Cat on a counter

Pumpkin the cat relaxes on the counter at the Athens County Board of Elections as Deputy Elections Director Penny Brooks talks with Robert George of Coolville.

While Democrats and Republicans feud at the national level, representatives of the two parties in Athens County have come together for a common cause: Pumpkin the cat.

Pumpkin, who was in need of a home and some medical attention, has been adopted by Debbie Quivey and Penny Brooks. Quivey, a Republican, is director of the Athens County Board of Elections, while Brooks, a Democrat, is deputy director.

Passersby can often see Pumpkin sitting in the window of the elections board office, a tabby keeping tabs on Court Street goings-on. People will sometimes stop to look at Pumpkin, pecking on the window to get his attention.

“He’s a chick magnet. The college girls come in and see him,” Quivey said.

People, including other county employees, also bring the cat treats and toys.

Pumpkin — that’s a nickname, his real name is Pierre — found a home at the elections board office last fall after Brooks and Quivey encountered two Ohio University students having a dispute about the cat. The boyfriend wanted the cat out of their downtown apartment, so the girlfriend asked the two election workers to take the animal.

There were some health issues — Pumpkin had an eye infection, ear mites and fleas — and Brooks and Quivey spent more than $300 of their own money to get him medical attention, including shots.

“No county money, we buy his food and litter,” Brooks said.

When the cat was first rescued, Brooks and Quivey kept him behind the scenes, concerned about how a cat at the elections board office would be perceived. Then one day, they heard someone pecking on the front window and discovered that Pumpkin had escaped to the front window and was making new friends. Pumpkin had gone public.

“The cat was out of the bag, as they say,” Brooks recalled. Since then, people have responded positively to the office cat, she said.

“We haven’t had any negativity,” Quivey said of people’s reaction to Pumpkin’s presence.

When customers ring a bell for service, Pumpkin will sometimes use a strategically placed chair to jump up on the counter to greet the new arrival. Other times he’s stretched out on a blanket in the front window, lazily watching people walk past.

Pumpkin has not only garnered local fans, he’s known to election workers across the state of Ohio. That’s because he was a topic of discussion at January’s convention of the Ohio Association of Election Officials.

During a convention luncheon, someone asked if anyone knew ways to reduce the stress of election workers during elections. Quivey and Brooks spoke up and told the story of Pumpkin.

“I honestly noticed a difference in stress in the office during the general election,” Quivey said Monday.

“We spend five minutes with the cat and we’re chilled out,” Brooks agreed.

Although Pumpkin’s “parents” are of opposite political parties, Quivey said there’s some indication that the cat itself may have some political leanings.

“The cat is a Democrat, because he really likes Penny,” Quivey said with mock consternation.

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srobb@athensmessenger.com; Twitter @SteveRmessenger


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