This afternoon, I read about the passing of Homer, the feline inspiration for the 2009 international bestseller Homer’s Odyssey. I was touched by the author’s—Gwen Cooper’s— commemorative tribute to the blind and black cat published online in Huffington Post.
In the obituary, Gwen recounted her life with Homer, her companion and confidant for nearly two decades. The feline phenomenon succumbed to a prolonged illness at the age of 16 in New York.
I’ve never read Homer’s Odyssey, but I marvel at the remarkable legacy this one imperfect cat has left behind. Homer’s story has indirectly saved the lives of other blind cats that would otherwise have been euthanized, as have so many unwanted black cats. Homer has also been an inspiration to disabled people.
The book itself, according to Gwen, was rejected by 12 publishers before it became a bestseller and before being translated into 15 languages—another testament to persistence and perseverance.
But today was intended to be a celebration of Homer’s life and the life of the imperfect and their heroic courage. In our own ways, we are all imperfect, but we are most inspired by the trials and tribulations of the most disadvantaged. They give us courage and they give us hope.
“From Homer I’d learned that even the most “imperfect” of creatures is capable of loving with a deep and perfect love. All they need is someone to give them a chance,” Gwen said in her tribute.
I was also touched because following my post last week—drawing attention to Black Cat Appreciation Day—I learned that there are a heck of a lot of compassionate people out there who root for the underdog and this black and blind cat was certainly one of them.
Black cats have had it rough, no doubt, and blind cats have it even more difficult. Suffice it to say, Homer had it particularly rough. He was blind, and before being discovered by Gwen, he was living at a shelter as an abandoned three week-old kitten.
Gwen shared that although Homer was just one cat, he and his story have impacted the lives of many other cats. Shelter’s are now less inclined to euthanize blind cats, and hopefully more people will consider rescuing a black cat, sighted or not, after last week’s Black Cat Appreciation Day.
I admit that even though I’m an animal lover and have been dedicated to the welfare and conservation of wildlife, including wild felids, I tend to keep my distance from domestic cats because I’m quite allergic to their dander. Somehow my immune system may no longer perceive cat dander as a danger because last week while visiting Los Angele’s big cat sanctuary Wildlife Waystation, I encountered a large domestic black cat owned by the sanctuary’s founding director Martine Colette. The cat jumped in to my lap, clearly unaware of my allergies, but very receptive to being scratched. I thought I would immediately start sneezing, but I had no adverse reaction. Perhaps I received some divine intervention instead via a black cat?
According to Gwen, Homer actually died last week. She said he was at home and she held him in her arms as he expired.