Founder of the Old Mill District and our beloved friend, Bill Smith, left behind another legacy: his office cat Teeny.

Bill Smith’s legacy can be seen all over his city, from the Old Mill District to the banks of the Deschutes River to the many charity organizations he supported. But the pioneer of modern Bend left another legacy: his office cat Teeny, who a year and a half after Smith’s death still patrols the William Smith Properties office making sure the staff stays in line.

“She’s an asset to the office,” said Peter McCaffrey, vice president of William Smith Properties pictured above. “She’s a lot of fun to have here and makes coming here fun. Bill’s deep down goal was that this always felt more like your living room than your workplace, and having a cat here has that effect.”

For 12 years, Teeny has kept staff on their toes by bringing in live birds, snakes, squirrels and voles. She makes sure everyone is on a strict lunchtime schedule — chicken scraps must be provided on demand. And she has even whipped nighttime security into shape by ensuring snacks are provided nightly for her pleasure.

Photo of Bill Smith, founder of the Old Mill District, holding his office cat Teeny.

But it’s been hard for Teeny to keep up the same work ethic since Smith died on Nov. 18, 2022. Instead of napping on the papers lining Smith’s desk, she’s had to find new places to sleep. For now, the spot between office file cabinets seems to work.

“It was a really noticeable thing. On the rare occasion Bill wasn’t in the office, she would sort of make her rounds and bother everyone. After he passed — she was making sense of it — it became a regular thing. She was disturbing us a lot and we were coping, but she’s found a new normal,” McCaffrey said.

This is Teeny’s home

McCaffrey and Property Manager Deanna Albin said it was never a question whether or not Teeny would keep living in the office after Smith died, even if it was an adjustment for everyone.

“It was thrown out once, probably by me, ‘Does anyone have strong feelings that she maybe needs to be in a home?’ It was unanimous. This is her home. I don’t think we would ever take her out of it. We actually accommodated our schedules to help make her comfortable and stay here,” Albin said.

Photo of Bill Smith working at his desk with Teeny the office cat resting on his papers.

A year and half later, Teeny and the staff have perfected their new routine. The first person in the office every morning opens Teeny’s cat door. She is fed, gets her medication and goes on her way. Around 3 p.m., the last staff member to see her come inside closes the cat door and flips the sign out front that says, “please don’t let out the cat.”

On the weekends, staffers divide and conquer using a weekly sign-up sheet. It’s never difficult to find a volunteer, and Teeny is well fed and well cared for. For Teeny, the basics haven’t changed, and she still makes sure everyone knows she rules the roost at William Smith Properties. An extra treat or two wouldn’t hurt, but otherwise she makes due.

But beyond mere logistics, Albin said everyone in the office takes care of Teeny because of their loyalty to Smith. It softens the blow of his death, somewhat, Albin said, because it makes them feel like a part of him is still in the office. McCaffrey and Albin aren’t sure if staff will decide to take on another office cat after Teeny, but it isn’t outside the realm of possibility. “I don’t know how it would be (with another cat.) I feel like I’m taking care of this cat for Bill. Bill would want this,” Albin said. “The loyalty to Teeny is just … Whenever I think of Bill I want to tell him, ‘Don’t worry. We’re taking care of Teeny.’”

Article written in Bend Bulletin May 29, 2024 by Morgan Owen.