Aug 30, 2010 5:46 AM by Sharlee Barriere
LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - When the USS Orleck departed Orange,
Texas, for Lake Charles on May 18, the Gearing-class destroyer had
four secret stowaways. They managed to remain undetected for the
vessel's two-day trip to Lake Charles.
Once the Orleck docked at its new homeport on the Calcasieu
River, Debbie Lynn Hoffpauir and other USS Orleck Naval Museum
volunteers discovered the kitten quartet as they inspected the
newly arrived ship.
Hoffpauir was uncertain how long the kittens had been without
their mother, but he later heard reports that a few dockworkers in
Orange saw a cat jump from the Orleck before its departure.
Hoffpauir, among the volunteers giving their Saturdays to
prepare the destroyer as a museum, took charge of the thin, feral
Using what she described as a raccoon-type trap, she managed to
bring all four kittens home safely in just a couple of days
"I knew they would need a lot of love and care," Hoffpauir
She said she and her 11-year-old son, Je'An, spent a
considerable about of time playing with and domesticating the
kittens, three females and one male.
The kittens' favorite activity in the Hoffpauir home is playing
wound-up on catnip in their custom built, three-tiered cage with a
fan to keep them cool.
Now about 4 months old, the kittens are loving, docile and can
even be held upside down.
Hoffpauir spent eight years in the Navy Reserve. Her duties
included working on the Orleck when it returned to Orange in 2001.
With these ties, and in honor of their voyage, Hoffpauir decided to
name the cats Orleck, Gearing, Destroyer and Joseph, Joseph being
the first name of the USS Orleck's namesake.
She put three up for adoption, and all three were quickly taken.
The new owners said they would keep the names, she said.
"I had tags made for each kitten with their name on the front
and USS Orleck Rescue laser etched on them," she said.
In preparation for adoption, Hoffpauir had the animals neutered
and immunized with the help of the Animal Angels' S.N.A.P. facility
in Lake Charles.
Hoffpauir kept Gearing, the runt of the litter. She is quick to
mention that cats don't have owners, they own you.