Tag Archives: bookstore cats

Beulah and Me, by David Hamrick

beulahShopsitter David tells of his relationship with a special lady….

I first met Beulah a little over two years ago at the Big Stone Celtic Festival. It was a beautiful late September day with the sun shining and a light breeze just moving the leaves on the trees in town. I had just sat down to eat lunch on a park bench after watching a friend perform for the Celtic festival.

Beulah sat down beside me on the park bench and asked if she could have a chip. Knowing that Beulah’s father was from Scotland and that her mother had lived in Scotland after her marriage, I knew that Beulah was asking for a French fry out of my bag.

I told her yes of course never being one to shy away from eating with a lady. Beulah helped herself to a few chips and we chatted about her life, family, and Big Stone Gap.

Beulah had been born in Florida and moved to Big Stone Gap 8 years earlier when her mother accepted a position at the local university. Beulah really enjoyed speaking about her town and all of the people she knew. I’ve discovered a lot from talking to Beulah. She keeps many secrets about the bookstore and the town. I think that’s why she gets anything she wants to eat; she knows too much.david

Beulah likes being a bookstore cat but she is very reserved around other cats and keeps to herself. She prefers the company of one other human, preferably in his or her lap.

Little did I know that this would be the start of a great friendship. Over the past two years, Beulah and I have become close friends and she often refers to me as the “guy who shares chips.”

Beulah, I just want to tell you that you are one of the best friends that person can have. Next time I’m there, we have to get our picture taken together!







Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, reading, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized

Should Auld Aquaintance – – –

A guest post from Jack on a special occasion –

It’s just a year since our beloved Valkyttie passed over the rainbow bridge and we can begin now to celebrate her more memorable escapades without breaking into tears.

Val-Kyttie surveys her domain...

Val-Kyttie surveys her domain…

For newer readers Val was our venerable bookstore cat/manager and was age 19 when she died. She began her life as a tiny abandoned kitten in the Leith cat and dog home in Scotland and we adopted her as soon as Wendy arrived in my homeland (as promised; I bribed her to marry me with early promises of kittens).

Val got her name because she was feisty (the valkyries were warrior princesses), but I wanted to be able to call her ‘Kittie’ for short. She displayed her bravery starting in her sixth week of life, by seeing off a local tom (ten times her size) who tried to use our yard as a shortcut. A seasoned traveler she moved effortlessly from Fife to Lancashire, then across the Atlantic to the US. Everywhere she lived, she established as her undisputed domain and took full charge.

When ‘The Little Bookstore’ was published we insisted she appear on the cover and the artist, a cat lover, obliged; she is sitting on the roof of our front porch. When the publishers of the large print edition asked for a photo for that front cover, we gave them a picture our friend Elissa took of Our Matriarch in full managerial mode, surrounded by bookshelves. Whether by accident or design, the Polish, Portuguese and Korean editions all have her hiding somewhere on their covers. Of course that means she garnered many new friends all over the world, while many of her less distant fans asked specially to meet her when they visited the bookstore.

During the last couple of years of her life, she had to put up with a continual stream of foster kittens. She could be quite stern with them, yet displayed grandmotherly traits with the more wayward ones.

Just yesterday our good chef Kelley made bacon and eggs for my breakfast and I found myself automatically moving to a less accessible corner to eat it. I realized that I was remembering that Valkyttie always noisily insisted on her share of the bacon.

When we lived in the tiny rural village of New Gilston in Fife she would always accompany us when we walked along our favorite woodland trail. In January I was in Scotland for the funeral of a friend and scattered Val’s ashes among those same trees.

That’s when I shed my tears. Now we just think of the happy times. Every cat is special, but once in awhile, a special x ten cat comes along. Valkyttie was special x 100.

And now she lives on; a friend of Wendy’s got ‘hold of another cracker of a photo Elissa took, and Valkyttie’s message will never die.

Valkyttie antiquated bookstores meme valkyttie bookstore meme Valkyttie meme


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Dorian Grey, Kitten of Erudition, Speaks

DorianGood afternoon. I am Dorian Grey the Kitten. No doubt you’ve heard of me.

For those who missed the major news stories, I was in a litter of four kittens and their mother pulled from the shelter by a kind rescuer named Julie Winston. Ms. Winston asked The Bookstore to take me in. That’s how we call it in cat circles; it’s taken on the mythical proportions of Shangri-La or El Dorado. By the time she had a “yes” it was too late to pick us up that weekend. However, it did save our lives, as we were excused from the Friday cull. Thank you, Ms. Winston.

May I state for the record how disappointed I am in Mom’s former “owner,” who dumped us all in the shelter because we were “too much to take care of.” Hmmph. If one is going to be so irresponsible as to not spay a “beloved” pet, the least one can do is own the problem so created. Namely, ME. Yes, I realize spaying Mom would’ve resulted in me not being here, but let me tell you, as poster child for the unwanted offspring of household pets, the shelter is no place for newborns.

