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Answer The Phone

Sometimes you just need to answer the phone.

She was young but her words were old. Like old as in older. Like from someone else. She was calling about Henri, her Mom’s cat. I couldn’t let go of how youthful she sounded but the words she spoke were the opposite.

In that moment I did not know she was reading her words before speaking them. When I asked about it she panicked, worried she had done something wrong. She said everything had been going wrong lately and she was just trying to help.

Her Mom died.

And now she was reading the words her Mom had left behind.


Named for Henri Matisse.

Her Mom was a painter. She painted for love not money. She knew that about her Mom. That’s pretty cool.

Her money job was in an office but in her heart she was a painter. Henri was her assistant. And now she was gone and this girl who was far too young to be making this call was doing all she could to be there for Henri.

Her Mom had called The Pongo Fund many months earlier. She wasn’t sure exactly what we did but she wanted to talk about Henri. She was worried about something going on and the fear she could not afford the vet care needed. Things were still ok then and she was just being proactive. We didn’t have enough information to know what was going on but we asked her to stay in touch. And now her daughter was making that call for her.

Apparently her Mom had left some notes about The Pongo Fund and Henri. Mom and daughter had talked about them and now the daughter was making the next call just to keep us updated. They lived states away and there was no assurance we could help but somehow the Mom was touched by our first phone conversation and told her daughter to call us again. She’d even written our contact info in Henri’s journal.

So now this young girl was on the phone reading words that built on previous words about this cat who spent a lot of his time in a makeshift art studio in their home. He loved it there.

In the midst of it all as this special young girl talked about Henri and what he was eating and how his poops looked, I asked her a question she didn’t see coming. I didn’t either.

I asked her how she was doing.

She was a young teen and now without a Mom. She had family and everyone was grieving but it was her that was going to be there for Henri. Keeping him healthy was her way of honoring her Mom.

When she said that I knew exactly what she meant.

Because I’ve been there too.

The Pongo Fund continues to be a tiny group. In the animal welfare world you could fit us on the head of a pin. We are unabashedly small and probably always will be.

But it’s being small that allows us to talk to a young girl about a cat named Henri while we listen to her talk about her Mom who passed away. Henri was her legacy. It’s just that she never knew what that meant because her Mom was far too young to die.

“To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.” – Thomas Campbell


Ends too soon.

For Henri.

And the girl who loves him.

And this is why we Pongo.

Sit. Stay. Eat. Live.

The Pongo Fund / Portland, Oregon