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Dayton Docket

Cat on the steps of Keller Hall

The Cat Who Went To Law School

She just showed up one day. Arriving with the budding trees and warming temperatures of spring.

“It was like all of the sudden she was just there,” says 2L Kyla Hickman. “It wasn’t like one of us noticed her first. I think we all walked out one day and she was out there.”

You can often find students lounging on the steps of the University of Dayton School of Law’s Keller Hall, but this was a first.

“I was walking out after Contracts class and someone was like, ‘there’s a cat,’” says 2L Ana Scherschel.

The cat quickly worked out its own sort of contract with those who used the steps of Keller Hall. The terms were generous. She would meow at you to see if you’d feed her. In return, sometimes she would brush against your leg as you walked or come up to you so you could pet her gently. 

But the deal wasn’t binding. It seemed like one day the cat would be gone. Either moving on to somewhere else or claimed by someone who was missing her.

“We figured that at first, but we quickly learned she was going to stay there,” Hickman says. “Especially once we started feeding her and she knew she was getting food if she stayed there along with shelter under the bushes by the steps.”

Soon the cat became the law school’s unofficial greeter, watching students go by as she warmed herself on the steps in the late spring sunshine.

“People love seeing the cat,” Hickman says.

The job came with its perks. Soon students, faculty and staff who enjoyed visiting with the cat started stocking food for it.

“I have cat food in my locker, cans of Friskies,” Scherschel says.

But as spring started to give way to summer and the end of the semester approached, some were concerned if there would be enough people around to feed the cat.

That’s where Beth Key comes in. A Dayton resident, Beth knew an undergraduate student who had been helping care for the cat. That student asked Key to feed the cat over the summer.

“She said there’s this cat and it needs help,” Key says. “She knows I do cat rescue. I brought a weather proof house for her and put it in the bushes and brought food to her.”

Key soon realized how popular the cat had become.

“When I’d come in the summer, people would come by and they’d each call her something different,” Key says. “People know her, which is really cool. She brings joy to people.”

To Key, the cat has always been Moose because that’s what the UD student she knew called her.

Some students in one class dubbed her Keller after the building, while others named her Steps after the place where you can find her hanging out.

But the cleverest name for her might be Learned Paw. Something 2L Emmy Flottman-Mullen came up with in a group chat as a play off the name of Learned Hand, a famed federal judge.

And now Learned Paw is her official name. It’s the name Hickman used when she had paperwork filled out to set up an appointment with a veterinarian. Hickman, Scherschel and Key say that while it’s great Learned Paw has become so popular, it would be tough for her to survive a winter solely outside since someone previously had her declawed.

So Hickman will provide her a home, even if it may take Learned Paw a little while to get used to her new surroundings.

The only problem at first was catching her. But after several attempts, Key was finally able to do it before the fading warmth of fall turned to the chill of winter.

Knowing how much everyone cares about Learned Paw, Hickman wants to start an Instagram page to give updates on her and even plans to bring her around the law school from time to time.

“I have met so many people through this and gotten to know professors better than I did before,” Hickman says of the experience.

Just like with students, Learned Paw didn’t know exactly what to expect when she first climbed the steps of Keller Hall.

But she’ll leave having found a home.

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