If I found that description in the want ads, my job hunt would be over. I guess I’ll have to settle for being a self-employed crazy cat lady right now, though, since there doesn’t seem to be a need for one in most industries at the moment. How puzzling.
I tried to deny my love of animal books for a long time. Then, this summer, I read Thomas French’s Zoo Story, and my fate was sealed. But I still tried to avoid cat books for awhile, to try to avoid the obvious cat lady stigma. Then I realized that I own cat print dish towels and oven mits, and I gave up.
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron, drew my attention for a few reasons:
1: It’s about a super cute, fluffy orange cat.
2: He’s a library cat. Love it! I don’t know how book stores and libraries came to be havens for furry little kitties, but I am a fan. Two of my favorite things in one place, how ever am I supposed to resist? Someday, when I own my Lovely Little Book Store, it will totally have a cat. Preferably a Hemingway six-toed cat.
3: This particular feline literati lived in Iowa, for which I have a particular soft spot. I’ve mentioned before my love for my home state, Ohio. But I also adore Missouri, and Iowa, the states my mom and dad are from respectively. I’ve spent Christmases, Thanksgivings, vacations, family reunions, and countless other weeks among the corn fields of Iowa, and I love it there. When Vicki writes about Des Moines, Sioux City, and Lake Okoboji, I’ve been there. I may not have grown up on a farm or in a small town (at least not most of my life), but these are my people. My parents are those hard-working, small-town Midwesterners, and reading Vicki’s straight forward prose felt a little like going home. I may live in a beautiful California city by the beach now, but I’ll always be a Midwestern girl at heart.
“Let them have the oceans and mountains, their beaches and their ski resorts. I’ll take Iowa.”
There are few books that I read that I don’t have any criticism for, but this is one of those books. I fell in love with Dewey from the first moment the librarians pulled his tiny, frostbitten body from the after-hours drop box. I loved the pictures of Dewey stuffed into so many too-small boxes, and the stories of how he changed peoples lives, especially his friendship with Crystal, a disabled girl who could neither move nor speak. And I didn’t just cry, I sobbed as his story came to a close. He was loving, and even lively, to the end, and when I finished the book, I was sorry there were no more antics, no more pictures, no more stories.
Sure, your English professor is not going to assign this book in your Great American Novels class, but if you like cats, you’re going to enjoy this book.
Perhaps this makes me sound ridiculous, but I connected so deeply with Dewey’s story, with what he did for the struggling town of Spenser, and for Vicki as she struggled too.
We got our Cambria during a time of unparalleled grief in my life. She was a six pound, one year-old, full bred Siamese who was terrified of the world after having been dumped, probably by an amateur breeder (her tail is too short, and she’s surprisingly stocky for her breed, so she’s not good for breeding or showing), and then snared by a trap originally set out for raccoons. For the first week she did nothing but hide under furniture, but having a scardy cat to love and care for that desperately needed me literally pulled me back from the brink. (I’m convinced, and so were the rescue workers who saved her, that we saved Cambria’s life as well. She went from shaking uncontrollably whenever a human entered the room and eating just enough to survive to being an irascible bundle of energy and affection who loves to play, snuggle, and eat as much human food as she can sneak away. Love did that for us both.)
I’m now 100% a believer in animal therapy. Depressed? Lonely? Get a pet, or at least pick up a book such as this one. It will not make all your issues vaporize, but the love of an animal can definitely place you back among the land of the living. It worked for Dewey and Cambria; it also worked for Vicki and the people of Spencer, Iowa, and it worked for me.