News & Thoughts > Stories from the Rainbow Bridge > Dewey The Small-Town Library Cat: A Community Memoir with Teeth ( and Whiskers )

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10/23/2010 15:23:44 PM by KapitN   Send Message to KapitN  1049  views, category: Stories from the Rainbow Bridge view all blogs

                

For a cat that started as a sickly stray, Dewey Readmore Books did remarkably well. Vicki Myron, a librarian at the Spencer Public Library in Iowa, had no idea how far his influence would spread when she found him cruelly stuffed in the book drop slot. But Dewey not only became a fixture of the library, but a symbol of the town’s spirit. In his nineteen years of life, people both local and global went to the library simply to see the friendly, goofy feline-- he even became the subject of a Japanese documentary. When Dewey finally passed in 2008, his legacy was captured in a best-selling memoir by Myron and Bret Witter.

Similar to John Grogan’s Marley and Me, the Dewey phenomenon has gone well beyond one book, and has inspired sequels, children’s adaptations, documentary features, and related merchandise. But unlike Marley, Dewey’s life wasn’t that of an ordinary household pet elevated to a merchandising goldmine, and holds up better to mass scrutiny. As a permanent resident of the Spencer Public Library, Dewey’s life was shared by thousands. His amiable presence in the community was a source of hope for the impoverished town, on both individual and collective levels. To Dewey, these antics were simply the natural responses of a cat with a cheerful demeanor-- hanging out on the library cart with his paws hanging off the edge just felt natural. But for countless library patrons, the simple companionship he offered was enough to cheer up a terrible day, and make the facility a hub of community activity.

Myron was Dewey’s favorite person, and she expresses her love for the cat through prose in an exemplary fashion. She drives home Dewey’s influence by using her own experience as a touchstone. When she had adopted Dewey, Myron herself was struggling, with a failed marriage and a young child to raise. Taking care of Dewey helped Myron pull herself through. When Myron was facing a double masectomy, Dewey’s gentle kindness was an invaluable source of comfort. When Dewey passed after a long illness, Myron retired from the library, but his influence deeply enriched her life; not only is she the first in her family to graduate college, but she’s now a bestselling author, and a major factor in Spencer’s recovery from a terrible financial crisis.

A new book, Dewey’s Nine Lives, continues the Dewey legacy with several people recounting their own stories about the cat’s influence. You can find out more about this book and the Dewey phenomenon here. But the original Dewey book is still available, and is strongly recommended; this is one case where the sentimentality is completely justified.

About the author: A freelance writer/cartoonist living in LA, with my fiance' and our wonderful cat. You can see my work at www.rubysworldcomic.com and rubynation.smackjeeves.com more >>

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