Henne

henneHenne first came into our lives when she was rescued from an animal shelter in Raton, New Mexico. Steve was working as a backcountry guide at the Philmont Scout Ranch. Philmont’s policy was that pets were not allowed at the backcountry camps, but this policy was not enforced stringently. Steve learned she had been named “Wee One” by the owner that couldn’t keep her. Steve and crew renamed her “Genevebe” after Waite Phillips’ wife (Waite Phillips donated the property to the Scouts that comprise the ranch.) Pronounced “Henne-viva,” we quickly settled on the shortened version, Henne.

When the time came to pack up and return home for the summer, it seemed that Henne didn’t have a home to go back to as had been originally thought. Steve sprung into action by first asking us if we could take her. We already had a dog and a cat, and I, for one, did not want another pet. But you do what you can for your family, so we agreed (Alice was delighted to have another cat.)

Next came the challenge of getting her from New Mexico to the UP of Michigan. Steve had a train ticket that would take him as far as Milwaukee, where we would pick him up. The train would not take pets. It turned out the airlines transported pets under some circumstances for a large wad of money, but could not guarantee transportation if the weather was too warm. Steve did not have the luxury of being able to hang around the airport until things cooled down.

Steve put out feelers, and found out that two scouts from Philmont were driving back home to Duluth, MN (about 4 hours driving from us.) He contacted them, and they agreed to take her along. All we had to do was coordinate with their Dad and pick her up when she arrived in Duluth with the boys. Sounded simple.

The guys decided to drive home via the scenic route… through several national parks over several days. We had to meet Steve’s train on Sunday in Milwaukee. As I kept in contact with the father of these scouts, it appeared they’d be home Friday night. We told him we’d be there first thing Saturday morning to pick up the cat. I called him on Thursday to make sure the guys were on schedule, and he assured me they were.

We left home very early Saturday morning and arrived in Duluth at these people’s home around 9:00 am. When I walked up to the fellow, he looked at me as though he wasn’t expecting me. In fact, he wasn’t expecting me. When I said we’d come for the cat, he said they boys decided to send last night with their aunt in Brainerd, MN. “Where the heck is Brainerd?” we asked. We got directions and hurried back onto the road. We needed to get the cat, get home, rest a bit, get up early, and drive to Milwaukee to pick up Steve the next day.

It turned out Brainerd was several hours away. We found the place, retrieved Henne from the boys’ car. She was tiny, scared, and clung to me as I carried her into our van and into our dog’s crate. She didn’t touch her food or water all the way home. We got home after midnight, and were up early the next morning to make the drive to pick up Steve.

As time went by, our resident male cat, Ripley, did not warm up to Henne. She wanted to play, and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with this interloper. He blustered and hissed, and she continued to try to be friends. I don’t think they ever became friends, even to the end of Ripley’s life.

As the years went by, our dog Panzer and Henne got along alright. Panzer went to dog heaven, and Henne was the queen of the homestead for several years. When we brought home a German Shepherd puppy about 5 years ago, Henne reacted to him much the same way that Ripley had reacted to her all those years ago. Plenty of bluster, disgust, and hissing. Henne lived upstairs, Franco lived downstairs, and seldom the twain did meet.

Last January at Henne’s annual physical, we learned her kidney’s were failing. We put her on special food for this disorder, and bought her one of those fancy auto-feeders to ensure she’d get the regular small portions of food that were best for her. Her peeing started to get less accurate, but seemed to be getting along just fine.

In early May of this year, we decided to take a family trip in the motorhome, and to bring Henne along in addition to our seasoned traveler, Franco. Henne has never liked being in the car, so we were anticipating some difficulties. Once we figured out the cat litter situation, and cleaned up the mistakes as cheerfully as possible, we all settled into a pretty good travel routine. I took a class in Timber Framing at Tiller’s International while Alice and the pets enjoyed life on the farm in the motorhome. We moved on to Lansing for a visit with my parents, and then down to West Virginia to visit Steve and John. The trip went well as we all adjusted to a much smaller living space.

Steve had a chance to sit with Henne while we were in WV. She clearly wasn’t her usual self, but at age 16, she was what the vet called a “super-senior,” meaning she was slowing down. Henne spent a lot of contented time on Steve’s lap on this trip as they became reacquainted.

The day we left West Virginia, Henne’s personality changed. Where before she drank a lot of water to keep those kidney’s going, she barely drank at all, even when we held the water dish to her lips. Her food dish sat with food in it, which was very unusual. By the time we got all the way home on midday Tuesday, Henne was not doing well. She couldn’t jump up onto things unassisted, had trouble jumping down, and still wasn’t drinking water. She spent a lot of her time staring out into space.

We called the vet Tuesday afternoon and made an appointment for the next morning. The vet looked at her vitals, tenderly examined her, asked us questions, and then told us that there was really no hope. If we intervened aggressively, she might live on for several weeks. The toxicity resulting from her failed kidneys would continue to poison her until her system collapsed. We reluctantly decided it was time for us to say goodbye to Henne.

Everyone at the vet’s office was so understanding. They all knew Henne from her annual visits, and knew how much she meant to us. The injection went in, Henne relaxed, and our super-senior purred no more. We left the vets office with our empty cat carrier in a daze. Several days later the tears still well up when I think of our last few hours together. I never wanted that cat, but she sure had become an important part of my life… a part I had such a hard time saying good-bye to. I miss you, sweetheart.

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