Yesterday made the twentieth day that I have been tossing about upon the sea. The winds and waves have taken me all the way from the Ogyian island, and now fate has flung me upon this coast.
--Homer, The Odyssey
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 Tse-tung 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 (so it had seemed to me at twenty-four) 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, complications I had never contemplated back in the days when I'd thought Jorge and I would be together forever.
I was staying in a friend's spare bedroom while I tried to save up for an affordable place to live, for example, but I would never be able to move into a more reasonably priced pet-free building. There was no point in even considering a relationship with a man who had cat allergies. I worked in nonprofit, running _volunteer programs for the United Way of Miami-Dade, and I never had more than fifty dollars in the bank at the end of the month. Nevertheless, routine vaccinations, injuries, and illnesses would have to be paid for by me alone, no matter what their impact on my finances.
"Not to mention the social implications," my best friend, Andrea, would say. "I mean, there are only so many cats you can have when you're twenty-four and single. The neighborhood kids will start calling you Old Widow Cooper and throw rocks at your windows and say things like, That's where Old Widow Cooper, the cat lady, lives. She's craaaaazy . . ."
I knew she was right; I wasn't completely out of touch with reality. In my present circumstances, talking about a third cat was an absurd hypothetical, like daydreaming about what I might buy if I won the lottery.
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. Patty told me a long, sad story that would have been perfect for a cable movie, if only there were a station called Lifetime for Cats.
An orphaned, four-week-old stray kitten had been abandoned at her office, she said, after a virulent eye infection had required the 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. 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.
Don't, warned the Greek chorus that lives inside my head. Yes, it's sad but, honestly, you're in no position to...
Author: Gwen Cooper
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 including Pet Rescue, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, the Miami Rescue Mission, and His House Children's Home, and initiated Reading Pen Pals, an elementary school-based literacy program in Miami's Little Haiti. Gwen currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Laurence. She also lives with her three perfect cats--Scarlett, Vashti, and Homer--who aren't impressed with any of it.
"A wonderful book for animal lovers." - Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation
"Moving and inspiring . . . a three-hankie tale of life and the love that can exist between owner and pet." - Florida Times-Union
"This memoir about adopting a special-needs kitten teaches that sometimes in life, you have to take a blind leap." - People
"Cooper is a genial writer with both a sense of humor and a gift for conveying the inner essence of an animal. . . . The indefatigable feline should be an inspiration to us all." - The Christian Science Monitor
"A must-read for anyone who has ever loved an animal." - Free Lance-Star (VA)
"A marvelous book! Moving, insightful and often hilarious, Homer's Odyssey is about a blind cat with a spirit of epic proportions. Read and rejoice!" - Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig
"Delightful...this lovely human-feline memoir, following in the footsteps of Vicki Myron's best-selling Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, is sure to warm the hearts of all pet lovers." - Library Journal (starred review)
"Heartwarming and entertaining." - PEOPLE Pets
"A wonderful story celebrating the profound bond that can form between feline and human, Homer's Odyssey is an inspiring read, and a perfect holiday gift for any cat lovers on your list." - Feline Wellness
"It took only a glance at the foreword, and before I knew it I was devouring the whole thing like a warm brownie sundae....It was Homer who most often proved to be the hero, once even saving Cooper's life when an intruder broke into her apartment. (This story alone is worth the price of the book.)" - Christian Science Monitor
"A guaranteed hit with any cat lover...but the account of Cooper's struggles with her career and love life will also appeal to readers of similar memoirs about twentysomething women (Julie and Julia, for example), as well as to the growing audience for stories of challenging pets of all kinds (Marley and Me)." - Booklist
"Tender and affecting." - Publishers Weekly
"Touching . . . one not to miss." - USA Today
"Homer's Odyssey will make you jump for joy!" - Rita Mae Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Cat of the Century
"I am certain it would be impossible to meet Homer without falling in love with him and it is just as difficult to read this loving account without coming away with a renewed faith in the unique bond that can sometimes arise between two alien species. Gwen Cooper writes with humor, with wit, with candor and most of all with irresistible warmth for this astonishing little feline who will steal your heart." - Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson,