When retired psychotherapist Cathy Conheim and her friend Donna Brooks found an injured stray kitten on the doorstep of their California home, they had no idea that he would touch the lives of thousands of people and result in a Cat of the Year Award from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Aninmals (ASPCA).
The kitten’s left front leg dangled uselessly from his shoulder, so Conheim and Brooks rushed him to the vet, where they learned that the leg would have to be amputated to save his life.
Once the kitten, now named Henry, recovered from surgery, he became Conheim’s inspiration. The two began working together to help people learn tolerance and resilience in the face of physical disabilities and differences.
Conheim and Henry’s first book, Henry’s World, is the true-life tale of a cat who lost a front limb after being hit by a car. The book details the life of Henry, aka Tripod, and his human mothers, Cathy Conheim and Donna Brooks, as told from Henry’s point of view.
Henry’s World and two other books, What’s the Matter with Henry? and What About Me, I’m Here Too, have been distributed to more than 45,000 people around the world, including victims of Hurricane Katrina and families of wounded veterans. One of Henry’s books has been translated into Creole to help a children’s amputee project in Haiti.
To date, Henry’s books have raised more than $50,000 for local animal welfare groups to help other animals in need.
The award process started in February, when the ASPCA made a nationwide call to the public for Humane Award nominations. An ASPCA-appointed committee then reviewed hundreds of entries and selected winners in six categories.
“The ASPCA Humane Award winners have demonstrated extraordinary courage and compassion in the face of adversity from natural disasters to man-made crises,” ASPCA presidentand CEO Ed Sayres said. “The ASPCA is proud to honor those who have dedicated their lives to strengthening the human-animal bond.”
Other honorees include the Dog of the Year, Pearl, a black Labrador retriever rescued from a shelter by volunteers from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. Pearl quickly completed her training and became certified as a search dog. She and her handler were deployed to Haiti after the July 2010 earthquake to save victims.
The Kid of the Year award goes to 11-year-old Olivia Bouler, who helped birds affected in the Gulf Coast by creating and selling watercolor illustrations to raise funds for her local Audubon chapter.
The ASPCA’s Annual Humane Awards Luncheon will be held on Thursday, Nov. 11, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. The ceremony recognizes animal heroes who have demonstrated extraordinary efforts, as well as individuals who have made a significant impact on the lives of animals during the past year.
Visit the ASPCA’s website for more information about these ASPCA Humane Award recipients and the other three winners.