By the time we left on Monday we were all sick as dogs. The shelter staff lady works hard—she was the one who made sure the rescuers knew we were in there—but it’s too much for one person to keep the place disinfected. The vet we went to told the Bookstore Lady I would likely die, but she could save my sisters and brother.

Bookstore Lady took me home. I don’t remember very much about that, as I wasn’t feeling at all well. But I remember when she gave me goat milk in a syringe; I was so hungry I practically jerked the thing out of her hand! The lady that makes desserts for the Café in The Bookstore came downstairs and saw me eating. She likes to care for kittens at night because she doesn’t sleep much, so she took me home and fed me every two hours. She saved my life – the third human that day to do so!

DoriNow, as you can see, I am the very picture of health and vitality. And adorability, if I do say so myself. Also, I’ve been adopted by a nice lady named Maeve who is collecting me Monday. I still have a few meds to finish up before leaving, plus I weigh .7 and everybody wants me to weigh a pound before I go. I have no objections.

My sisters and brother are still at The Bookstore; they’re not as cute as me, but even so they need homes. Mom is in Hospital getting her hysterectomy, and then she’ll be looking for a place as well. She won’t ever have to go through that shelter thing again, trying to keep babies and herself alive with so little hope.

I’d like all you humans to be responsible for your pets, so they don’t end up sick and scared and starving like me. Because who would want to live in a world without cuteness?

Thank you. You may go now.


Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch

We Won the Inaugural International Cat Day at Bookstores Award!

In case anyone missed it, Robert Gray of Shelf Awareness did his column on us this past week. Here’s the article and the link. And we LOVED seeing Valkyttie’s picture going national. :]


Robert Gray: International Cat Day Bookstore Prize

In case you missed it, last Saturday was International Cat Day, during which “felines take over the internet (even more than usual),” the Telegraph noted. As news-gathering organizations go, our bookstore cat coverage is pretty comprehensive, so we can testify to the clickbait potential inherent in any hyperlink that includes the words “Bookstore Cats.”

See, you just went there instinctively, didn’t you? Welcome back.

Today, I have the honor of both inventing and announcing the inaugural International Cat Day Bookstore Prize winner. From a long list of worthy contenders, the judges (well, me) unanimously selected Tales of the Lonesome Pine, Big Stone Gap, Va., which is currently hosting a Bookstore Cat Adoption Reunion on Facebook to celebrate all of the “forever homes” they have found for their temporary bookstore kitty interns.

“We started in June 2009, and in May of this year we adopted out our 200th cat (named Reepicheep),” said co-owner Wendy Welch. “The bookstore is a great place to get adoptions going because it acts kind of like a pet store window; people interact with the cats, pick them up and carry them, have fun with them. The tactile experience of being around them has increased adoptions, I think. We still have ‘impulse’ adoptions, although we are careful of those. More often now that we’re established we have people contact us after viewing our Facebook photos.”

Tales of the Lonesome Pine has three cat adoption rules, Welch noted: “Let the cat choose the person–they never miss; give the cats timely literary names (we named a group Harper Lee, Scout, and Boo Radley when Go Set a Watchman came out); and write about their purrsonailities on Facebook. After a cat’s been with us long enough to know them, I usually do a ‘if this cat were a woman/girl’ post and for some reason everybody loves these. I also write a lot of ‘cat voice‘ blogs as if the cat were writing it about his experiences at the shop. These get lots of hits and comments.”

Visitors to the bookstore occasionally donate money (“a kitty for the kitties,” as her husband, Jack, describes it), but Welch said, “We don’t have a jar out and in our troubled economic region I would flat not ask people for money; there are people struggling to feed their families here, literally. We’re not interested in taking their cash. In fact, that’s who we rescue for. Some families would love a pet, be good to it, have enough to feed and care for it, if they didn’t have to pay for spaying and neutering. I have friends who can sometimes be called on to ‘sponsor’ a family if they need it, and we let those ‘kitty’ donations add up to spays as well.”

She also crochets for the cause: “It’s a hobby I’ve had since childhood; I’m fast, and if I do say so myself, I’m really good at it. I can make all sorts of fun stuff; in 2013 it was the Spay & Neuter Afghan–a free online pattern called ‘Rows of Cats.’ I put it online with a note that said ‘This is what you get if you don’t spay and neuter: rows and rows of cats.’ And those things sold like hotcakes; I sold them for the price of a neuter. In 2014 I must have sold 400 of these cool little trivets shaped like penguins and chicks and roosters. This year it is animal scarves and hoodies, and mermaid tail lap blankets. People buy these a lot, and they donate yarn so I can sell them at prices everyone can afford, and still make money for the kitties’ kitty.”

Since the 2012 publication of her book The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Welch said many readers “from outside the area have been quick to assist us, or to assist their local cat shelters in our honor. That’s very cool. The farthest away we have adopted cats is Kansas and Massachusetts. Someone agreed to meet the adopter halfway, and off our babies went to life in the big city–or the American plains. Whichever. We adopted a girl recently to a family in Arlington who came to see the shop because they’d read my book and wanted to see it for themselves. And they came with the idea of getting a cat in mind. We love it when this happens.”

