Monday, September 21, 2009

Fambly kittens recommend: Homer's Odessey, a story of courage, optimism and love

I have NO interest in the proceeds of this book. I don't know this woman. I can't even tell you how I found out about the book being published, BUT I can tell you this, I have ordered the book and I will read each and every word with a cat (or two) on my lap.

Several years ago I had the honor, and privledge, of adopting a blind dog, Prince. That dog was one of the most precious additions to my home until he left this earth for a better place. If I had the opportunity again, I wouldn't hestitate to adopt a "handicapped" animal, because once you live with one - you find out that it was YOU that was handicapped, not the animal. I think we handicap ourselves when we think that if someone, or an animal, isn't just like us there must be something wrong. That thought couldn't be further from the truth.

A great gift idea for Christmas - for someone else or for you!

Once in nine lives, something extraordinary happens…

The last thing Gwen Cooper wanted was another cat. She already had two, not to mention a phenomenally underpaying job and a recently broken heart. Then Gwen’s veterinarian called with a story about a three-week-old eyeless kitten who’d been abandoned. It was love at first sight.

Everyone warned that Homer would always be an “underachiever,” never as playful or independent as other cats. But the kitten nobody believed in quickly grew into a three-pound dynamo, a tiny daredevil with a giant heart who eagerly made friends with every human who crossed his path. Homer scaled seven-foot bookcases with ease and leapt five feet into the air to catch flies in mid-buzz. He survived being trapped alone for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center, and even saved Gwen’s life when he chased off an intruder who broke into their home in the middle of the night.

But it was Homer’s unswerving loyalty, his infinite capacity for love, and his joy in the face of all obstacles that inspired Gwen daily and transformed her life. And by the time she met the man she would marry, she realized Homer had taught her the most important lesson of all: Love isn’t something you see with your eyes.

Homer’s Odyssey is the once-in-a-lifetime story of an extraordinary cat and his human companion. It celebrates the refusal to accept limits—on love, ability, or hope against overwhelming odds. By turns jubilant and moving, it’s a memoir for anybody who’s ever fallen completely and helplessly in love with a pet.


I was twenty-five years old, newly single, and flat broke the day my veterinarian called to tell me about the kitten in need of a home.

An orphaned, four-week-old stray had been abandoned at her office, she said, after a virulent eye infection had required the surgical removal of both of his eyes. The couple that had originally brought him in no longer wanted him nor did any of the people on her adoption list, not even the ones who had expressed a specific interest in adopting a handicapped cat. Nobody, it seemed, wanted to face this particular handicap. I was her last call, the last possibility she could think of, before…

She didn’t finish her sentence, and she didn’t have to. I knew there was almost no chance that an eyeless kitten would be adopted from a shelter before his time ran out.

I had two cats already. The three of us were sleeping in a friend’s spare bedroom while I tried to put my life back together, having moved only a few months earlier from the home I’d shared for three years with the boyfriend I’d just broken up with.

It was, to say the least, far from being an opportune moment to consider adopting a third cat—especially one with special needs who might, for all I knew, require a level of care and attention more intensive than what I could realistically offer.

Still, I hung up the phone having agreed to meet him. Truth be told, I was in tears by the end of my vet’s story. Although I was sure I knew that ultimately I’d have to say “no,” I didn’t have the heart to say it right then.
The following afternoon found me at my vet’s office, standing in an exam room and looking into a small, lidless plastic box that held the kitten. He’s so tiny, was my first thought. Both of my cats had been almost this young when I’d taken them in, but I’d forgotten how absolutely tiny a four-week-old kitten is. He couldn’t have weighed more than a few ounces. He had curled himself up into a miniature sphere in the farthest corner of the box, a fuzzy softball that would have fit easily into the palm of my hand. His fur was all black, and it had that static-electricity fluffiness that very small kittens have, as if their fur has actively rebelled against the notion of lying flat. Where his eyes had been were two tiny stitches, and around his neck was one of those plastic cones they put on pets to keep them from scratching stitches out.

“Hey there,” I said softly. I scrunched down a bit, so my voice would come from the kitten’s level and not sound too booming or scary. “Hey, little guy.”

The black fuzzball in the corner of the box uncurled itself and stood up hesitantly. I tentatively reached a hand—a hand that suddenly seemed monstrous in its size—into the box and lightly scratched the bottom of it. The kitten walked slowly toward the sound, his head bobbing uncertainly under the weight of the plastic cone. His nose bumped against one of my fingers, and he sniffed it curiously.

