“A must-read for anyone who has ever loved an animal.”
-Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
“Heartwarming and entertaining.”
“Delightful...This lovely human-feline memoir, following in the footsteps of Vicki Myron’s best-selling Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, is sure to warm the hearts of all pet lovers.”
-Library Journal (starred review)
“A wonderful story celebrating the profound bond that can form between feline and human, Homer’s Odyssey is an inspiring read, and a perfect holiday gift for any cat lovers on your list.”
“It took only a glance at the foreword, and before I knew it I was devouring the whole thing like a warm brownie sundae...It was Homer who most often proved to be the hero, once even saving Cooper’s life when an intruder broke into her apartment. (This story alone is worth the price of the book.)”
-The Christian Science Monitor
BY GWEN COOPER
Love Saves the Day
For Homer’s Heroes--the men and women who work in rescue, the ones who adopt rather than shop, and those who know that when you help animals, you help people too. I never knew that writing
about my cat would lead me to so many outstanding humans.
And for Laurence, always.
Gwen Cooper © 2015
All rights reserved.
I’ve been wrestling with the idea of writing a sequel to Homer’s Odyssey for nearly two years now—feeling, on the one hand, that there were certainly more Homer stories to be told; but, on the other hand, that to make something “book length” would require adding an awful lot of padding. Homer’s Odyssey was published in 2009 and covered the first twelve years of Homer’s life. Homer lived to be sixteen, and so a new book would have significantly less ground to cover.
What you are holding now is the solution I eventually reached—what I like to call a “mini-sequel,” roughly one-third the length of the original. Not as long as many books, perhaps, but (I think) exactly the length it needs to be.
Length wasn’t my only concern. I can’t speak for other writers, but for me, to write about something is to relive it as vividly as I did the first time around. I don’t know how to make a reader see and feel things that I’m not seeing and feeling myself at the moment I’m writing about them. There were many, many wonderful times with Homer during those four years after Homer’s Odyssey came out, and you’ll read those stories here. But there were also some hard times when we lost him, and I wasn’t sure I could bear to go through them again.
Well, it wasn’t the first time I’ve been wrong, and it won’t be the last. One of the cruelest things about losing a loved one is the way that time makes our memories fade—until what remains isn’t the substance of something, only the factual knowledge that it once existed. But, in writing this book, I’ve gotten to live with Homer again. I’ve gotten to feel his little head pushing hard into my hand as he demanded his daily pettings; to hear the distinctive clip-clip of his feet as he followed me down the hall; and to listen once more to the very specific melodic bird-song that ran beneath his purr. It’s a sound I would instantly know from any other cat’s purr, even if I were blindfolded.
The only thing that seems remarkable now is that I’d ever thought I was losing those things. And the only regret I have is that it’s taken me so long to write my way back to them. I’ve spent the last weeks feeling Homer with me—the substance of him, a physical presence—as I haven’t gotten to do in far too long.
That’s the gift this book has given me. What I hope it will give to readers is more Homer, of course, more of the happy times they shared with us and loved in reading the first book, and all the comedy of seeing a little blind housecat—who, once upon a time, nobody else had wanted—take the world by storm.
I also hope that it will help bring clarity to some of the issues that we wrestled with—elder care and end-of-life issues that all animal guardians will have to face eventually. Medical treatment for animals has come a long way since I was a kid living in a family filled with rescue dogs. Often the question now isn’t, What can we do? but, What should we do? How much money is too much to spend? How much aggressive medical care is justifiable, even if it’s the only way to prolong a beloved cat’s life?
There’s no one right answer to these questions—although in this Foreword (and only in the Foreword), I’d like to float the idea of pet health insurance for anyone who knows they wouldn’t be able to come up with, say, five thousand dollars in cash or credit at a moment’s notice (which is probably most of us). The monthly premiums are very reasonable and, as they say, you can’t put a price tag on peace of mind.
I was lucky as my cats grew older, in that whatever money I had, I’d earned by writing about them. I also didn’t have children or a mortgage. So whether I could find the money for their care, and whether it was “prudent” to spend that money on them, weren’t really questions. If the money came from them, then how could I not give it back?
Nevertheless, we ended up making very different decisions for Vashti, Scarlett, and Homer—because they were three very different cats. Vashti was easygoing and could handle whatever the doctors wanted to do, so we let them throw the whole arsenal at her. Scarlett was a surly girl and almost morbidly dignified, so we opted for a middle course—surgery for her cancer, but not chemotherapy or the removal (at the age of nearly seventeen) of her affected leg.
And Homer…well, Homer was Homer. He knew his own mind. He also knew his own strength—better, as it turned out, than even I did.
Certainly better than his doctors did.
And I have no doubt that when the kittens we adopted in 2012—whose antics, exploits, and hero-worship adoration of Homer you’ll also read in these pages—become senior kitties someday, the decisions we make for them and with them will be different as well. Clayton and Fanny are as much one-of-a-kind individuals as our other cats ever were.
One last thought before moving on: Animals are luckier than humans, because animals get to live in the now. They do not fear death, or torment themselves with questions about what comes after. No cat has ever desperately hoped for one more year of life so she can finally see Paris, finish her memoirs, or watch her grandchildren graduate from high school. I genuinely believe that, if our animals could understand such things and talk to us about them, they wouldn’t want us to spend ourselves into bankruptcy for the sake of trying to stretch fifteen years into sixteen, or even six years into twelve.
Cats know when they feel happy, when they feel comforted, and when they feel loved. None of us ever knows how much time we’ll have, and you weren’t put in your cat’s life to guarantee him a certain minimum number of years. You were put in his life to provide him with happiness, comfort, and love. If you have given your cat (or dog, or bunny, or horse, or guinea pig) a life built on these things, then you’ve done your job, and you’ve done it perfectly. And the moment you put all those things in jeopardy is the moment you’ll know you’ve gone too far.