at the ASPCA’s request after the Joplin, Missouri, tornado, flew two back-to-back trips in November and three in December from St. Croix to the U.S. for the ASPCA, relocating a total of 112 animals. 

Finding the Right Felines

At the ASPCA temporary shelter on St. Croix, Ted had watched as Steven went about selecting a kitten to take home to his family. Steven intended to adopt just one, and his strategy was simple: “I’d put my hand in the pen with the kittens, and the friendliest and most affectionate one would be the one I’d choose,” he explains. “But these two immediately came over and wouldn't stop playing with my hand, while wrestling each other at the same time. It was perfect since my two boys at home are also playful and inseparable.” 

Ted and two rescued kittens

Ted, left, with precious cargo. Right: Steven’s kittens on their flight home.

Steve and Ted’s Excellent Adventures

Steven, a commercial-rated hobby pilot, and Ted, who works in the aviation industry, have known each other since they first learned to fly. 

“I knew when I started flying I wanted to give back to the community with my aviation skills,” says Ted, who volunteered at his local animal shelter and adopted his first dog when he started flying. “The more I did it, the more I liked it.”

Unless called in to help during a disaster, Ted typically flies two transports a month. He is present for every Cloud Nine flight.

Ted and Steven

Ted DuPuis, right, and Steven Thomas have known each other since their early flying days.

Ted and his family have several rescued animals, including a retired racing greyhound, cats, fish and a bunny. But he resists the urge to adopt animals from his transports.

“I know how it feels to want to take them all home,” explains Ted. “But through transport I can save a lot more. There’s a never-ending need to get animals out of overpopulated areas to places where they can find homes. And there are few things in life where you can have that level of certainty about the impact you’re having. It’s extremely rewarding.”

“When Ted said they needed help getting animals out and supplies in, I immediately jumped at the chance,” adds Steven. This was one of those times where I felt I could personally make a difference.”

Home Sweet Home

On December 17, the plane was loaded with animals for the last time of the year by ASPCA responders. As it headed into the skies, the meows and barks on board subsided, and the cabin grew quiet. “The animals always settle down,” explains Ted. “I think rescued animals handle transport better than existing pets. They’ve gone through so much already and are used to uncertainty.”

The next day, at the Thomas home, Christmas came early. “There were lots of joyful tears,” Steven recalls. “We love animals, but there had been a hole in my wife's heart since her previous cat Guinevere passed away.” 

The new feline additions to the family were quickly named by Steven’s young sons, who chose Wheatley and Fus Ro Dah (Fus for short), both based on video games. The family’s other pets include eight hens and a rooster—also named after video game characters—who free-range in the yard, and rescue dogs Yuna and Cloud.

Steven's son and one of the rescued cats

Steven’s son Ares cuddles Wheatley.

“What Wheatley and Fus love most is wrestling with our dogs,” says Steven. “We attribute it to them being raised with all the puppies at the temporary shelter in St. Croix.”

One of the rescued cats and Steven's dog

Fus, left, cudding with Yuna. 

For both Ted and Steven, a feeling of euphoria greets them every time a Cloud Nine Rescue Flight’s wheels touch down.

“Arriving at the receiving destinations is a great feeling,” says Ted. “These are animals that would have died for whatever reason, and we’ve brought them to a place where they have an almost 100 percent chance of adoption.”

“It’s our way of using what we're most passionate about to help others,” adds Steven. “All these dogs and cats want is to be loved, and there's nothing greater we could share with the world.”

Ted and Steven’s Next Stop: Cloud 9 indeed.

Originally published on Petful.