Q&A with the Contributors to
DEWEY’S NINE LIVES
Why did Dewey’s story inspire you?
Lynda Caira (Cookie Cat): Dewey’s story inspired me because it is so unfathomable to conceive that a cat could change the lives of so many people. It makes me think, if we tried, how could people change each others’ lives?
Kristie Graham (Marshmallow): Dewey’s story inspired me throughout his entire life. I have known Vicki since I was 2 years old. … Dewey’s Magic is real. It has opened the door to my heart to make sure people know what they have done for me.
Bill Bezanson (Spooky): I wouldn’t say it “inspired” me so much as it touched my soul. I saw a LOT of the feelings Spooky and I shared throughout the story.
Barbara Lajiness (Sir Bob Kittens): I have always loved animals– especially cats. So many things about Dewey spoke to me and my own experiences in life. Dewey was rescued, we rescued animals. Vicki only had one child, a daughter; I only had one child, a daughter; and many of those moments during teen years between a daughter and a mother were very similar to my own feelings as a mom of a teenager. Also the effects of poverty and alcoholism on my childhood were all themes I could easily relate to in Dewey. Although I didn’t know it at the time…I would also face my own battle with breast cancer. So as you can see my connection and inspiration to the book really happened on many levels, not just how deeply I can appreciate and relate to that significant bond and relationship with a cat.
Kim Knox (Church Cat): I know cats are known for having “nine lives” but I was really impressed by the toughness of that little kitten in the book drop off box. It’s like he knew if he could just hang on, something so much better was coming his way!
Vicki Kleuver (Christmas Cat): Dewey’s story inspired me because it is a story of Life. Not only Dewey’s amazing life, but also Vicki Myron’s life. Life can really throw us into the toilet or into a book drop on a frigid winter night, yet there is a spark, or a will to live that ignites within us to survive and thrive through the adversity of life. There were many similarities to the story of my “CC,” or Christmas Cat. … I was also amazed at the similarities between Vicki Myron’s life story and my own.
What do you hope readers will take away from your story?
Barbara Lajiness (Sir Bob Kittens): That every one and everything, no matter how quirky or unusual, no matter if they are animal or human, has its place, meaning and value in the world. That we need to slow down, relax and realize how important all of us animals and humans, and even moments are. We all may be different shaped and colored pieces of a puzzle, but you need us all to make a complete picture.
Lynda Caira (Cookie Cat): What I hope that people see in my Cookie’s story is that she was in a way, a life safer to me! I have had cats before and after Cookie, but Cookie just ingratiated herself into my life in a way that most people haven’t even been able to do!
Kristie Graham (Marshmallow): I hope readers take away from my story that relationships are important. I think [my connection with my cat Marshmallow] was so valuable. He was always there. He was a symbol of my childhood. He was part of my identity.
Bill Bezanson (Spooky): If you relax the little guards we put up each day and let an animal just be itself, it will show you love and affection without boundaries. As humans we put up small (and even large) walls when dealing with each other. But an animal doesn’t have an ego. It just knows whether it likes you or not.
Carol Ann Riggs (Church Cat): Church Cat was “Special” to a lot of the members of the Camden United Methodist Church. She was a rescue cat and that made us happy too!
Kim Knox (Church Cat): You don’t always know why God puts someone or “somepet” into your life and we shouldn’t take something like that for granted.
Vicki Kleuver (Christmas Cat): I hope readers will gain from my story about CC a sense of understanding that love comes from many different sources in our lives, often when we least expect it and even at times from a source that we would never have considered, and we should approach each situation with an open mind. When CC came into my life, I didn’t want a cat. I didn’t even like cats! Or so I thought. CC was intended as a gift for my young daughter. Yet he turned out to be mine. Or as my mother says, I became “his people.”
I also hope readers will find in themselves a desire to do something new or different, to live life to its fullest. Norman Vaughn said “dream big, dare to fail.”
I would also like readers to come explore Alaska, the land of my people. It is a great land, enormous with cultural history, diversity, opportunity, adventure, and tranquility.
As your story and all the stories in Dewey’s Nine Lives show, the bond between humans and cats can be very special. Why do you think this is?
Barbara Lajiness (Sir Bob Kittens): I love all animals, but I really think cats have complicated personalities that create more complicated relationships with their owners. I have often heard that cats do not have owners, they have staff, which I think kind of sums up the playing field we are all on when building that bond with our feline friends.
Bill Bezanson (Spooky): I don’t think it’s any different between a human and any animal. In Spooky’s story there’s a story about Pierre, my raccoon. It shows the amount of love we shared. I’ve had foxes, skunks, deer, even opossums demonstrate love toward me. There were times in my life when I thought I’d never see real love in a person. But I found it in nature. I think that it would be a real healing point for veterans suffering the ugliness of PTSD to work with rescued animals and feel what that kind of love is like.
