The cat who touched the world

Everyone needs to be touched.

In the best of times—in the worst of times, people need a companion. Or a pet. But, like finding a true friend, you don’t seek one. You find each other.

Like what happened in the winter of 1988 at the public library of Spencer Iowa, when librarian Vicki Myron found a ragged yellow cat in the book return. Hoarse from crying all night, frost-bitten from the minus twelve temperature, the cat came out of the book bin—into Vicki Myron’s life—and into the lives of everyone the cat, named ‘Dewey,’ has personally touched.

Dewey quickly settled into the library, with the permission of the library’s staff and board of directors. He played the role of ‘staff supervisor’—which he more than amply filled. His ‘salary’ consisted of food donations from grateful library patrons.

It was the worst of times in Iowa. The farming depression of the 80s was in its highest. Farmers were forced to sell farms their families had been tilling for generations.
In the midst of this depression, people found solace in books (the World Wide Web was still three years into the future) and Spencer’s public library soon became the focus of people from all walks of life who became avid patrons. For children and those who loved stories, there was the library’s “Story Hour,” when kids and sometimes adults would sit around Vicki or whoever was the storyteller at the moment.

And Dewey was there for them, purring, touching them and listening with them. Vicki Myron said Dewey was a special friend to “the disabled, the elderly, the homeless, kids . . .” People who needed comforting. He had the knack of knowing which people needed a friend. And he was never shy around people.

Vicki herself found a friend in Dewey. Estranged from her drunk husband, she was raising a teenaged daughter all by herself. Vicki’s life was made better with Dewey’s friendship. It was a friendship she would share in all of Dewey’s eighteen years as the library’s official cat.

Dewey’s story made the headlines, which would make him world famous. He was very much photographed and recorded on video, even in his later years. He was featured in cat documentaries—even appearing for fans as far as Japan.

Soon, other libraries got inspired to get themselves a library cat. But not all cats are gifted with the personality and demeanor to like being around a lot of people, without scratching or biting. “He was an old soul,” says Vicki. It was one of those rare instances when the right things come together at the right time. It’s something you don’t seek for. It instead finds you. And the world becomes a better place because of it.

In 2006, Dewey became too sick and in constant pain, and the painful decision was made to put him to sleep. He was nineteen—a very ripe old age in cat years (about ninety-three human years).

Dewey was cremated and his ashes were scattered on the library grounds. The local mortuary donated a block of marble dedicated in his memory. Vicki retired from library service that same year.

She went on to write Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World—which became a best-seller. The memory of this cat lives on—in the hearts of people he has touched.

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