Raven Book Store to celebrate Dashiell the cat’s retirement with donation drive, discounts

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If taking naps and looking cute while doing so factor into this bookstore cat’s job performance, an exceptional rating will accompany Dashiell as he heads into retirement from the Raven Book Store.

Dashiell slumbers Friday afternoon behind the counter of the downtown bookstore. When customers and booksellers approach he opens his eyes for a quick peep, trying to rest yet not wanting to miss out on any potential scritches.

Dashiell lay stretched out on an old chair riddled with tiny holes throughout the seat — evidence of the love he and his claws have shown it over time.

Will the chair go home with Dashiell?

Not sure yet, says the Raven co-owner/bookseller set to make a new home for the approximately 15-year-old cat. (That translates to about 76 years in human years, by the way.)

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Dashiell peeps visitors on June 14, 2024 at the Raven Book Store in downtown Lawrence.

Kelly Barth, a mainstay at the Raven since 1997, and wife Lisa Grossman, a landscape painter, will officially move Dashiell into their home on Sunday, June 23.

Dashiell, who’s known to sometimes drag out his toys and yowl loudly as closing time nears, is expected to return a boost of feline energy to the couple’s home after the recent losses of their two beloved 16-year-old cats. Barth and Grossman are eager to once again room with a purry pal, Barth says, and Dashiell will have lots of space and quiet. He’ll need to break one habit though: drinking out of the sink.

“We don’t want poo paws on the kitchen counter,” Barth tells Dashiell in a friendly high-pitched voice while hoisting the large tabby.

Tricia Masenthin/Lawrence Times

Dashiell has served the Raven since he was adopted from the Lawrence Humane Society in spring 2011 alongside his sister Ngaio, who retired three years ago. Ngaio (pronounced NY-oh) still thrives at the home of a former Raven co-worker, Barth says. Their names pay tribute to the famous mystery writers Dashiell Hammett and Ngaio Marsh.

In addition to perfecting the bookstore nap, Dashiell has authored the 52-page, full-color “The Sound and the Purry.” He penned the novel during nap sessions on a keyboard at the store’s previous location on East Seventh Street. The zine is dedicated to Ngaio, and proceeds from its sales have benefited Lawrence Humane Society and NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund.

Bookstore cats have a long history of service, which scientists have traced to the Middle East, where cats were first domesticated more than 10,000 years ago. Cats have helped humans keep pests at bay in the protection of papyrus text rolls in ancient Egypt and in libraries across Europe. Eventually, European colonizers brought Dashiell’s ancestors with them to North and South America.

“Don’t worry, he’s purrrfectly fine,” The Raven says in an email announcing Dashiell’s retirement. Barth confirms Dashiell’s exit is more proactive than reactive, and his co-workers have a standing invitation to visit the retiree at his new home.

“This is not a forever goodbye,” Barth says.

Staff members are committed to maintaining the store’s tradition as a bookstore with cats, Barth says. This weekend, they have plans to interview a pair of male prospects who’ve already bonded with each other.

“So we’re going to look at them. They’re apparently super friendly, which is a key to work in a bookstore, and the fact that they like each other and they are 3, so they’re not like babies,” Barth says.

Stayed peeled to the Raven’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for updates about Dashiell and any new bookstore cats, Barth says.

To celebrate Dashiell’s 13 years of service, the Raven has planned a spirit week full of activities.  Here’s how those who drop in the bookstore, 809 Massachusetts St., can participate:
• On Monday, June 17, donate a gently used towel, blanket, or pet bed for Lawrence Humane Society and receive 10% off a purchase;
• Tuesday, June 18, customers who dress up like a cat receive a 10% discount;
• Wednesday, June 19, customers will receive 10% on any book with a cat on the cover or in the title;
• Thursday, June 20, bring in unopened wet or dry cat food for the humane society and receive 10% off a purchase.

From 2 to 3 p.m. Friday, June 21, Dashiell will sign copies of “The Sound and the Purry”; and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 22, fans can take photos with Dashiell (cat permitting, of course).

Visit the Raven’s website at ravenbookstore.com for more information.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Gray coneflower, Ratibida pinnata, is a long blooming native perennial whose name refers to the gray cone under the brown disk florets, here being visited by a bumblebee interested in their sweet nectar.


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