When Coralie Ullyett first saw him at the bar a few years ago, she thought he was cute. Ullyett and some friends were visiting Atlin, B.C., for a girls’ weekend, and before settling into their rental cabin, they stopped at the recreation centre lounge for a drink.
“I hadn’t heard about Bob before, and I was surprised when this cat came over to join us for a beer,” said Ullyett. “He hung out at our table and socialized for a while; he seemed really chill.”
Little did Ullyett and her friends know at the time, that they were hanging out with a local celebrity. Bob is one of the most popular cats in Atlin. When he was just a kitten, he followed the former bar manager to work one day and ended up claiming the recreation centre as his home base. This year, he’s turning 15, and the community is throwing him a party.
To mark the milestone birthday — 15 is old for a cat, especially one that spends a lot of time outdoors — a few residents have also been gathering stories and photographs of Bob to collect in a small book.
Brian Farnham is one of the organizers behind the project. Bob was one of the first people to welcome him when he moved to Atlin in 2010.
“He picked me — he came right over to me, and it carried on from there,” Farnham said. “He’s more talkative than most cats I know, he seems to have an opinion on everything.
“On a quiet morning, you can hear him coming – he’s got a lot of different meows and he knows how to tell you what he wants, usually a treat, or for somebody to fluff his pillow, or to be let outside.”
The pair became fast friends. For Farnham, Bob is a symbol of the friendly welcoming community he found in Atlin.
“It’s different than any other place I’ve lived,” he said. “Everybody knows each other and looks out for each other.”
And everybody seems to look after Bob, as well. If they find he’s strayed too far from home, they’ll make sure he gets back safely. Atlin-based artist Cass Collins is also helping with the project. She credits Bob with helping her overcome her fear of cats.
“Cats always just seemed mean to me, but Bob is actually really nice,” she said. “He’s highly socialized and he’s a huge suck for treats.”
To get the community inspired, Collins is hosting a Bob the Cat Paint Night in early April. It’s a pet-themed paint party where everyone is invited to paint a portrait of their own pet, or immortalize the famous feline. She hopes to show the finished pieces at the birthday party. Like Farnham and Collins, many locals have come to love Bob, and everybody seems to have a charming tale to tell. For example, he enjoys following people around town, and has been known to catch a nap in the back of a car with an open window.
Also, he loves people, but doesn’t have much time for dogs, as Atlin resident Lynne Phipps found out one day. She couldn’t help but laugh when she saw Bob notice a dog passing by and duck out of sight before leaping out to scare the unsuspecting canine.
“The dog took off yelping down the road with Bob hot on his trail,” said Phipps. “I laughed all the way home and still chuckle every time I think of it.”
Everyone is welcome to attend Bob’s party at the Atlin Recreation Centre on the evening of Thursday, April 12. Farnham and Collins will be selling books and Bob will be signing them with a stamp of his paw print.
“The celebration is to recognize what Bob means to the rec centre and the community,” Farnham said. “To me, he’s more than a pet, he’s like a member of the family.”
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