A popular local figure according to residents and students alike passed away on Feb. 12. Djembe, Bar Kitty or simply BK was the resident cat at The Mecklenburg Inn on German Street. He was approximately 17 years old.
News of BK’s death flooded Facebook in the late evening and early morning of Feb. 12 and 13 respectively. A Facebook group called “Friends of Djembe” released the news at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 12. Immediately, fond memories, photographs and stories were posted as patrons of the Meck from far and wide reacted to the news.
Audra Costlow, a recent Shepherd graduate who is now teaching English in Spain, heard of the death of BK shortly after it was announced. “I’m not ashamed to admit that many of my own trips to the Meck were motivated in part, if not entirely, by the prospect of BK napping in my lap,” she said.
Jeff Jarina spent the evening after presenting his senior English capstone at the Meck. “I spent the entire night…hanging with BK. He helped me realize that even if I didn’t graduate, have an adventure, fall in love, or get my dream job, I could always buy a cat.”
Many of those interviewed responded exactly as Cory Rieckenhavoc did: “BK wasn’t my cat, but I still loved him like he was and I like to think he felt the same.”
Not only did BK offer succor for visits to the Meck, but his owners organized a fundraising effort for which he acted as an ambassador of sorts: Pawject BK. According to its Facebook group, it seeks to “raise funds and awareness for local shelters and pets looking for their forever homes.”
In a tribute article, Kelly Cambrel of the Shepherdstown Chronicle reported that the organization had raised over $1,200 for the Jefferson County Animal Shelter.
One of the often speculated topics relating to BK was how he lost a portion of his tail. Stories such as “it was run over by a car” have floated around the Meck for sometime. However, BK’s original owner, Melanie Ford, shared on BK’s Facebook group that he was involved in a cat fight in 2000. A portion of his tail was amputated due to nerve damage.
Fond memories, photographs and tributes continue to be posted on Facebook and demonstrate what a lasting impact BK had on so many people.
Costlow, like many others, summed up the effect that a simple cat had on a town by saying, “He will be missed.”