Tales of The Lonesome Pine’s official bookshop cat philosophy is summed up nicely in her book: “The whole establishment catered in design and policy to every whim of the two permanent staff cats and the myriad fosters who have found forever homes via the bookstore.”

Sometimes people ask why they do all this. “We do it for the same reason we run a bookstore: because it’s fun, because it’s important, and because it’s compassionate,” Welch observed. “Animals can’t speak for themselves, tell their own story. They need advocates, and when they get them, they reciprocate by being way more fun to watch than Netflix–plus more engaging.” —Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, crafting, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

It’s the Great Cat Reunion of 2015!

Jack and I have wanted to have a cat reunion for ages, but in the present economy travel money is tricky for people.

Plus some people think having a cat reunion is a crazy notion, and although they love the cat they got from us, they’re not going to travel to show it.

And you have to admit, having a bunch of cats in one place and time like that would be like, well, herding cats.

So our friend Elissa came up with a great idea, and created the BOOKSTORE CATS ADOPTION REUNION on Facebook. If you’ve adopted a cat from us (or placed a cat with us) we want to hear your stories, see your videos and pictures, and find out how things are going.

Send us your favorites, and let us do what the Internet was created for: ooh and over cats.

As an incentive, here’s our big boy Mal, who was adopted by David and Susan in North Carolina. Mal had a cleft palate and looked like he was ten minutes from dying. With a serious operation and a lot of TLC afterward, he gained health and vitality – plus weight. Pity he never gained brain cells, but that’s a separate story. mal 1And now, five pictures of Mal showing the transformation love and a little luck can bring. (They go in reverse order, from Mal on David and Susan’s couch to the Sunday afternoon we found him on our bookstore lawn and stashed him in the garage until we could get him to the vet.)

mal 2mal3

mal 4mal 5


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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, Scotland, shopsitting, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

A Tale of Two Kitties

An extra guest post from Jack this week, while Wendy is aloft on her way home from Oregon –

Laurel is our middle-aged foster cat. A beautiful Siamese with a touch of nervous eczema, she is no longer nervous, it seems. In fact she has gone from hiding in corners to dominating the entire bookstore.


As part of her new-found persona, she has taken to ambushing all the bookstore staff kitties – particularly young Hadley (she is now the one who has taken to hiding in corners).

Laurel has also become very ‘shouty’, demanding to be fed first and then sitting at my feet meowing to be picked up and put on my lap, where she will then lie happily surveying her domain.

All of this, I am sure, will come as a great surprise to my fellow members of the ‘Team Laurel’ gang on FaceBook. We have been exchanging tips for weeks now on how to encourage her to come out of her self-imposed purdah and re-engage with the world.

So – where from here?

Well, it’s clear to me that Laurel should ideally not be sharing space with other cats (she seems fine with dogs), although she came originally with a companion and they seemed to get along OK. Maybe she needs to be dominated by a nice muscular tom-cat?

Of course the Quaker side of me hopes that when she ‘centers down’ for an hour of meditation (something she appears to find no difficulty with), she might find that ‘light within’ that we all seek and emerge changed for the better. However I fear that may be a forlorn hope!

It is great to see her engaging with the world, but I can’t help feeling sorry for Owen, Nike and little Hadley as they peer over their shoulders wondering where and when she will pounce like Kato in the Pink Panther movies.

Onward and upward, I suppose – – –

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Haste Ye Back

 Jack’s weekly guest post –

This has been quite the week – – – –

My niece Vicki and her daughter Elle flew off back to Scotland on Tuesday, while meanwhile Wendy headed off to Oregon on Sunday for a week. Vicki and Elle’s trip was incident free and they were home in Aberdeenshire by Wednesday morning, but Wendy got caught by the storms in Texas and ended up overnighting in LA before finally getting to Portland almost a day late. Of course the wonders of that interwebby thing meant I could share in the delights of the trouble-free journey as well as the horrors of the other one.

Meanwhile our ‘cafe couple’ Kelley and Sam took the low road and drove to Charlotte NC for a concert by ‘Night Wish’, the avant garde Finnish group, with tickets and a back-stage pass courtesy of my old singing buddy Barbara Dickson (one of the members of NightWish is Troy Donockley, Barbara’s musical arranger and band leader).

But what of me?

I have gone from living in a busy, bustling home full of relatives and friends to a solitary existence with only dogs and cats for companionship (and the foster-kitten population went from seven to three over the same period). Yesterday and today the cafe has been closed due to Kelley’s absence and mid-week is the bookstore’s quieter time. As the time moves towards noon and all the cats, dogs and kittens settle down to their siestas, I wait to see if I have to explain diplomatically to cafe customers as I did yesterday that Kelley deserves the occasional break (and who NightWish is!).

I often say that you can’t appreciate good health and lack of pain until you’ve experienced the opposite, and I think for a gregarious person like me, the same applies to companionship.

Haste ye back y’all!

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