Lynda Caira (Cookie Cat): I think it depends on the cat and the person, and if they came into each others’ lives at the right time. I’ve had cats I’ve taken care of, and cats (strays) who I have felt that I HAD to take care of. My Cookie was the only cat who took care of me!
Carol Ann Riggs (Church Cat): Animals can become members of your family just like humans. Church Cat became a beloved member of our family when we brought her home with us.
Kim Knox (Church Cat): I have had a number of cats in my life and I don’t think any two were ever alike! There is just something in their personality that clicks with your personality and next thing you know you’re in love.
Vicki Kleuver (Christmas Cat): As I said to Vicki Myron several times, I believe God brings these little critters into our life so we can rescue them, while they help to rescue us too. Whether it’s a cat or a dog or another animal, there can be a strong bond. Cats have very unique personalities. I particularly enjoy cats that are independent, like me.
What’s the most surprising or unexpected thing you learned from your cat?
Bill Bezanson (Spooky): Unrequited love. And I’m still learning and trying to lower my walls like my animals and really love again.
Lynda Caira (Cookie Cat): The most surprising thing I learned about Cookie was that she completely killed the stereotypical idea of how aloof cats can be. She had an actual personality! She treated people exactly the way they treated her! Another surprise was how for a small little cat that she was, she was more ferocious than a lion in her protection of me! If she thought someone was upsetting me or hurtling me, they had better watch out!
Kristie Graham (Marshmallow): The most unexpected thing I learned from Marshmallow is that he would leave such a legacy. I really didn’t acknowledge the impact he made on my life and the power he would have on my future. When I told [my acquaintances] that I participated in [Dewey’s Nine Lives], it surprised me how many people knew how close we were and how “different” our relationship was.
Barbara Lajiness (Sir Bob Kittens): [I learned] that love comes in many forms and to enjoy every one. Sir Bob Kittens is not, nor will he ever be, the beloved lap cat Smokey from my childhood. He doesn’t sit on laps, and you can only tell he is purring if you are lucky enough to place a gentle finger on his throat at just the right moment. But he has his moments where he will look up at us with this look of happiness/love and very slowly, in unison, open and close his eyes; you can just tell he is trying to let us know he cares about us. And on those nights when he is lonely or nervous, he will come and snooze against my chest, face-to-face. It may sound funny, but I really believe that is his way of telling us he cares.
Kim Knox (Church Cat): Church Cat seemed very lost and somewhat needy when she turned up at the church office. I felt like she needed to be taken care of. This was true, but what was so surprising was how street savvy she was. She always looked both ways and made sure it was safe before she crossed! She may not have needed me nearly as much as I thought.
Mary Nan Evans (The Cats of Sanibel Island): [I was surprised to learn] that so many cats get along, and not a fight between them!
Vicki Kleuver (Christmas Cat): The most surprising thing I learned from CC is that I like cats! CC was loyal, loving, affectionate, playful. He was adventurous–it was that sense of adventure that landed him in the toilet that Christmas eve night, and it was his sense of adventure that cost him his life. Some people, some animals, become afraid when they have experienced trauma. Not my CC. Not me either. I like that. While it broke my heart that CC died at such a young age, I respect that he died while doing something he loved; it takes a bit of the sting out of our loss. Regardless if we’re a cat or a humanoid, isn’t life what we make of it?
Do you currently have a cat in your life?
Barbara Lajiness (Sir Bob Kittens): Yes Mister Kittens is still alive and well. Even though he attacks our ankles when we walk up the steps, and runs at us on his hind legs, sideways down the hall, he is a special spirit that is a very important part of my life, and my family’s. I have often told people that he is the one member of the household that no matter what, when he walks in a room, everyone says “Mister Kittens!” (Similar to when Norm would walk into the Cheers bar.) I am sure he thinks he is famous.
Lynda Caira (Cookie Cat): My Cookie died at the age of 19 , on July 31, 2009. I am blessed with another kitty named Chloe who is now Sweet 16, and I do have a wonderful little girl named Lucy, who was born in my garden two years ago, and has lived there ever since!
Vicki Kleuver (Christmas Cat): Sadly, right now I don’t have any cats. Two years ago we adopted an older dog from the Kodiak Animal Shelter and right now, due to frequent travel, he is our only pet. It is our hope to adopt from the animal shelter this winter either a cat or another dog.
Kristie Graham (Marshmallow): I do not have a cat right now. I have a Red Fox Lab. My husband is a dog person. But I am a goal setter—I have a bucket list. Owning a cat is on the list.
Kim Knox (Church Cat): After we lost Church Cat’s son ChiChi we were catless for a couple of years. We now have two orange tabbies named Marmalade (2 yrs) and Macaroon (3 months). Both are house cats and help make our house a home.
Bill Bezanson (Spooky): I have a dog and two cats. (Spooky and Zippo taught me that a cat needs another cat to pal around with. We humans have boundaries. Another cat doesn’t.)