The kitten was just six weeks old – so small he could fit in the palm of your hand. And ironically, that’s exactly where he chose to curl up and fall asleep while we waited for our newest Softie to arrive.
The shoot that day had been fraught with obstacles – the biggest one being that downtown Baltimore was a total no-go area thanks to the arrival of the Grand Prix. All the major streets had been shut down and converted into high-speed raceways while thousands of attendees, cars, drivers and crews flooded into the city. Somehow in the midst of it all, our photographer and I had managed to find our way to Ground Zero – home base to the championship squad of Sarah Fisher Harman’s Racing team. Even more surprising, our friends from BARCS had managed to do the same and arrived with six tiny kittens in tow.
We were there to photograph our newest Softie, Indy Race Car Driver, Josef Newgarden – animal lover and self-confessed “Cat Guy.” The opportunity had come up virtually overnight through an introduction from the people at Best Friends Animal Society. Not only was Josef headed to Baltimore to race, but animals were a cause near and dear to his heart. (After all, we’re talking a guy whose Facebook cover page features him wearing a kitty sweater.)
When Josef arrived on the set, three things were immediately obvious. One, he loved kitties. Two, his crew loved him. And three, if he hadn’t gone into racing, you’d probably see him on the pages of GQ or Esquire – yep, he’s that handsome. Qualifying rounds were starting that afternoon so, knowing time was tight, we put him in front of the camera and handed him MJ, the kitten sacked out in my hands. From that minute on, we had a front row seat to a burgeoning love affair. MJ was no longer interested in sleeping, instead he wanted to cuddle, nuzzle and burrow himself as close to Josef’s chin, head and face as is kittenly possible. Had MJ just found the man of his dreams? Whatever it was, the feeling was obviously mutual. For the next 30 minutes, we were voyeurs watching sparks fly between our handsome boy wonder and a totally besotted furball.
A few days later, we cheered Josef on as he raced at breakneck speeds around the city of Baltimore. We cheered even louder when he credited his second place finish to a little good luck charm named MJ – a fact that didn’t escape his teammates who, according to track scuttlebutt, all demanded kitty time before their next race.
To be honest, on shoot day we fantasized that maybe Josef would end up adopting MJ, but realized that between distance and circumstances, that was probably a pipe dream. Never have we been so happy to be proven wrong. Less than two weeks later, we received a late night text saying Josef couldn’t stop thinking about MJ. [useful_banner_manager banners=9 count=1]On Friday, the 13th Josef’s adoption application was officially approved and plans are now underway to get MJ to his new home in Nashville. Now really, does a love story get any more romantic than that?