Monday, August 20, 2012

Heartwarming Animal Stories Review - "Dewey's Nine Lives"

For the eighth book in the Heartwarming Animal Stories 2012 Reading Challenge, I chose Dewey's Nine Lives: The Legacy of the Small-town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions by Vicki Myron.

Within the first chapter of this book, I realized that I should have read Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World first rather than this book.

The first book would have given me insight into who Dewey was and how his life impacted many people throughout the world, but particularly in his hometown of Spencer, Iowa. From what was written in Dewey's Nine Lives, Dewey was placed in a book return box at a library during the winter and suffered from frostbite. He became the library's resident cat for his entire life.

The author described the first book and the sense of community is provided:

I the power of community, whether it is a physical town, a shared religion, or a love of cats. I believe Dewey is a book about regular people that shows what's good and possible in ordinary lives .... The honesty and the values expressed in the book - "Find your place. Be happy with what you have. Treat everyone well. Live a good life. It isn't about material things; it's about love."

The book I read this month (Dewey's Nine Lives), is a collection of nine stories about cats told from the perspective of Dewey's mom, librarian Vicki Myron. The author chose nine stories from the thousands of letters and e-mails she received from readers the publication of Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.

Myron chose inspirational stories about people who mostly came from small towns, who were down on their luck, and who were facing difficult challenges. To me, some of the stories focused too much on the people instead of the cats.

Yet, despite this off-balanced representation, what is clear is that each of the cats featured in the nine stories are a testament to the healing power of cats – they inspired change, transformed lives, and opened hearts.

Throughout the book, there are stories about Dewey. However, there aren't as many as I had hoped for (though that wasn't the focus of this book).

The chapters that were the most interesting for me were "Mr. Sir Bob Kittens (aka Ninja, aka Mr. Pumpkin Pants") about a woman who fostered cats after a string of major disappointments in her life. It was a very moving chapter about the effect the cats had not only on her life, but that of her children's lives.

"Spooky" included an interesting section about a boy who had pet raccoon. When the raccoon (named Pierre) became an adult, it ended up finding a partner. One day, the boy and his father were sitting on the back steps of their farmhouse.

"Bill looked off toward the fields and saw Pierre coming toward him, four little brown bundles waddling at his side. His mate stood at the edge of the cornfield, pacing nervously, while Pierre picked his children up with his mouth, put them on the porch, and introduced them to his lifelong friend. They stayed only long enough for Bill and his father to hold each child. Then they turned back to the cornfield and headed home."

When Bill was an adult, his kitten came to him via an owl that dropped it from the air onto his car windshield while he was driving. Throughout the cat's life, it had not only survived that owl attack, it had "outfoxed four coyotes, withstood a swipe from a bear...[and] been thrown out with the trash [by a woman who had offered him a place to stay] and found his way home" - literally a 20 mile walk from the dump to where Bill was living.

As the author said, "There's a bond that is formed when you save an animal's life .... It happens with cats when you take them in - not just give them food until they refuse to go away but bring them inside when they are sick or starving and make them a part of your life .... And unlike so many people who, no matter what you have done, find a way to turn their back on you, animals are forever grateful."

This book had parts that were interesting and moving. Would I re-read it? Probably not. However, it showed me the power that these animals had on transforming the lives of the people who cared for them. In that sense, it was well worth my time.

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