I glanced up at my vet, who said, “You can pick him up if you want to.”

I lifted him carefully, cradling him just below my chest with one hand supporting his bottom and the other around his chest and front legs. “Hi, little boy,” I whispered.

At the sound of my voice, he turned himself around and reached up to my left shoulder with his front paws; they were so small, they sank between the cables of the light cotton sweater I was wearing. He tried to rub his face against mine, although all I felt was plastic against my cheek. Then he started to purr. The cone funneled the sound until it was so loud, he sounded like an improbably small motor.

I had expected that, having no eyes, he would be incapable of conveying much expression—and it occurred to me that this, perhaps, was the secret fear of the people who’d refused to adopt him. A pet whose face couldn’t register love, couldn’t reflect emotion, might always feel like a stranger in your home.
As I held him, though, I realized that it isn’t the eyes that tell you how someone is feeling or what they’re thinking. It’s the muscles around the eyes, which pull the corners up or push them down, crinkle them at the edges to convey amusement or narrow them into slits indicating anger.

This kitten didn’t have his eyes anymore, but the muscles around them had been left intact. And I could tell, from the shape the muscles were taking, that if he’d had eyelids they would have been half-closed in an expression eminently familiar to me from my other two cats. It was an expression of utter contentment. The ease with which he slipped into it suggested that, despite everything he’d already been through—despite every reason he’d had to expect the opposite—in the depths of his kitten-y little soul, he’d always known there would be a place where he could feel completely warm and secure.

And now, at last, he’d found it.

“Oh, for God’s sake.” I put him gently back into his box, then rooted around in my purse for a tissue. “Wrap him up, I’m taking him home.”

Occasionally, somebody will ask me why I decided to adopt Homer. Most people assume it was because he was blind and helpless, because if I hadn’t taken him nobody else would.

But the truth is, I saw something that day in an eyeless kitten—I saw an innate optimism and happiness, a willingness to greet new people with joy and warmth—that I would never have expected to see in anyone who’d been through the ordeals he had. And I adopted him because when you think you see something so fundamentally worthwhile in someone else, you don’t look for the reasons—like bad timing or a negative bank balance—that might keep it out of your life. You commit to being strong enough to build your life around it, no matter what.

I decided to name him Homer.

Gwen Cooper is the author of the novel Diary of a South Beach Party Girl. A Miami native, she spent five years working in nonprofit administration, marketing, and fundraising. She coordinated volunteer activities on behalf of organizations such as Pet Rescue, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, the Miami Rescue Mission, and His House Children’s Home. In conjunction with Hands on Miami and Barnes & Noble, Gwen initiated Reading Pen Pals, an elementary school-based-literacy program in Miami’s Little Haiti. Gwen currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Laurence, and her three perfect cats—Scarlett, Vashti, and Homer, who aren’t impressed with any of it. You can visit Gwen Cooper’s website at


Melvin said...

This was recently on the local news! I could only watch about 10 seconds of the broadcast, though, because the Ray's game was on and the Man of the house had the remote. Ha.
Thank you for posting this up! Seeing I'm going to need some reading for the road, I will definitely be looking out for this (I think it's available locally in my parts).

PS: This reminded me of The Blind Cat Sanctuary: They have some AMAZING videos with some blind kitties that you would never be able to tell that they were blind!

Cats truly are amazing beings.

Inigo Flufflebum and d'Artangan Rumblepurr said...

This sounds like such a good book, what a wonderful heart this woman has.

ML said...

Sounds like a very good book.
Amazing what these kitties can do and how it affects us humans.

Bruce said...

I'm going to buy it too...sounds great! Sharon's daughter, Jesea, has the sweetest little Italian Greyhound who was born with one non-functioning eye. It makes her all the more special to us:)
Thank you!
Bruce & Sharon:)

Cheysuli and gemini said...

What an interesting book.

The Island Cats said...

This sounds like a really good book! Thanks for letting us know about it. (Might make a good gift for our mom for Christmas!)

William said...

Thanks for letting us know about this! I'm going to have my mom get this book right away!

Cheyenne -Millie said...

How interesting! Sounds like a good book! Thanks for sharing!

We love Luna said...

Hello sweet friends, thanks so much for this hint and this story and book for sure is a great and lovely story, it's all about love and it's very important for our lives.
your friend

LC, Ayla, and Iza said...

We know the book! We love it read ta us cause there is so many strange Beins. Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy!

Amy and The House of Cats said...

That sounds like it is such a great story! Thanks for letting us know about it.