Three-Legged Cat Shares Multi-platform Message
of Tolerance and Healing
from Animal PLanet • 04/05/2011
A Tabby's Tale
He's got three legs, lots of friends, and one huge heart. Henry, a 7-year-old California tabby whose life began with uncertainty, is a cat whose message of survival is now reaching around the globe. Not bad for a formerly feral kitten who found a home with humans firmly describing themselves as "dog people."
Rescued by Cathy Conheim and her friend Donna Brooks, Henry was part of a feral colony that had taken up residence on Conheim's property in a small mountain town, Julian, Calif. Henry's left foreleg was badly injured, and Conheim's vet said the kitten could lose the leg, or lose his life. Conheim didn't really want a cat, let alone a three-legged kitten, but.... After the amputation, Henry joined Conheim's household, teaching both his new owners and the resident dogs how to live with a cat. Dolly, a curly black poodle, initially felt invisible when this fluffy invader landed on her turf. But swayed by Henry's friendship, Dolly ultimately opened her heart to the purring newcomer.
Conheim was impressed by Henry's spirit and adaptability. She wanted to share the story of the brave little cat. Writing in Henry's voice, Conheim, a psychotherapist, sent out tales of lessons learned and experiences enjoyed. Henry's emails were forwarded to coworkers, to friends, to military men and women far from home, to cat lovers, and even non-cat lovers. No matter: Henry's own story, and his learning-teaching process, was a cyber-hit, striking a chord of recognition or compassion in all who heard about him'.
Replies to Henry's emails began arriving, filled with expressions of gratitude, hope, every kind of emotion and even secrets—because of course, cats can keep secrets better than any human! Conheim began responding to the increasingly large number of what she calls Henry's "pawpals," and decided she wanted to take the cat's message a step further. She gave Henry his own website (www.henrysworld.org), and set out to put lessons about the perceived stigma of being "different" into a book. "What's the Matter With Henry?" introduced the gray-striped cat with the missing leg. "Henry's World" explores "a three-legged cat's view of human absurdity." A third self-published title, "What's the Matter With Dolly? I'm Here Too!"—featuring a cover photo of Dolly, adorable in a red bandana—is a reminder that all pets/people are special and shouldn't be overlooked.
Conheim makes the books, and companion workbooks, available to schools, animal shelters and hospitals, as tools for teaching tolerance and healing. "We wish animal groups all over the world would use them for their fundraising," she said. Henry's stories also help those with disabilities to view themselves with pride and confidence, just as he and Tink, a two-legged Daschund, do. Some groups have used Henry's example to create an anti-bullying message. For his efforts, Henry was recently named the ASPCA's Cat of the Year.
Conheim said that "in a million years, I could not imagine having a cat, let alone a national healing and educational movement wrapped in fur." Just a few weeks ago, U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin paid a visit to Henry, to learn more about his project. Way to go, Henry! Conheim said even if she didn't fully grasp the power of cyberspace, "I understand completely the power of animals to be our safe and loving teachers." Henry,of course, agrees.