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Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat (Paperback)

Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat (Paperback)

Gwen Cooper donates 10% of each purchase to organizations that rescue abused, abandoned, and disabled animals.

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I never planned on adding another cat to my life. Having two was already a handful, especially with a low-paying job and a broken heart weighing me down. But when my veterinarian called about a three-week-old eyeless kitten who had been abandoned,...
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I never planned on adding another cat to my life. Having two was already a handful, especially with a low-paying job and a broken heart weighing me down. But when my veterinarian called about a three-week-old eyeless kitten who had been abandoned, something inside me knew I had to meet him. It was love at first sight.

They said Homer would always be an “underachiever.” Yet, this tiny kitten, whom no one believed in, grew into a tiny dynamo with a heart as big as the sky. Homer scaled seven-foot bookcases with ease and even saved my life by chasing off an intruder in the dead of night. But it was Homer’s boundless loyalty, his unending capacity for love, and his joy in overcoming every challenge that truly transformed my life. And by the time I met the man who would become my husband, I realized Homer had taught me the most valuable lesson of all: Love isn’t something you see with your eyes.

"A wonderful book for animal lovers." -Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

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Years ago, back when I still had only two cats, I was fond of saying that if I ever adopted a third I would name him Meow Tsetung and call him “The Chairman” for short.

“Don’t look at me like that, it’ll be cute,” I would insist when my friends regarded me as if I were a loon. “Little Chairman Meow.”

The joke was twofold: the name itself, and also the idea that I would adopt a third cat. I might never have taken the monumental step of adopting two except that I’d been living for three years with Jorge, the man I was sure I’d marry. We’d split up recently, and I had gained custody of our feline offspring—a sweet-tempered, fluffy white beauty named Vashti and a regal, moody gray tabby named Scarlett. I was grateful for my two girls every day, but also painfully aware of the potential complications they would create in my newly single life—not to mention my newly single finances.

Then one afternoon, a couple of months after Jorge and I broke up, I got a call from Patty, a young veterinarian only three years older than I was, who was the newest member at the practice that treated Scarlett and Vashti.

An orphaned, four-week-old stray kitten had been abandoned in her office, she said, after a virulent eye infection had required surgical removal of both his eyes. The couple who had originally brought him in didn’t want 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. 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.

Don’t, warned the Greek chorus that lives inside my head. Yes, it’s sad, but you’re in no position to do anything about it.

I’d always been an obsessive reader, a passionate lover of books, and I knew the kind of power words had over me. Pitting me against words like blind, abandoned, unwanted, and orphan was like sending someone armed with a toy rifle into trench warfare.

Still, I recognized the wisdom of my inner Greek chorus, even if I couldn’t be as coolly analytical as it was. So I said, “I’ll come in and meet him.” I paused. “I’m not promising anything, though.”

I should note that, prior to this, I had never taken an I’ll meet him and we’ll see attitude when it came to pet adoption. It never occurred to me to meet the pet in question first, to see if he was “special” or whether there was some sort of unique bond between us. My philosophy when it came to pets was much like that of having children: You got what you got, and you loved them unconditionally regardless of whatever their personalities or flaws turned out to be. While I was growing up, my family adopted or fostered numerous dogs, almost all of whom were strays or had been abused in their previous homes. We’d had dogs who couldn’t be housebroken, dogs who chewed up carpeting and wallpaper, dogs who dug compulsively under fences or who even occasionally snapped when they were startled. My cats, Scarlett and Vashti, had been adopted a year apart from acquaintances who’d found them as six-week-old kittens—mange-ridden, half starved, and covered in fleas and sores—wandering the streets of Miami. I had committed to them sight unseen; the first time I’d met them had been the day they’d come to live with me.

So I felt more than a little dishonest, driving down to my vet’s office the following afternoon. Patty might not know it, but I knew myself well enough to understand that when I’d said, “I’ll come in and meet him,” what I’d meant was, I really don’t want a third cat right now, but I’d feel like a bad person if I gave you a straightforward no after hearing this cat’s story.

The receptionist at the vet’s office greeted me warmly as I entered, summoning Patty, who popped her head out from a door behind the reception desk with a cheerful, “Come on back!”

We reached the last examination room at the end of a narrow, wood-paneled corridor, and Patty opened the door for me. On the exam table was a lidless plastic box. I walked over and peered in.

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 in 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 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 Patty, 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 struggled a bit, and I could tell he was trying to hoist his full weight onto my shoulder. But his claws, such as they were, were too tiny to get a good grip. Giving up, he twisted again and brought his face as close to where my jaw met my neck as the plastic cone would allow. 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.

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.”

Love isn't something you see with your eyes...

"Homer’s Odyssey is not just a book about a blind cat, it’s a testament to the power of love and resilience. Gwen Cooper’s narrative pulls you into a journey filled with heartwarming moments and incredible bravery. Homer’s story will make you laugh, cry, and believe in the extraordinary potential within all of us." - USA Today

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"A truly remarkable tale of courage and love, Homer's Odyssey captures the essence of what it means to overcome adversity. Gwen Cooper’s vivid storytelling brings Homer’s indomitable spirit to life, making you fall in love with this little blind cat who sees with his heart. This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever loved an animal." - Amazon Reviewer

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