I read Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life from a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper a few days after it was first released in 2009. The book debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List at number 14, and has been translated into more than 15 languages since then. This moving, inspirational and often funny story about a blind cat with a huge spirit and an endless capacity for love, joy and a determination to persevere no matter what the obstacles is a wonderful celebration of the bond between a cat and his human and the transformational power of loving an animal.
Gwen Cooper had to let Homer go last Wednesday after a prolonged illness. I found out about it, along with the rest of the world, on Homer’s Facebook page, where Gwen wrote: “I wanted to let you know that we put Homer to sleep this past Wednesday night. He was so tired, and it was time. We were lucky enough to find a very gentle vet to come to us at home, and Homer passed peacefully, in his own bed, in my arms.”
My heart broke for Gwen when I read the news. It’s always hard when a cat dies. But when that cat is the kind of cat like Homer, who inspired millions around the world, the loss is devastating. Gwen didn’t report the news until a few days after Homer’s passing, because, she said in her Facebook update, “I needed some time to mourn privately before being able to do so publicly.” Grief is a private emotion, and while there is great comfort in the support of friends and fans, there’s also a time for private mourning – and I’m glad Gwen honored that need.
Once she was able to, she wrote a heart-wrenchingly beautiful blog post about Homer’s passing. The post speaks about the joy Homer brought to her life, and the world, but it also speaks of the devastating pain of loss:
“The thought that keeps coming to me is that nobody will ever love me again like Homer did. I know how self-pitying that sounds, and I should clarify that I don’t mean to say that nobody will ever love as much as Homer did. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have known a great deal of love—love that has gone on four legs and two—in my life. But Homer, even at his most rambunctious and curious and engaged with the world around him, lived to love me. He lived to love me. And even after all the writing about Homer, and worrying about him, and building the person I grew into around him, I still feel that it’s only now—now that the knowledge is sinking in that I’ll never, never see him again in this life—that I’m realizing fully how much of my own life was lived for the sake of loving him back.”
This is what it feels like when you loose a special cat.
In addition to touching hearts and souls around the world, Homer’s Odyssey has shined the spotlight on special needs cats. Gwen has been donating 10% of the book’s royalties to organizations that serve abused, abandoned, and disabled animals. In order to honor Homer’s legacy, and to keep his memory alive, Gwen is creating the Homer’s Heroes Fund. Every year, she will make a donation in Homer’s name to a shelter or rescue group that does outstanding work with “special needs” animals.
Gwen’s newest book, Love Saves the Day, will come out in paperback on October 22nd. For every copy of the paperback that is pre-ordered or bought in-store or online between now and Sunday, October 27, Gwen will donate 100% of her royalties to a shelter through the Homer’s Heroes Fund.
My heart goes out to Gwen as she mourns the loss of Homer. May it be of some comfort to her that cat lovers around the world are mourning with her.
Rest easy, sweet Homer. You will never be forgotten.
Photo of Homer from his Facebook page.