Homer's Odyssey

Homer, the iconic Blind Wonder Cat’s story & influence will live on

Homer's OdysseyEven though Homer, the Blind Wonder Cat, who became an iconic feline to millions, including Paws’ mom, is gone –  having passed over the Rainbow Bridge on Aug. 21, his story and influence will live on.

It’s true. The famous Homer, the subject of Gwen Cooper’s Homer’s Odyssey, a Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat, is gone from this life, but his story will continue to resonate with those that have read his book, and those that will read his book in the future. The best-selling novel chronicling his early years, the devotion of his Human, Gwen Cooper who took in this two-week old kitten who just had his eyes removed, and their incredible journey from her life as a single care-free gal in Miami, to her journey to reinventing herself through adversity to becoming an accomplished author.

Homer had almost 24,000 fans on his Facebook Page which is now devoted to helping special needs kitties. Even though Homer’s life ended at 16 years-of-age, his story and his book will continue to live on.

There’s no doubt that Homer’s story brought attention to the plight of blind cats. There’s no doubt it also brought attention to black cats. But it was so much more that made him so special. It’s hard for me to put a finger on exactly what touched me so strongly about this story.

He beat the odds against survival. A little kitten loosing his eyes was not likely to find someone to adopt him. However, under Gwen’s careful care, he was able to live to be an elder feline, surviving a move from Miami, Fla., to New York City, the enormity of the 9-11 crisis, and adapting to a new home when Gwen finally met her soul mate, Laurence, who would become her future husband.

A veterinarian convinced Cooper, then just starting out, to take on the responsibility of Homer – something she did not take lightly. How could a blind kitty adapt to living with two other adult cats set in their ways? How would a blind kitty be able to not get hurt when jumping from counter to counter? She became a protective mom, always having the best interest of Homer’s, and her other cats, Scarlett and Vasti at hand.

Her other cats had very different personalities, but Homer won over their hearts, as he did hers and the many people who encountered him, both in person and through his story.

It’s not only Homer, but also Gwen, who were such an inspiration to me. Once the story reached the point where she relocated to New York City with the cats, paying airfare for two friends, so that her cats could all fly in the cabin, and not be relegated to the cargo bin, the book became riveting. At that point, it was hard to disconnect with Homer’s story, and I could not put down the book until it was finished.

I read the book two years ago in 2011, two years after it was initially published. It left a hollow feeling when I found out that her two cats has passed on last winter, as I was starting to connect from my blogging and social networking efforts. It was difficult to hear that Homer had been ill, and they were concerned about his well-being. It just didn’t seem right.

Gwen’s courage to relocate to a city she did not know with three cats is inspirational.  Her concern how the blind kitty’s ability to relocate to new surroundings was touching. Most of us can identify with job loss, and having to pick up and start another job anew. Rather than spend the time job hunting, one more time, she took to writing. Her success has definitely paid off with Homer’s story being a best seller – something all of us authors aspire to.

While I have a passion for cats, this story truly resounded with my inner being. Years of my life have been consumed by the job hunt – a job where I could use my journalistic talents, a job where I could use my knowledge, skills and abilities, a job that wasn’t something that I really did not want to do. For me, I’ve found the job hunt to be depressing, anxiety provoking, unsettling, and full of ups and downs, leaving me with a feeling of trying to dig myself out of one big black hole over and over again.

We all find that life’s peaks and valley’s leave us where we are. Ten years ago, I certainly would never have dreamed that I would be writing a blog about cats. I never dreamed I would be attending conferences about pet writing. How strange life can be, and what interesting twists and turns it can take.

Stuck in a unrewarding job, similar to the ones I had when I was first out of college, I found Homer’s and Gwen’s story particularly inspiring. It left me thinking perhaps, there was something more. If she could re-invent herself into a successful author on a larger scale, perhaps I could.

I would be remiss if I did not mention how Gwen struggled with the decision to leave her cats trapped in the apartment during 9-11. For those of us that remember that day, we could only picture the fear of leaving one’s pets behind. She worked and lived in the vicinity of the World Trade Towers. Everyone had to flee. There was no time to rescue the cats. There was only time to take care of oneself. When she and others were on the Brooklyn Bridge, they thought the bridge had been attached because it was shaking so hard. They turned, only to find the North Tower had collapsed with billowing white ash everywhere. Shortly after the South Tower collapsed. She and a co-worker spend five hours walking. All the while Cooper kept thinking about the safety of her cats. What if the windows had broken? What would a blind cat do if he was out on the street?

