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Togus the Cat, a 26-pound orange and white Maine Coon with crazy flopped-down ears, died of apparent heart failure on Tuesday morning. For more than six years, the cat cohosted winter weather reports with WCSH-TV news reporter Don Carrigan from their home in midcoast Maine.
The cat had a rough start in life. He was abandoned when his former "owner" decided he didn’t want Togus — or any of the other 29 cats who lived with him. Carrigan and his wife, Donna, found Togus at a local hardware store and fell in love with him.
It took a little while for the cat to get comfortable in his new home. "Two days after being brought to our house," Carrigan wrote in a tribute to Togus, "[he] finally came out of his crate, jumped onto Donna’s lap, snuggled into her shoulder, and began a ten-year love affair."
But Don and Donna Carrigan weren’t the only people who fell in love with Togus. One nor’easter-blasted winter morning, Carrigan called in a snow report to StormCenter, a live weathercast that airs on WCSH and its sister station, Bangor-based WLBZ. He’d sent a couple of photos of him and Togus sitting at his kitchen table for the TV station to show while Carrigan called in his report. News anchor Lee Nelson asked Carrigan why his dog was sitting on the table, to which Carrigan replied, "That’s not a dog; that’s our 26-pound coon cat, Togus."
From there, Togus’s celebrity grew exponentially. In 2009, Togus got his own Facebook page, which now has almost 11,000 fans. Carrigan cowrote two children’s books about the cat, Togus: A Coon Cat Finds a Home, the story of Togus’s rescue and adoption; and Togus Takes the Train, based on an actual Christmas-time train trip. He began making appearances all over the state, cutting ribbons at new animal shelter facilities; supporting the TV stations’ Coats for Kids campaign, which provides warm winter clothing for needy children; visiting libraries and classrooms; and even appearing on some of WCSH’s in-studio shows.
Everywhere he went, he made a difference. His calm demeanor and his decidedly nondesigner look are a reflection of Maine’s people, among whom I’m proud to count myself: we may be a bit weather-beaten, but we’re strong and kind to those we care about and we’ll help our friends and communities any way we can.
"I would be amiss if I did not say that Togus was one of the best members of the NewsCenter Team," read one of the comments on Carrigan’s tribute. "I’m so sorry Don, I know he was like a child to you. I hope over time that the pain for you eases. Just remember how very happy he made all of the morning NewsCenter viewers."
I extend my condolences and compassion to Don and Donna Carrigan and the entire WCSH/WLBZ news team. It’s hard to lose a feline friend, especially one as amazing as Togus. I share the sentiments of another person who commented on the tribute: "The stormy snowy mornings will not be the same without him and Don doing the local reports."
WCSH 6 and WLBZ 2 have set up a Togus Memorial Fund for anyone who wants to make a contribution in his memory. Donations will be distributed to animal welfare groups and shelters all across Maine. For more information, visit the link below.