Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Heartwarming Animal Stories Review - "Homer's Odyssey"

For the second book of the Heartwarming Animal Stories 2012 Reading Challenge, I chose Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper.

The book basically is a memoir about the author, Gwen Cooper, and her three cats. Homer, the cat who is blind, came into her life via a call from her veterinarian who asked her if she would like an abandoned kitten who could not see.

The kitten was about two weeks old and had had an infection for about that period of time. Since kittens' eyes are sealed closed for about 10-13 days at the beginning of their life, Homer did not experience any vision for his entire life.

The veterinarian said, "Like many animals, kittens are capable of rerouting their neurologic faculties for successful survival through a process called individual environmental adaptation."

Despite the kitten's ability to adapt, the people who brought the kitten into the veterinarian did not want him nor did a host of other people who the veterinarian called. After Gwen saw and interacted with Homer at the veterinarian's office, she agreed to adopt Homer.

For well over half the book, the author talks about how Homer grows from a kitten to cat; adapts to her home; the impressive things he can do; and how the other two cats she already has accepts (or tolerates) the presence of a third cat.

Honestly, the book became almost tedious in detail, and I found myself skimming over sections of the book that didn't directly relate to Homer. In fact, the parts relating to her dating life, boyfriend/eventual husband, and wedding were all parts that I skimmed. It was irrelevent to why I wanted to read the book: I wanted to read about Homer.

About two-thirds the way through the book, the author moves to New York. Shortly after, 9/11 happens and she shares her experience about that day and the subsequent difficulties in reaching her cats who are on the 31st floor of an apartment building near Ground Zero.

Her experience gave me a very different perspective to 9/11 - not only the escape from Ground Zero over the Brooklyn Bridge, but how difficult it was for people who had animals in the immediate area to go back and retrieve them.

The ASPCA was involved immediately after 9/11, and would take small groups of people to their homes/apartments to get their pets who were trapped. The police would be waiting outside, and if anyone came out without an animal, they were immediately arrested. This was to deter people from saying they had a pet (when they didn't) so they could gain access to their homes and get their laptops or other personal belongings.

The highlights of the book truly were what Homer was able to do despite a complete lack of vision. The author - as well as those she knew - expected little from Homer since he couldn't see. However, Homer had unlimited trust, love, and zeal for living. He proved to be far more adaptable, brave, and able to do things than the author or anyone expected.

One of the messages that clearly came across through Homer's life and actions were that people can truly underestimate what animals (and people) can do if they have some type of limitation or challenge. In reality, it is one's personality and determination to overcome those limitations that makes one's life full and rewarding.

The author said that she learned from Homer that "...just because you couldn't quite see your way out of a difficulty, didn't mean a way out didn't exist." He also taught her that "Nobody can tell you what your potential is."

As the author said, "In a seemingly hopeless situation, when no rational person could expect anything good, yet somehow ends up receiving everything good - these are things we call miracles and wonders. A few of us are lucky enough to see such wonders in our everyday lives." Homer - his life and attitude - truly fits this description.


The author mentioned an organization in her book - Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary - that is located in North Carolina. There are many cats there who are blind, and they are looking for people to adopt or sponsor them; for volunteers; and for financial or in-kind donations to help care for the cats they have there.

Much closer to home, I found Home for Life which is a new kind of animal shelter - a long-term animal sanctuary. According to its website, they "...provide life-time care for the special needs animal, the cat or dog who, while still able to lead a quality life, is unable to find a home due to age, chronic treatable disorder, handicap, or similar reason. Once an animal comes to us, it truly has a home for life."

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