Dewey's Nine Lives: The Legacy of the Small-town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions

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9781847378569: Dewey's Nine Lives: The Legacy of the Small-town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions

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The cat that captured America's hearts returns, to share more of his special brand of magic.

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World was a blockbuster bestseller and a publishing phenomenon. It has sold nearly a million copies, spawned three children's books, and will be the basis for an upcoming movie. No doubt about it, Dewey has created a community. Dewey touched readers everywhere, who realized that no matter how difficult their lives might seem, or how ordinary their talents, they can-and should-make a positive difference to those around them. Now, Dewey is back, with even more heartwarming moments and life lessons to share.

Dewey's Nine Lives offers nine funny, inspiring, and heartwarming stories about cats--all told from the perspective of "Dewey's Mom," librarian Vicki Myron. The amazing felines in this book include Dewey, of course, whose further never-before-told adventures are shared, and several others who Vicki found out about when their owners reached out to her. Vicki learned, through extensive interviews and story sharing, what made these cats special, and how they fit into Dewey's community of perseverance and love. From a divorced mother in Alaska who saved a drowning kitten on Christmas Eve to a troubled Vietnam veteran whose heart was opened by his long relationship with a rescued cat, these Dewey-style stories will inspire readers to laugh, cry, care, and, most importantly, believe in the magic of animals to touch individual lives.

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About the Author:

Vicki Myron was born on a farm fifteen miles from Spencer, Iowa. At the age of thirty-four, after a failed marriage, single motherhood, and a stint on welfare, she graduated summa cum laude from Mankato State University and has a masters degree from Emporia State University. She worked at the Spencer Public Library for twenty-five years, the last twenty as director. She lives in Spencer, Iowa.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

Dewey

“Thank you, Vicki, and thank you, Dewey. . . . I don’t believe in angels, but Dewey comes close.”
—Christine B., Tampa, FL

I disagree with the person who wrote that letter, because I do believe there are angels walking among us, helping us grow. I believe in “teachable moments,” when we can learn some thing valuable about life if our eyes and hearts are open to the world around us. These angels of opportunity, as I like to think of them, come in all forms. They appear thanks to the important people in our lives, but also through chance meetings and strangers. I believe Dewey Readmore Books, the famous library cat of Spencer, Iowa, was one of those angels. He taught so many lessons, and touched so many lives, that I can’t dismiss it as chance. And I don’t believe in coincidence.

But I know what that young woman is saying. She is saying that Dewey, through his actions and his example, transformed her life. She can’t find the words to describe that power, but she knows it is special.

Well, I have a phrase for it: Dewey’s Magic. It is the phrase I used each time I saw his ability to change the way people thought about themselves. No one saw that Magic more than I, because of all the people in the world, I knew Dewey best and was touched by him most. I’m just an ordinary Iowa girl, the long-serving director of a small-town library less than a dozen miles from the farm where I was born and raised, but for nineteen years I was privileged to share my journey with Dewey. And Dewey . . . he was special. He impacted lives. He inspired a town. He became famous around the world, headlined magazines and newspapers, and was the subject of the #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Dewey, which as “Dewey’s Mommy” I was privileged to write. Dewey’s Magic, that’s what it was. He was just a cat, but he had a way of inspiring our better selves. He made everyone fall in love with him. He touched the world. No one who met him ever forgot Dewey Readmore Books.

His story began quietly, on a brutally cold weekend in January 1988. The temperature was minus fifteen degrees, the kind of cold that burns your lungs and peels the skin from your face (or at least it feels that way). That kind of cold, often accompanied by ferocious winds, is the worst thing about living in the great northern plains.

You learn to tolerate it, but you never adapt. There are times in northern Iowa when it just isn’t wise to go outside.

But despite the deep freeze, someone had been out in downtown Spencer, because at some point that Sunday, a tiny homeless kitten was shoved into the book return slot on the back wall of the Spencer Public Library. I hope it was an act of mercy, that someone saw a tiny eight-week-old, one-pound kitten shivering in the snow and wanted to protect it. If that was the case, they were misguided. The library book return was nothing more than a metal tube that led, after a four-foot drop, into a sealed metal box. In effect, it was a refrigerator. There were no blankets, pads, or soft linings. There was only cold metal. And books. For at least ten hours and maybe as long as twenty- four, little Dewey sat in bitterly cold utter darkness, with nothing to comfort him but books.

I entered the story early Monday morning when I opened the book return box and found the tiny kitten inside. When he looked up longingly into my eyes, my heart stopped. He was so cute . . . and so in need. I cradled him in my hands until he stopped shivering, then gave him a warm bath in the library sink and dried him with the blow-dryer we used for children’s craft projects. That’s when Dewey took over, tottering on frostbitten feet to each person on the library staff and nuzzling them sweetly with his nose.

