Several weeks ago I received a photo inquiry from Henry's mom, Sherri. She told me that she adopted him from the PetSmart shelter 12 years ago, and that Henry also had a rare and fatal disease known as Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), and didn't have much time left.
My heart broke, I immediately found a spot in my schedule (no brainer) that worked for both of us in late April.
Come to find out, Henry did not in fact have FIP, but instead something equally sinister - Metastatic Colon Cancer. Fortunately, Sherri was able to implement a number of different treatments, including a successful Vitamin C treatment, that not only extended his beautiful life, but made his final weeks much more comfortable
From the moment I met Henry, I fell head over heels. Henry is a regal cat, the kind of kitty who lets other cats know he's in charge without lifting a paw. Two of Sherri's other cats, James and Toby, despite being quite nasty to each other, did nothing but show deference to Henry whenever he was present. It was obvious they knew Henry was boss, even in his weakened state.
I approached him slowly, not wanting to upset him in any manner. He waited patiently, obviously not threatened at all by my presence. When I reached up to pet him and scratch behind his ears, he purred triumphantly. "Yes, human," he seemed to say, "This is what I wanted, do not stop."
What I loved most about photographing this darling was the distinctiveness of his face. His yellow eyes peer knowingly out from above decadent whiskers, and his heart shaped head is perpetually cocked to the side in observation. The little white soul patch beneath his mouth adds a touch of joviality to a fully black visage, as if to say, "take me seriously, but not too seriously."
There is something unique and wonderful about tuxedo cats. It's as if they are always wearing their finery in a way that's both smart and casual. They can be dressed up or dressed down in any setting, but without doubt they are always the best dressed.
In between snapping photos of his handsome demeanor, I would pause for belly rubs and chin rubs and Henry would eat up the attention. Such a charmer that one.
A week before the shoot, Henry's mom had started to give him a Vitamin C treatment in an attempt to boost his immune system. The doctor had given him less than 2 weeks to live, and by the time I met him he was reaching the end of that duration. Yet, despite looking a little boney, he seemed happy and alert, ready to rule his kingdom.
When I returned a couple of weeks later to visit Sherri for tea and talk about which photos were her favorite for prints, Henry was still purring nobly, although he looked a little more ragged around the edges. He had gone in for additional treatment and the fur on his legs was partially shaved. Yet, that didn't stop him from doing one of his favorite things: hopping into the sink for a little drink and a cool down.
Henry passed away the morning of June 16 in his mother's arms, living for 7 weeks and 6 dayslonger than anyone thought he was technically supposed to. Sherri had told me over and over again how he had been her favorite cat, the one who had always understood her and was there for her on her bad days, and her good ones. Henry was the kind of cat that you'll never be able to forget...and there is no question that wherever he is now, he is ruling all the felines in his domain with compassion and grandeur.
I feel so privileged to have had the chance to meet Henry and know him for those few short weeks. My life has been enriched by knowing him, the cat who would be king.
© 2016 Salem Pet Photo