"Crystal was one of the more disabled members of the (special education) group. She was a beautiful girl of about eleven, but she had no speech and very little control of her limbs. She was in a wheelchair, (which) had a wooden tray on the front. When she came into the library, her head was always down and her eyes were staring at that tray ... she didn't move. It was like she wasn't even there ... Then one week Dewey jumped on Crystal's wheelchair tray. Crystal squealed. She had been coming to the library for years ... That squeal was the first sound I ever heard her make ... Dewey started visiting Crystal every week ... Whenever she saw Dewey, Crystal glowed. Her eyes had always been blank. Now they were on fire ... Once her wheelchair was parked, he jumped on her tray, and happiness exploded from within her. She started to squeal, and her smile, you couldn't believe how big and bright it was. Crystal had the best smile in the world ... one day she looked up and made eye contact with me. She was overcome with joy, and she wanted to share the moment with someone, with everyone. This from a girl who for years never lifted her eyes from the floor ... I can't imagine Crystal's life ... But I know that whenever she was in the Spencer Public Library with Dewey, she was happy." - Author Vicki Myron in DEWEY
On the bitterly cold morning of January 18, 1988, the director of the public library in Spencer, Iowa, Vicki Myron, discovered a shivering, terrified, and half-frozen kitten in the library's book drop-off box. On November 29, 2006, Vicki cradled Dewey, who was by then suffering from incurable stomach cancer, as he was euthanized by the local veterinarian. DEWEY tells the story of the intervening nineteen years when Dewey, full name Dewey Readmore Books, was adopted by the library staff, and Vicki in particular, and became the facility's resident cat, loved by the townsfolk and internationally famous.
At first, I was tempted to write that DEWEY is a book for cat lovers. But that would be too narrow a perspective. Rather, this charming and heart-warming - OK, incorrigibly warm and fuzzy - volume is for anyone that recognizes the hold that pets can have on our lives. Mind you, though, I've never heard of a library dog.
If the story of Dewey has any weakness, it's perhaps that Myron goes a bit over the top anthropomorphizing her fuzzy friend. Having been owned by a series of housecats over the decades - Puff, Kitty, Martha, Tessa, Trouble, Amanda, Hidie, et al - I can testify that Dewey was just doing what he did best, i.e. being feline. But he had a special talent for carrying it off with paramount grace and equanimity in the face of so much human attention.
In the end, Vicki states:
"(In life), the most important thing is to have someone to scoop you up, to hold you tight, and to tell you everything is all right ... For years, I thought I had done that for Dewey. I thought that was my story to tell ... But that's only a sliver of the truth. The real truth is that for all those years, on the hard days, the good days, and all the unremembered days that make up the pages of the real book of our lives, Dewey was holding me."
My calico pal Trouble has now been living with me and my wife for seventeen years. Though she - Trouble, not the wife - suffers from no overt disease, she's getting thin and feeble with age. I don't imagine she'll share our lives longer than a couple more years, if that. I shall miss her terribly when she goes.
P.S. 3/17/09: Several days ago, Trouble was diagnosed with acute renal failure, and the prognosis was bleak. Last night, we had a visiting vet service euthanize her at our home. Holding Trouble as the sedating and killing injections were administered was the hardest thing I've ever done. Today is the first day since she joined us so long ago that I'll come home and she won't be there. I miss my little pal.