Gus the bookstore cat. 2002—2015
Gus the bookstore cat. 2002—2015

Gus arrived at the bookstore where I work shortly after I did 13 years ago. He’s pretty much run the place ever since. Being a shop cat means he met thousands of people over the years. Almost everyone entering the store was visibly pleased to see we had a cat. (A few people with phobias or allergies have been less than pleased.) Gus was tolerant of people for the most part but he never liked children at all. He has drawn blood more than once on people who are ignorant of how to properly relate to cats. Gus was ever the stern teacher and not shy about administering corporal punishment.

One Sunday, some 13 years ago I received a phone call from my boss who asked me, “do you want a cat?” I said no immediately and she said, “you better get down here.” I lived a few blocks from the store at the time and walked on down to see what was up. Some people had heard a kitten crying up underneath a car fender and had brought him in to the store. My boss was trying to figure out what to do with this scrawny little kitty. I wound up taking him back home with me that night and by the next morning had determined he was pretty sick. We got him to the vet right away and from then on he was the shop cat. The boss named him Gus.

The poor baby was suffering from just about every malady a stray kitty can get. Infection, parasites, fleas, malnutrition. It took a good 3 weeks before he regained his health. A rather rough start to life, and I think he never really got completely free of those feral beginnings. He could be quite obnoxious when he felt threatened and has always been a disagreeable patient at the vets. We think he may have caused at least one veterinarian to second-guess his career choices.

Gus stayed at the shop all the time, only leaving to go home with the boss when she was staying in town overnight. People have asked if he was a good mouser, but there was only one time that I know of he ever got hold of one. Maybe the mice were smart enough to stay out to begin with. He enjoyed watching birds out the front door, mostly pigeons and grackles around here. He hated the sound of skateboard wheels on pavement and would register near panic when kids came zooming down the sidewalk.

The one other crisis in his life happened mere hours before Hurricane Ike landed here in 2008. We had evacuated to the boss’ house in Houston and Gus became seriously sick on that Friday morning. He had hid himself behind some boxes in her house and was in an unresponsive crouch when I found him. We scrambled to find a vet that was still open and luckily we did. Houston was a zoo that afternoon. No, I mean even worse than usual. People were jamming the roads evacuating or trying to hoard gas and supplies. But we made it to the vet. Gus had some kind of infection and they hit him with a broad spectrum antibiotic. He responded quickly to the meds and then that evening we lost power as Ike hit and blew down lines in Houston and flooded Galveston with its huge storm surge. Good times!

Gus has his own page at the store website: Gusbook

Last year he developed a tumor which caused him to lose his left eye and he recovered quickly from the surgery and did well for a while after that. But somehow it came back and he developed a massive tumor in his belly last month about which nothing could be done. I am rather sick with sadness.

Carson tours the bookstore during his job interview.
Carson tours the bookstore during his job interview.

Soon I will start bringing Carson to work with me and he can take on the shop cat responsibilities because somebody’s got to do it. People expect us to have a cat. I brought him in for a visit last Monday (my day off.) My neighbors asked if I was taking him to the vet, and I said, “no, he has a job interview.” He spent the entire time investigating every aisle and corner and even took time out to greet a few customers. He did NOT want to leave either. I think he will get on famously there.

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