Shipbuilders who either aided or directly participated in the rescue of several kittens included, from left to right, Michele Affolter, Curtis Hedgepeth, Maynard Brinkley, Aaron Holloway, Derrick Johnson, Seth Davis and Brian Faulk. All work in O46 except for Davis, who is an O43 maintenance electrician. Photo by Ashley Cowan

NNS Teamwork on Display in Kitten Rescues

Published June 26, 2024

Shipbuilders recently conducted two lifesaving operations along the waterfront, and several kittens still have eight lives remaining because of it.

The first rescue came on June 14, when Dawn Morris (O27) animal management, received a report that newborn kittens were lodged inside a hollow lamp pole lying on its side. She discovered the kittens with their mother, and they looked to be about 3 days old. She was able to trap the mother, but the kittens remained deep inside the pole.

Morris called O46 Foreman Michele Affolter, who immediately dispatched Maynard Brinkley and Derrick Johnson to the scene. Using long-handled trash grabbers, they plucked all but one kitten to safety. The remaining one was lodged in the light fixture, and it appeared to be in bad shape.

Kitten Rescue Story

A call went out to Seth Davis, an O43 maintenance electrician. He was told there was an emergency and they needed his help.

“When I got over there, I saw this kitten stuck in a light pole,” he said.

He had to take apart the head of the pole and pull out the wiring while not hurting the kitten. Even then, they couldn’t rescue it.

“We tried to grab him, and ended up pulling him out by his tail with pair of needle-nose pliers – very gently,” he said.

“We couldn’t get it out any other way,” Morris explained. “It was literally dying, soaking wet from drool and panting.” It recovered after several minutes in an air-conditioned car.

The second rescue happened days later. Morris credited Rob Shohan, an O31 chemist, with contacting her after hearing a kitten crying on the evening of June 19. He came in early the next morning with Morris, and they were able to pinpoint the location.

The kitten was at the bottom of a 6-foot pipe. Brian Faulk and Aaron Holloway, both O46, were able to pull the kitten to safety thanks to some shipyard ingenuity. Faulk improvised a rescue tool using PVC pipe and blue wire, which formed a loop at the end. Working together, Fault and Holloway carefully roped the animal and pulled it to freedom.

“It was almost like fishing,” Holloway joked. “We do a little bit of everything.”

Kitten Rescue Story

NNS manages a large population of cats along its sprawling waterfront, using a Trap-Neuter-Return policy. Studies have shown it to be a successful, cost effective and humane way of controlling feral cat populations. Cats are trapped, neutered, vaccinated and returned to their original location. Young kittens are tamed and put up for adoption.

NNS also uses feeding stations to help control their location.

Some of the rescued kittens have been spoken for. Anyone interested in adopting a remaining shipyard kitten can email Morris.