I decided, right then, that the library should adopt him. It wasn’t just that I fell in love with Dewey the moment he looked at me with his glorious golden eyes. I knew, for those eyes and his determination to thank every staff member for his rescue, that he would fit perfectly into my plan to warm up the cold institutional nature of the Spencer Public Library. He had such a loving and outgoing personality, such a heartwarming presence, that he made everyone feel good.

And at that moment, that’s exactly what Spencer, Iowa, needed. The town was reeling from a farm crisis, with 70 percent of the downtown storefronts empty and farms in the county going bankrupt by the dozen. We needed a feel-good story. We needed something positive to talk about, and a lesson in persistence, hope, and love. If someone could shove a tiny kitten into a dark and freezing metal box, and that kitten could emerge with his trust and compassion intact, then we could endure our misfortunes, too.

But Dewey wasn’t a mascot. He was a flesh-and-blood companion, an animal always open and loving the moment anyone stepped into the library. He warmed hearts one lap at a time, and maybe even more important, he had a knack for knowing who really needed him.

I remember the retired patrons who visited every morning. Many of them started staying longer and talking with the staff more after Dewey arrived.

I remember Crystal, a middle school student with severe physical disabilities who did nothing but stare at the floor until Dewey found her and started jumping onto her wheelchair as she was rolled through the door. Then Crystal started to look at the world around her. She started to make noises every week when she entered the library, and when Dewey came running and leapt on her chair, a smile burst out of her heart.

I remember our new assistant children’s librarian, who had recently moved to Spencer to care for her sick mother. She and Dewey sat together every afternoon. I caught her one day with a tear in her eye and realized how much she had been suffering, and that only Dewey had been there for her.

I remember the shy woman who had trouble making friends. I remember the young man frustrated by his inability to find work. I remember the homeless man who never spoke to anyone but always found Dewey, placed him on his shoulder (the right shoulder of course; Dewey would sit only on your right shoulder), and walked with him for fifteen minutes. The man whispered; Dewey listened. I am convinced of that. And by listening, by being present, he helped them all.

But mostly, I remember the children. Dewey had a special relationship with the children of Spencer. He loved babies. He would creep to their carriers and snuggle beside them, a look of complete contentment on his face, even when they pulled his ears. He let toddlers pet him and prod him and squeal with delight. He befriended a boy with allergies who was heartbroken because he couldn’t have a pet of his own. He spent afternoons with the middle school students who stayed in the library while their parents worked, chasing their pencils and hiding in their jacket sleeves. He would brush by every child at our weekly Story Hour before choosing one lap to curl up on—a different lap, I should mention, every week. Yes, Dewey had catlike habits. He slept a lot. He was picky about being petted on the belly. He ate rubber bands. He attacked typewriter keys (back then, we still had typewriters around) and computer keyboards. He lounged on the copier, because it blew warm air. He climbed on the overhead lights. You couldn’t open a box anywhere in the library without Dewey suddenly appearing and jumping inside. But what he really did was something just as catlike but more profound: He opened the hearts of the people of Spencer, one at a time, to the beauty and love in our wonderful little town in the middle of the great Iowa plains, and to one another.

That was the real Dewey Magic, his ability to spread his joyous, friendly, and relaxed attitude toward life to everyone he met.

The fact that he became famous? That was pure charisma. I intended, of course, for him to become well known in Spencer. I worked hard to help him change the image of the library, to make it a gathering place as opposed to just a warehouse for books. I was amazed that anyone outside northwest Iowa would care. But slowly at first, and then in a torrent, they came, drawn by the story of the special cat who inspired a town. The journalists came first—from Des Moines, England, Boston, and Japan. Then the visitors started to arrive. An older couple from New York on a cross-country drive who, after visiting Dewey, sent money on his birthday and Christmas every year of his life. A family from Rhode Island, who were in Minneapolis (five hours away from Spencer) for a wedding. A sick little girl from Texas who, I was sure, had asked her parents for this one gift. It was amazing to watch the accidental blossoming of fame. People met Dewey; they spent time with him; and they loved him. They went home and told other people about him, and then those people came to visit him, and they left impressed, and the next thing we knew, we were receiving a telephone call from a newspaper in Los Angeles or a news reporter in Australia.

So when Dewey died peacefully at the age of nineteen, having served the community of Spencer and its public library every day with enthusiasm and grace, I wasn’t really surprised that his obituary, first published in Sioux City, ran in more than 275 newspapers. Or that the library received letters by the thousands from around the world. Or that hundreds of fans signed his condolence book and attended an impromptu memorial. For two months, we were besieged by reporters and admirers and requests to talk about Dewey. And then, slowly, th...

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