Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Goodbye to a Friend I Never Met

I’ve had lots of friends over the years; friends who never knew I existed. No, not because I’m some creepy stalker or am unable to make real, live friends. The friends I’m talking about weren’t human. Hang on. Before you get alarmed, I’m not talking about aliens either. I’m talking about birds, groundhogs, chipmunks, beavers, rabbits…all of the wildlife I’ve had the good fortune to get to know by opening my eyes and noticing the natural word around me. It brings me a lot of joy to see Mumbles the chipmunk eating seeds scattered by Stumpy the sparrow at my birdfeeder. There’s Chewy the groundhog, who in warm weather I see munching on grass on a hill by my house. As I’ve moved over the years, I’m always a little sad to leave behind my “friends” who have silly names and never realized I was so happy they were living nearby.

One of the dangers of loving anything is the chance you will lose it. I lost my beloved dog Popcorn when he was 18. I have two healthy and happy cats now: Squeaky and Captain Nap. There’s another cat, too; one to which I didn’t realize how connected I was until he was gone. This little blind kitty wasn’t mine, but I am grieving for him as if he were. He was Homer the Blind Wonder Cat.

I’d been a Homer fan for a couple of years, ever since my sister gave me the book Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper. The book, the author, and Homer became instant favorites. When I saw Homer had a Facebook page, I officially became his friend, in that weird Facebook way. Gwen would write posts for Homer: funny little observations or mentions of other special-needs cats that needed a forever home. Pictures, too: Homer curled up with Gwen or sitting next to her as she worked on her laptop.

As pets do, Homer got older. Some of Gwen’s more recent posts focused on Homer’s struggles with his health. I, like thousands of his fans, suspected the time was coming, and I dreaded it. Homer had become a fixture in my life, a little like my own cats. I couldn’t pet him or play with him, but he was my friend nonetheless. On Saturday, when I heard Gwen had put Homer to sleep, I cried. I called my husband upstairs and he hugged me while I sobbed over the loss of a cat I’d never met. I cried for Homer, yes, but I cried for his “mom,” Gwen, too. As anyone who’s read Homer’s Odyssey knows, she and Homer have been through a lot together. I couldn’t imagine the pain she was feeling. If I was this sad, what must she be experiencing? It gave me some comfort (because I was kind of wondering if I was crazy) to read comments written by hundreds of Homer’s other Facebook friends who also had cried over losing him.

Gwen: thank you for sharing your little blind wonder cat with the world. Homer: thank you for being my friend. I will miss you.