Employees at AME Automotive are always truthful when telemarketers call to speak to Bob the owner.
They'll tell them that Bob is sleeping on the counter after a night out — or maybe he's up a tree — and can't come to the phone.
Their words usually don't get much notice. The telemarketers will just say thanks, they'll call back later.
Bob Loughran is listed as the shop's owner so the telemarketing calls don't bother Bill Loughran, the real proprietor of the auto repair shop near 90th and Maple Streets.
It wasn't until a year and a half ago that Bob came to life in the shape of a stray cat.
Mechanic Al Claussen saw the animal running around behind the shop. Claussen finally got close enough to pet him, and the cat immediately flopped over.
“He loves being scratched,'' Claussen said.
Bob has ruled the shop ever since.
He's usually sprawled on the counter, sleeping, when customers arrive to pick up their cars. From inside the shop, he can access the drop box where owners leave their keys before the shop opens, and he's startled a few people by sticking up a paw when they're dropping into the box.
One customer thought Bob was stuffed and got the surprise of his life when the cat moved.
“He was plastered against the window,” Loughran said. “Bob was just yawning.''
Customers love to pet Bob. He loves the attention, as long as no other animals are involved.
He's a constant source of conversation and often gets a treat when people arrive to pay their bill.
“He gets more Christmas cards than we do,'' Loughran said.
A customer once accidentally stepped on Bob's tail and bought him a toy to apologize. She delivered it when she picked up her repaired vehicle.
“We're standing here sweating and working on her car all day long, and the cat gets a toy,'' Loughran said, laughing.
After Loughran's wife, Georgia, started feeding Bob when he first showed up, they took him to the Nebraska Humane Society to make sure he wasn't missing. They advertised, offering a free oil change and tire rotation to the person who could prove ownership.
No one called, and Bob has had his own bed on the second floor of the shop ever since. He was already neutered, and they've made sure he's gotten all his shots.
Besides an occasional all-nighter (he'll be waiting at the door the next morning), Bob has just one fault.
He can't seem to resist trucks, and twice has been found inside one visiting the shop. One UPS driver had to bring Bob back to AME after finding him inside his vehicle at his next stop.
That's how Loughran and Claussen think he arrived in their neighborhood.
“Bob has got a fetish for boxes,'' Loughran said, “and we think he jumped on the wrong truck.''