Once she had reached safety, and after a night’s rest, there was no question – she had to find a way to rescue her cats. This was not an easy task. Normal channels did not provide any relief. She found a way to sneak back to her apartment, in a no-enter zone. To her relief someone had been taking care of the animals in the building. It was no easy task to get them back to safety, but her courage and tenacity, showed through.

This was particularly interesting because this was before disaster pet related rescue became vogue. There was no media coverage of the pets trapped in apartment buildings that their owners to which their owners could not return. It was only after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that this became a recognized problem. People love their pets as they love all their family members. Thankfully, this issue of reuniting people and their pets has gained a lot more recognition since then. I could just feel the pain and anxiety over not knowing that your pets were ok. Sometimes the unknown can be worse than what is. You just have to find out.

It was obvious that even though Homer could not see and lived in a world of darkness, he had a full life. He would play and make mischief just like any kitty. He loved his humans and they loved him in return.

Despite 9-11 crippling New York’s economy, Gwen chose to stay on in the city, and not return home to Miami. That’s because in the wake of all this she had unbeknownst to her  found her soul-mate, Laurence, who would later become her husband. Not particularly a cat lover, these cats managed to turn him around and wrap him around their paws, just as they did the many readers of Homer’s story.

We are indeed saddened  by Homer’s passing. We extend our condolences to Gwen and all the people who his life touched. His story will life on, just as his memories will. There’s no doubt that her story of a blind kitty brought more attention to the welfare and plight of blind cats. There’s no doubt her story showed how cats can teach you to love and give back. Even though Homer is here in this world no more, his story will live because Homer’s Odyssey is not limited by his lifetime. It’s a story that will live on and resonate for years.

Did you read Homer’s story? If so, please share your thoughts.

And don’t forget to enter Paws For Reflections September Give-Away: four ten-pound bags of Hills Science Diet’s Grain-Free dry cat food. To read Paws’ review, click here. Submit your name, mailing address, email, and contact phone number on this contact form to enter. Paws will only use this info to send winners the ten pound bags of cat food. Drawing will be the end of the day on Sept. 30.

7 responses to “Homer, the iconic Blind Wonder Cat’s story & influence will live on”

  1. mary wier Avatar
    mary wier

    When I casually walked by the table at Barnes and Noble about a month ago, I saw Homer’s book there and was drawn to it!
    I am a dog person, grieving over border collie of 15 years,
    But Homer lifted me up to the highest level and I purchased the book for one of my best friends who illustrated our
    children’s book, Sooli’s Magic Christmas, she had hang gliding
    injury over the summer and I mailed her Homer’s book to lift her spirits, I had a feeling he may have crossed over,
    and today I find he did right before I saw his book. Now I am wondering was his great spirit hovering near me then?
    Later I dreamed that he was with my artist friend, comforting her. I believe in reincarnation and I felt, have you decided
    to come back, you heroic soul. Love forever, Mary Wier in Chattanooga.

  2. Teri Trujillo Avatar
    Teri Trujillo

    I read about Homer on my Nook book….it was one of the first books I purchased on the devise and has become one of my favorite stories…Since I remember 9-11 quite well, her plight with her cats and Homer in particular was riveting! She has a way with relating what a cat might be thinking and feeling…Homer’s tenacity and love of life will live with me always…I myself have 7 cats and care for a colony of feral cats so anyone who obviously loves cats that well is sure to touch my heart…add her skills with telling a good story and I am hooked…

    1. BJ Avatar

      Homer is a great story. I totally agree with you. He indeed will be missed, but his story will live on for years.

  3. Lee Anne jackson-stoddard Avatar
    Lee Anne jackson-stoddard

    Thank you! This tribute to both Gwen, as well as Homer, is simply and so perfectly stated.

    1. BJ Avatar

      Thanks for your comments. I think Homer and Gwen’s story have touched millions. We thank them for that.

  4. Louise Lobinske Avatar
    Louise Lobinske

    I’m rereading Homer’s Odyssey for the second time right now. When I heard that Homer died, I cried as if he were one of my own cats.

    1. BJ Avatar

      I was terribly saddened as well. I felt like I’d just met the story, only two years ago. It left a very empty, saddened feeling. He indeed will be missed, but his story will live on.

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