Henry, JM, the Three-Legged Cat, Healer, Spreader of Hope and Love, Departed This World on July 24
by Tim Brittain
He began life a homeless kitten, had to have an one of his legs amputated after a mysterious accident, and yet managed to positively affect millions. He never behaved as if he was hindered, exploring the world and escaping from any constraints with a constant sense of adventure. He welcomed strangers, made uncommon friends, and lent his name and his voice to a mission of emotional resilience.
Thousands of veterans and their families looked to him for inspiration in coping with their wounds and memories. School children discovered through his lessons that they could emerge from bullying and the stigma of “being different” to achievement and respect. Adults with profound challenges or terminal illnesses found in his messages a sense of comfort, of generosity, and of purpose. Henry the three-legged cat went over the rainbow bridge in his home in La Jolla. He now joins his beloved Dr. Mom and Dollydog.
In 2010 Henry was named the Cat of the Year by the ASPCA because of the humanitarian work accomplished in his name. His scribe, Cathy Conheim, discovered that we humans trust the voice of an animal far more than we do our own voices, and she has been able to offer profoundly supportive healing through Henry. Henry corresponded with over 100,000 people during his lifetime, as this trust in Henry’s sympathy allowed them to tell their stories. Henry called upon each person to become a hero in his or her own story.
Recently, one of the teachers using Henry’s book What’s the Matter with Henry?, and its accompanying workbook, won a Golden Bear award for innovative education. Another teacher led a school through Henry’s Just Me Project, achieving extraordinary art in the process, but more importantly bringing about dramatic changes in the lives of the students and their families as a result of their engagement. The book raises the questions around coping with change and finding hope and love no matter what one’s challenges. The companion book What About Me? I’m Here Too! used the voice of Henry’s life companion, Dolly, a nervous black poodle, to explore the feelings of confusion and loss. A key lesson of this project is that being true to who you are is the greatest gift you can give to others.
A retired Surgeon-General had colleagues review the project and they told him that they felt these materials should be placed “like the Gideon Bible” in every school and every hospital. A little cat that loved fish flakes and escaping to the garden has had a life that has had an influence beyond all imagination. His charming presence will be greatly missed, but his work and his message endure. He may gain even more power and access as a cosmic cat. Videos at henrysworld.org/gal-movies.html