Michigan native Cathy Conheim calls her three-legged cat, Henry, a “therapet.”
It’s an accurate term for a kitty that has touched so many lives, including Conheim’s own, in so many unexpected ways.
Conheim, a psychotherapist in La Jolla, California, and her partner Donna Brooks were avowed “dog people” when little Henry came into their lives, his front leg badly injured. When the couple took Henry to the vet they learned he needed to have his leg amputated. It didn’t take long for Conheim and Brooks to decide to hand over the money for the operation. They soon found themselves handing over their hearts, too.
Thus, two “dog people” became smitten with a kitten.
Like any proud mom, Conheim composed an email about Henry’s big adventure to a few friends using “Henry’s voice.” Soon Henry received hundreds of emails from all over the world. To date he has received over 3,000 messages, many from people eager to share their own stories about resilience, survival and loss.
The outpouring of interest in Henry’s story led to the publication of “Henry’s World,” the story of a resilient tri-pod kitty as told through his correspondences with his friends, animal and human.
“This is a book told through a cat about how he won a battle around disability and prejudice and trust,” Conheim, self-described “cat scribe,” said.
“I think it’s a book about how we survive our wounds and the different ways we have of moving through the world and the power of reaching out,” said Conheim. “It teaches the power of stories.”
Animals, she said, give us an excuse to talk to a stranger. “We’re much too polite or uptight to start a real conversation with someone on the street,” she said. “I hope it’s a model for: what if we lived our life this way, what if we reached out when we were sad and hurt?” Henry opens that door.
The day Conheim spoke to BTL she’d received news that Emmy Lu’s mom, Dee, had passed away. Dee was one of the first people to start communicating with Henry through the persona of her cat Emmy Lu. Many of her messages are included in “Henry’s World.” With her husband overseas in the military, it was to Henry that Dee first talked about her cancer diagnosis. “She was confiding in a stranger,” said Conheim.
Dee continued corresponding with Henry throughout her illness.
“It’s one of the things that really allowed me to see the power of how people will talk to an animal,” said Conheim.
One of Dee’s last wishes was to fly from Seattle to California to meet Henry. She stayed four days at Henry’s home. “He stayed all four days in her room,” said Conheim.
When Dee returned home she continued corresponding with Henry as Emmy Lu. “I’ve cried as much about Dee as friends I’ve known for years,” said Conheim. “It got into my heart that deeply through Henry.”
Though “Henry’s World” is written in a light, whimsical style, Henry offers many lessons for his two-legged friends. After all, the book is subtitled: “A Three-Legged Cat’s View of Human Absurdity.”
“It’s certainly a book about overcoming prejudice,” said Conheim. Before Henry, she said, “I hated cats.” Or so she thought.
“It sort of teaches that you can only hate what you don’t understand, which is certainly what gay people are subjected to,” she said.
“It’s also a book about the power of this virtual world called the Internet,” she said. Without email, “Henry’s World” wouldn’t exist. “In a million years I wouldn’t have sat down and written letters by hand.”
Through word of mouth, including an email sent by Robin Tyler to the DontAmend.com list, copies of “Henry’s World” are being sold, each copy raising money for animal charities. “I sold 1,100 copies in seven weeks and it doesn’t exist anywhere except in my garage,” said Conheim, who self-published the book and mails each copy out herself.
Conheim makes no profit from the books. “Henry’s World” is truly a labor of love and a way for Conheim to combine her passion for animals and her passion for creating innovative ways of doing healing. All profit from “Henry’s World” goes to various animal charities.
Conheim’s goal is to raise a million dollars to help animals. However, she already knows her special little cat Henry is a success.
“If Henry didn’t do anything else but change Emmy Lu’s mom’s life for the last year, he made a difference,” she said.
Buy ‘Henry’s World’ and support WAGS
Cathy Conheim and Henry will donate the profits of each copy of “Henry’s World” purchased by BTL readers to WAGS of Metro Detroit, a program that helps people living with HIV/AIDS keep their companion animals. Books are $20 plus $5 shipping and handling and can be ordered online using PayPal at http://www.henrysworld.org or by mail through Breakthrough Press; PO Box 135; La Jolla, CA 92038. Make checks payable to Cathy Conheim. Be sure to indicate “WAGS” in the PayPal message box or with your check.