Everything inside Commonwealth Books, the quaint used book store on Spring Lane in downtown Boston, reminds Phyllis Butters of her orange cat Dusty. Dusty, the beloved store staple who welcomed bookworms in the window for eight years, died earlier this week.
Butters, an employee at Commonwealth Books, adopted Dusty in 2008 from Cape Ann Animal Aid in Gloucester; both Butters and the bookstore’s owner, Joe Phillips, love cats. Dusty’s original name was Goldie because of the color of her fur (Butters’s vet had told Butters it was unusual for a female domestic long hair to be orange), but she wanted to change it. Phillips suggested Dusty, as in “dusty, old books.’’
As soon as Butters brought Dusty to the bookstore and she took up her perch in the window, she was an instant hit with customers, Butters said.
“People came into the store just to see her, they didn’t care about books,’’ Butters said. “They had seen her in the window, and if they didn’t see her there, they’d come in and say, ‘Where’s Dusty?’’’
Sometimes passersby even brought Dusty gifts, like a catnip mouse that Butters said was so big, it caused a customer to run to the front of the store screaming. One avid Dusty fan would send the cat holiday cards all year around, Butters said.
“No fooling — Valentine’s, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas,’’ she said. “One, I think it was for Halloween, had a picture of an orange cat that looked just like her. I loved that one.’’
The cards were only signed under the alias “Publius,’’ and Butters still doesn’t know who the admirer really is. She put a sign up in the store window to announce Dusty’s death—“Jan. 26 2016 Dusty says thank you for 8 years of love and sends you kisses from heaven’’—and just added another that reads, “Publius, we would love to know who you are.’’
The bookstore was Dusty’s domain. Butters got her a cushion so she could sit in the window and watch the pigeons that would flock to Spring Lane in the summer. In the winter, Dusty took over a stool situated right above the heater.
Dusty was already about 10 years old when Butters adopted her, Butters thinks, and the cat experienced kidney failure recently. Butters said the bookstore will probably get another cat soon, maybe an older cat that just needs a nice place to spend its last few years. But everything at Commonwealth Books will always remind her of Dusty, as it probably will for all of the feline’s fans, she said.
“Dusty was very beloved,’’ Butters said. “And I think anybody who wants to should come in here to introduce themselves and say hello.’’