Vodka and Library Cats: Lost and Found in Russia AND Dewey Readmore Books

Dear Reader:

I am in Sweden and, for the first time, blogging on my ipad. This will be a short post.

Library cats
I received #186 Dewey: the Small-town Library Cat by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter via kindle from my library yesterday and read it in less than a day. Vicki was the library director of the Spencer, Iowa library when someone, on a minus 15 degree winter night stuck an eight week old kitten in their book box in the middle of the night.

Dewey Readmore Books, or Dewey, survived frostbite and potential crushing to become a gorgeous, long-haired orange tabby and library cat. I have been in a lot of libraries, but never one with a cat (I have been in bookstores with resident cats). Apparently, this is a thing and used to be even more popular.

1980s Spencer, whem Dewey arrived, was in the middle of a devastating farm crisis causing widespread pain and poverty. Dewey quickly became a phenom – drawing in more patrons and lifting diminished spirits. Dewey lived to 19 years old. He was quite a cat. My vet says that orange fur in cats and dogs seems to be genetically associated with a calm, out-going disposition. I have 3 orangeish pets and have found this to be true. It was very true of Dewey.

Dewey spent his days greeting patrons, cadging laps, putting his nose up at ordinary cat food, and scaling the stacks. One of his favorite spots was above the long light fixtures where he would run and peek down. Over his lifetime, he gained local, the state and national, and ultimately, international celebrity. He was just an amazing, fun and affectionate guy.

I loved this book. It is well-written and fascinating learning his story. Vicki also shares her own story and that of Spencer. I skimmed some of that, although she has her own quite interesting tale. I have written much about my love of working dogs, particularly service dogs. Dewey was my first service cat story and a good one!

Lost and Found in Russia

I also finished #184, also a library kindle book. Susan Richards chronicled 16 years of visits to her Russian friends between 1992-2008. As you will remember, this was a time of great turmoil as the Soviet bloc fell apart and Soviet society imploded.

Happily, Susan spent nearly all her time outside Moscow, mostly in the South Central and Siberian regions. Her friends are mostly young idealists, journalists and business people trying to negotiate the chaos and maintain their ideals. They mostly succeed, although over the course of the years, they endure poverty, threats, and dangers beyond imagining.

This was exactly the book I was looking for, a first hand account of how things are really going, especially outside urban areas. The answer is a highly mixed bag. Although some things improve, in the end, it is really only a small minority that enjoys economic security and comfort. Cancerous corruption grows and sucks the lifeblood and initiative out of most.

Her friends’ lives change radically over the years, but not in a steady, positive manner. Rather, one year they are poor, two years later, somewhat middle class, two years later, desparately poor again, having sold their furniture to pay rent under rampant inflation. Drinking problems too ebb and flow with the strains of their daily lives. This is not an attempt to characterize average Russians, per se, but rather the story of a few Russians and their dreams. I highly recommend it.

Happy reading, Ruby

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