A New York Times bestselling author sees the world through new eyes thanks to Homer, her rescued “blind wonder cat”
By Wendy Wollenberg
What is now a literary sensation―complete with Facebook pages and a Twitter account with more than 25,000 friends, fans, and followers―began with a “miniscule bit of black fuzz.” Gwen Cooper, the New York Times bestselling author of Homer’s Odyssey, first met her “blind wonder cat” in the office of her Miami vet, a doctor known for working with special-needs animals. Homer, as he would become known, was found as a two-week-old stray wandering the streets of Miami, afflicted with an infection that would not only take his sight, but his eyes. Cooper, the 24-year-old guardian of two cats and the recent recipient of a broken heart, sensed something about the plucky kitten from the very start.
“Of course, my heart immediately melted when I saw him,” Cooper remembers about her initial meeting with Homer. “But what struck me most was how friendly, accepting, trusting, and joyful this kitten was. I knew then that we needed each other.”
Cooper took Homer home to her two female cats, Scarlett, a “bit of a curmudgeon,” and Vashti, “a sweetheart,” where he eventually found his place in the pack by following his big sisters’ lead. So named for the legendary storyteller, Homer was almost christened Oedipus, the mythical blind king, by Cooper, a Greek mythology fan. “But Eddie’s Odyssey doesn’t make as good of a book title,” she quips. “I knew he was going to have an epic, adventurous life, and Homer just fit.”
Homer’s Odyssey beautifully recounts how Homer and Cooper helped each other through the trials and tribulations of life, including a move to New York City, job changes, heartbreaks, and Cooper’s marriage. Homer’s survival instincts continued to serve him well, including enduring being trapped alone for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center and chasing off an intruder who broke into Cooper’s home in the middle of the night.
Now a sprightly 14-year-old, Homer has become famous, and more importantly, an inspiration to those willing to open their hearts to special-needs animals. Cooper is donating 10 percent of the domestic royalties of Homer’s Odyssey to organizations that serve abused, abandoned, and disabled animals, including Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary, Inc. Cooper, who has worked with nonprofits such as Pet Rescue, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, and Miami Rescue Mission, contacted the Blind Cat Rescue while she was preparing the proposal for Homer’s Odyssey. She was looking for statistics about people who cared for blind cats in this country as a way to pitch her pet project. Cooper spoke to the director of the organization, who told her that if even one person adopted a special-needs animal because of her book, it would be worth it.
Cooper’s website, GwenCooper.com, serves as a community for guardians of special-needs animals, with an FAQ section about living with a blind cat, a “Share Your Stories” page, and a blog featuring animals in need of a good home. She has used these outlets, along with Homer’s Facebook and Twitter followings, to raise money for animal care and disaster relief, such as the recent tornadoes in Alabama. Cooper is currently at work on her third book, Love Saves the Day, a fictional look at a mother-daughter-cat relationship told from the viewpoints of the three narrators. The cat, a Scarlett-like feline named Prudence, is, of course, the star of the show.
For more information about the Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary, Inc., visit BlindCatRescue.com.