Staff Spotlight: Valerie Jones

It’s University Press Week for AAUP members like UPM. And once again, we’re participating in the UPWeek Blog Tour.

The theme for this year’s University Press Week is “Celebrate Community,” which is meant to include not only academic or campus communities, but also communities of readers across North America, to the very geographically-based communities in which university presses are based.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to spotlight the community involvement of UPM project editor Valerie Jones. Below read about her extensive volunteer work as a spay/neuter advocate in the Jackson community.

Find more great staff spotlight reads today from our partner presses: Seminary Co-Op Bookstores, Wayne State University Press, University of Washington Press, University of Wisconsin Press, Johns Hopkins University Press, University of Chicago Press, and Purdue University Press,   

Editing books is my day job, but most weeks I also moonlight as a cat trapper, aka a TNR practitioner. Trap-neuter-return involves catching feral/community cats, transporting them to a spay/neuter clinic, keeping them for recovery after surgery, and then returning them to their original colony (or socializing and adopting them out in the case of young kittens).

Valerie Jones
I embarked upon this second vocation reluctantly, as I dislike creating stress for any animal, and feral cats are more than a little grumpy when they realize they are confined to a trap. But by reminding myself that spay and neuter is crucial for feline welfare, both to reduce the overpopulation of street cats in general and to improve the lives of individual cats (and, not insignificantly, the lives of their caretakers), I overcame my qualms and threw myself into developing my trapping techniques.

My mission is to see as many Jackson-area cats as possible get fixed, and I estimate that over the past eight or nine years I’ve helped with the trap-neuter-return of close to a thousand cats, preventing countless litters.

The Big Fix Clinic, operated by the nonprofit Mississippi Spay and Neuter, is an essential partner in this work, and I am sincerely grateful for their excellent services. I support them by volunteering at outreach events to help educate the community about the importance of spay/neuter for cats and dogs. Mississippi, like many other states, has disturbingly high kill rates in animal shelters due to cat and dog overpopulation, and the Big Fix Clinic addresses this by providing affordable surgery.

Similar to when working with authors and their manuscripts, I call upon a combination of patience, precision, a helpful spirit, an eagle eye, and a “cat whisperer” intuition to communicate with a distinctive, sometimes temperamental, breed, so that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Well, that may be stretching the comparison, but only a little!

I have gotten other UPM staff involved in my cat rescue too—recently our order supervisor adopted an adorable orange and white kitten (“Tiger”) that I caught in a restaurant parking lot. I’ve climbed into porch rafters, descended into a storm drain, crawled under cars and through bushes, and driven dozens of miles on winding country roads to rescue kittens in danger, and it makes my efforts totally worthwhile to see them adopted into purrfect loving homes!