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Homer's odyssey changes cat owner's outlook

Gwen Cooper was not in the market for a new kitten. She'd just broken up with her fiance, had move into a friend's spare bedroom, and already had two cats to care for. Cooper said she was "consumed with self-pity." • Her veterinarian knew about Cooper's circumstances but still called her about a special kitten available for adoption. No one else would take the pet. • "She was clearly desperate if she called me," Cooper recalls.

The 2-week-old kitten had special needs. He was found wandering the streets of New York City, blind. Clearly, the people who brought him to the vet saved his life. But when they learned a raging infection prevented saving the kitten's sight, and that his eyes would have to be removed, they were no longer interested in adoption. It seemed no one wanted the kitten, including the vet, who had a toddler at home who was allergic to cats, as well as a couple of big dogs.

"I really didn't know what to expect," says Cooper. As it turned out, the kitten "was so happy," Cooper recalls. "The first time I met him, he walked right up to me and tried to nuzzle under my chin, walking around with an Elizabethan collar larger than him, eyes still stitched, probably in pain, and purring. I instantly realized that my worst week was like Disneyland compared to what this little kitten had gone through."

In moments, they bonded.

"Oh for God's sake, I'm taking him home," Cooper told the vet.

A fan of Greek mythology, Cooper named the cat Homer, the fabled blind poet of heroic tales. Indeed, Homer turned out to be an epic figure who went on great adventures daily — in Cooper's home. She wrote about those events in Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Life With a Blind Wonder Cat (Bantam Books, New York, NY, 2010; $15).

The adventures began on Homer's first day home. The tiny kitten instantly used the litter box, and has never lost track of the box's location. After cozying up to Cooper's roomie, he walked to the edge of the bed and took his first leap of faith — to the floor far below.

"Those leaps of faith are a daily occurrence for Homer; he doesn't just wallow in a corner," Cooper says.

From the start, Homer inserted himself into everything. He loves meeting new people, and the noisier they are, the better. Construction workers are favorites.

What he can't see, it seems Homer manages to compensate for with his other senses. He catches flies in mid-air.

"He's like a little sonar dish," says Cooper. "In order to do this, not only does Homer have to know where a fly is, but also where the fly is going. His sense of smell is so keen. Homer and my husband both love turkey. My husband has to run the faucet in the kitchen or even in the bathroom with the door closed to attempt to make a sandwich without Homer knowing."

Cooper's book isn't only about an adventurous, funny cat; it's also about living your life. Disability isn't what others may perceive. Unenlightened friends and acquaintances have asked Cooper why Homer wasn't euthanized. If you read the book, the question doesn't require an answer.

"Pets have a lot to teach us about living," says Cooper. "I learned from Homer that no one can tell you what your potential is. Special-needs cats shouldn't be cats of last resort; they're no less capable of giving love than 'normal' cats."

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to [email protected] Include your name, city and state.

Homer's odyssey changes cat owner's outlook 11/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:21pm]
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