Thursday, January 20, 2011

Homer's Odyssey, a book review

For the first time ever, I won something! This was not the typical package, that I usually receive. It was not a toy mousie, cat nip or even a leash. It was a book called, "Homer's Odyssey" . 

This was very exciting, even if I can't turn the pages by myself. After a ten minute struggle to paw the book out of the padded envelope. (I was ready for a padded cell at that point.) I looked closely at the cover. The striking black kitty looked very familiar to me. 

I remember, I saw it on the "Recommended" table on one of our many visit to Borders. 

Then without so much as a, "Oh, what a nice gift, may I see it Koko?" Mum patted me on the head and picked up the book. Ok, she’s going to read it to me! I do a running jump on to the sofa, circle round, get comfy, and happily purr while I wait for her. Guess what she did next? She made a latte, took the book and disappeared! Maybe we got our signals crossed. She must have not seen me on the sofa. After finding her in the bedroom, latte left to get cold, she was reading MY book in silence. I sat next to her indignantly, just to keep an eye on things. It seemed like days, actually it was a couple of days, but she finally finished the book.

This is what I have pieced together from my Mum's mutterings. The aptly named, “Homer’s Odyssey” was a very personal journey for author Gwen Cooper and her unsighted cat, Homer. One shouldn't say Homer is blind, because from all accounts, this cat knows exactly where he is going. The tiny feline in fact seems to lead the way for Gwen, on a path to self discovery. It's not difficult to want to follow this engaging, heartfelt, roller coaster of a ride. Cooper mentions in the afterword, that once she began accessing her memories, another memory would follow, blossoming, providing her the opportunity to relive the experiences.  As readers, we are also granted this opportunity to experience those memories in a well written and very entertaining fashion. Cooper’s life is a patchwork of small and large happenings. While her accounts of larger events (9/11 being one of them) are vivid and moving, it is the delightful descriptions of the daily moments, that illustrate her love for her cats in charming and often funny ways.

“The sulphur had not only turned what was left of her [Vashti] long white fur a startling and unnatural shade of yellow, but it also left her reeking with the stench of rotten eggs.

Vashti had been besides herself when she realized that added to the ecstasies of being well fed and itch-free for the first time in her six weeks of life was another cat for her to play with. Scarlett had spent the next day alternately hissing at and fleeing from this tiny, smelly, bright yellow puffball that followed her whenever she put so much as a paw out from under the bed, where she’d taken up a resolute temporary residence.”

 The book is much more than fluff, (Kitties or otherwise). In addition to it being an enjoyable read, it's also compelling. Mum found herself making notes in the margins about things Cooper wrote. It is through her devotion to Homer and his perceived handicaps, that Cooper discovers what she needs from herself and others.  

“...I’d known that it wasn’t really about me specifically- that if somebody other than me had shown up at my vet’s office, and whispered to him softly, and picked him up gently, Homer would have been equally willing to love that person.

Sensing that he could have loved anybody as easily as he could love me was actually the first thing that grabbed my heart. What ever else he might or might not turn out to be, this kitten was a creature with a tremendous capacity for love. “

“The other thing I realized was that, while he seemed loving, he wasn’t scared or desperate to be loved, the way your would expect a kitten-- or even an average person -- who experienced nothing but pain, hunger, and fear to be.”

I say “perceived”, because even though Homer is blind, he is quite capable of taking care of himself and even the author, when the occasion arises. Cooper begins to  realize early on, that one can have a “core strength”,  sometimes you just need to be like Homer, and rely on that inner strength and plunge in. She also comes to understand that there are many ways to “look” at the world. Homer might be blind, but he doesn’t seem to have a problem “seeing”. Yes, he may have keener hearing, than the average cat, but he also seems to have a heightened sixth sense, as animals do, about danger. The difference between Homer and ordinary cat, is he doesn’t run from challenges,  even dangerous ones, but faces them dead on. Though this book is about a cat, it is also Cooper’s coming of age story. She explores he idea that beings, (both animals and people) have an inner identity, that the core doesn’t change, and the idea of acceptance of our selves. Something so basic as who are we really, seems so simple, yet so difficult for most of us in today’s image conscious society to discover. Through a small, black, plucky, abandoned cat and the reaffirmation of Cooper’s best friend, she discovers what  and who is really important in her life.

In a nut shell that’s what mum told me, but I’m not satisfied with that, I will read it myself. I think you should too! ~^..^~


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Friends

With the addition of a dog, we were off on our second adventure, this time with a sweet black retriever named, "Angel" (her full name is "Angel Muddy Paws"). Kokoro was getting comfortable on the volunteer sign in desk, when Angel came in. I was relieved to see, Kokoro calmly sit and observe the enthusiastic overgrown pup with the kind of disdain only a mature calm cool cat can have. (Normally the word "cool" doesn't come to mind when I think of my fluffy, rambunctious kitten.) Only two days into his second year and Koko really has become quite the little man cat. A confindent strut replaces the former goofy gait, our boy is all grown up.

We loaded up our traveling menagerie in to the white Humane Society van and drove off to Imperial Beach. As we entered the small converted house, now a day care facility, we were greeted by the aroma of home cooking. Ah lunch time, Kokoro and I both licked our chops. There were young and older people seated around what looked like a living room, socializing. In the back yard lunch was being served. Kokoro wanted to visit the back yard. Most everyone was happy to meet and pet our furry volunteers. Angel, who was also new to the P-AT program was a natural. She wanted to make friends with everyone. Koko, well he's a cat. The mere fact that he is a cat, seems to cut him a lot of slack. It was O.K that he was a little nervous, slightly aloof and well, cat like. He lived up to his rag doll breeding and was very laid back, at least in the house. As much as Kokoro loves to go out in our yard at home, he does not like to be out in new places. When I did go to the back yard, he'd get fidgety. He would lead me back into the house, every time I'd put him down. Fortunately people really get a kick out of watching a cat walk on a leash. So it was a win, win.

Most of the people at Los Casa de Sol speak Spanish. Angel also understands Spanish. Maybe I need to teach Koko to understand Spanish. One language my furry boy doesn't seem to have any trouble understanding is the one conveyed through the touch of a kind human and smiles. By the end of our visit  Koko even sat on a new friend's lap to pose for a photo. 


Sunday, January 2, 2011