updated 09/10/2009 AT 1:18 PM ET
•originally published 09/10/2009 AT 1:17 PM ET
She remembered every little detail. The initial call. The drive to the vet’s office. Even the way the examination room looked. So there is no doubt, that after more than a decade, Gwen Cooper can still recall the very thing that drew her to Homer the cat. More than just a look or a touch, it was the little kitten’s sheer readiness to love and embrace the world, despite the hardships he had to overcome during his first two weeks of life.
“The first thing that really grabbed me was how immediately willing he was,” Cooper tells PEOPLE Pets. “You could just see there was so much love in this little animal.”
In her new book, Homer’s Odyssey, the author tells the heartwarming and entertaining story of life and love with her beloved, blind wonder cat. The memoir, which spans over 13 years, recounts the charming feline’s numerous adventures and shenanigans – from dangling atop a bookcase to scaring off an intruder – and proves that it’s possible to live a full and happy life even without the gift of sight.
Back in 1997 when she first met the cat that would change her life, Cooper was already the proud mama of two female felines, Scarlett and Vashti, and had no intention of adding a third to her brood. She had just broken up with her live-in boyfriend, was strapped for cash, and lived in the good graces of a friend’s spare bedroom. So when her local vet asked her to meet an abandoned, blind 2-week-old kitten, she knew she should say no.
Cooper realized right away that this feline was no ordinary cat. After suffering a terrible eye infection, which required surgery to remove both eyes, the black domestic short-hair kitten needed a place to live. Despite the long lists of calls to potential adoptive parents, no one felt confident to care for the blind boy. Even Cooper admitted, based on her living situation at the time, that she didn’t think her home was the best environment for a cat in need. But within the first few minutes of meeting the little fella, it was love at first sight – she just had to have him.
“Given everything he’d already been through,” Cooper says, “He was ready to make friends and engage the world.”
Named for the blind Greek poet Homer, who wrote the famous epics The Iliad and The Odyssey, Homer would quickly adapt to his new life, eager and anxious to explore the world around him. As it turned out, while Cooper was giving him a new lease on life, he would return the favor.
“A kitten who made me want to be a better person within five minutes of meeting him was a kitten who was destined to live an extraordinary life,” Cooper says. “And I really just wanted to be a part of it.”
And not only is he a loving, curious friend and companion, but Homer turned out to be a protective watchdog too. When an intruder broke into Cooper’s Miami apartment in 2000, it was Homer who stood his ground, growling at the burglar and eventually chasing him from their home. Homer is also a survivor of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, having been stranded for days with very little food and water in the lower Manhattan apartment that Cooper had moved into.
Now, at age 13, Homer is still a kid at heart, ready to tackle any tall bookcase or mischief that comes his way. “He still has plenty of kitten still left in him,” Cooper says.
The feisty feline has never let his handicap slow him down or hinder his everyday activities. And Cooper made a point to give Homer his independence, to explore the world as if he were a seeing cat.
“I wanted him to be who he was supposed to be,” she says. “Regardless of the fact that he was blind.”
See more inspiring animals on PEOPLE Pets:
Earless Kitten Inspires Mom and Daughter’s Children’s Book
Meet Chase, the Cat Without a Face