The State of the Kitty Union

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My new book comes out next week--so before all the craziness starts, a general update on Homer and his health!

I'm thrilled to be able to report that Homer is doing well.  Exceptionally well.  Unbelievably well, given the dire predictions the doctors gave me a few weeks ago.  He's eating like a champ, playing a bit (perhaps not as frequently or vigorously as he did a few years ago, but he's an old man after all), and cuddling and purring like crazy.  Laurence goes out every single day--even Sundays--to get Homer fresh deli turkey, because Homer has expressed a clear preference for fresh, moist turkey over turkey that's even a day old.  Homer has become very mistrustful of anybody who isn't me since that horrible experience at the vet's office, and unfortunately that means he won't let Laurence (or the kittens, for that matter) pet him or even get too close.  I can't help wishing he'd show Laurence a teensy bit of gratitude, since Laurence waits in that loooong line at the deli every day for Homer's sake.  Still, Laurence gets a huge kick out of seeing Homer eat so enthusiastically, and when Homer hears Laurence's voice he does start sniffing eagerly on the ground, "looking" for the treats he's come to associate with Laurence's presence.  Laurence gets a kick out of that, too.  So I suppose the two of them have their own understanding between them that makes them both happy, even if it perplexes me a bit.  ;-)


As you know (at least, I hope you know!) my new book--LOVE SAVES THE DAY--comes out on Tuesday of this week.  (Eep!!!)  A few of you have expressed concern over my leaving Homer (given his current health) to go on my proposed 15-city book tour of no-kill shelters instead of bookstores.  Even when the concern is critical of me (;-p), I'm always genuinely touched and grateful for all the concern people have for Homer,and his happiness and well-being.  So I wanted to take a moment and address some of those concerns here.

Let me start out by saying that the tour won't commence until April or May.  I want plenty of time to work out the logistics, and of course to see a bit of warmer weather in the shelters I visit up north.  I don't know what will be with Homer's health four or five months from now--four or five months ago, he was fit as a fiddle!--and have decided not to worry about that right now more than I can help.  And Homer's been on such a wonderful upward trajectory these last couple of weeks that I'm cautiously optimistic that his health will continue to improve in the months to come.

I'll also say that my plan is to visit the shelters on the tour at the rate of about one a week, so that I get to spend some quality time at each shelter--which means a) that the tour will take place over a few months, and b) that I shouldn't be gone from Homer more than two or three days at a time.  That may end up stretching out a bit by the time I get to the west coast, as it may not make sense--for example--to fly out to Seattle, fly back to New York two or three days later, and then a few days after that fly back out to San Francisco.  Again, though, we'll see where everything stands at that point (I may not make it out west until July) and make decisions that make sense at that point.

In a more general sense, though--and perhaps this is me being defensive or rationalizing things--the simple reality is that this is what I do for a living.  One of the many tremendous benefits in doing what I do is that I get to work from home.  For the past five years or so, and with the exception of a handful of brief trips, I've been able to spend about 21 hours a day every day with Homer right by my side.  Having spent the past three years pretty much continually nursing elderly cats through things like chronic renal failure, cancer, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, liver infections, IBS (and more!), I've come to appreciate this luxury all the more.  I've heard from many, many, many readers over the past couple of years who've nursed their own cats through similar illnesses, and never fail to marvel at how utterly, painfully difficult it must be to do so for those who also have to be in an office eight to ten hours a day.  

When I was unable to get a cat to take his or her morning pills or shots, I was able to wait an hour or two and try it again.  If I put down food and noticed at around midday that it was still untouched, I was able to try a different combination that would hopefully prove more tempting in getting a sick kitty to eat.  Any sudden changes and declines in their general health were noted and acted on immediately rather than hours later.  (If I hadn't been home at 11:30am on the day Homer fell down a few weeks back, I might not even have known he was so ill in the first place.)  I know all the worry and anxiety I felt and feel for my cats, and can't even imagine what those of you who have to be away from your own elderly cats for such long stretches of the day must go through.  All I can do is admire your strength and commitment from afar and ask myself if I'd be able to do what you do if I were in your shoes.  I honestly don't know that I'd be able to live up to the standard so many of you have set.

But the trade-off to this wonderful luxury I get to enjoy is that every three years or so, I have to hit the road for a time.  I do so to pay for the other little luxuries we've all become accustomed to around here, like food and rent and the insanely high health insurance premiums you have to pay when you don't have employer-provided health coverage.  ;-p  I'm being a bit facetious (we're not in any immediate danger of starving--I promise!), but the reality remains that books don't promote themselves, and unsold books don't earn their writers any income. 

Again, I acknowledge a certain amount of defensiveness in the length of this post.  But I do also want to assure everybody that while I don't value my work above Homer and his health, realistically it is something that has to be factored into the equation of what's best for my entire family--kitties and humans alike.  I will try very hard to stay on the right side of that balance.  I will try even harder to ensure that Homer's health and happiness are not negatively affected even a tiny bit by the work that I do.

Best of all, I go into this knowing that I'll have all of you to help me make sure I keep that balance straight!  :-D




  • Mary Stewart Saturday, 12 January 2013


    Gwen, you are the BEST mom a kitty ever had and I know you always have Homer's best interest in mind. He is one lucky guy to have you and Laurence and we are all so lucky that you have shared this beautiful soul with us, and continue to keep us updated.

  • Amanda Pickett Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Best Wishes

    I hope Homer's health continues to improve and your stress level stays low. Lookin forward to the new book!!! Thanks for your willingness to share your fuzzy family with the world. We love them and you!

  • Mimi Pipino Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Only God knows what the future holds. We all must move forward and do the best that we know how. I understand and respect your thoughts about Homer and your life. I sure hope Homer rallies and that the tour is a super success. Looking forward to having you take some of my kitty toys and blankies along !!!

  • Sallee Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Well said

    I'm keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers. I hope the book tour is successful and Homer stays healthy and happy a good long time. But you can't deny your responsibilities anymore than any of us can! Those health premiums are critical!! ;)

  • Jody Butler Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Happy for Homer - & You!

    So happy to hear that Homer is doing well! His story, which is yours as well, has inspired so many. There can be no doubt that you will always do what's best for Homer. What's best must also include making a living so you and Lawrence can keep Homer supplied with fresh deli turkey! You're a writer, and book tours are part of the business. Best of luck with the new book! Can't wait to read it!

  • Kimberly Mele Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Go Homer!

    I'm glad that Homer is feeling/getting better. I do understand about leaving a 'sick' cat 'alone' for hours on end. One of my cats, Sami, hasn't been herself as of late--lack of appetite and general age related stuff. Though Sami is never truly 'alone', she has brofurs and sisfurs, she often is without her human for hours as I work.

  • Bonnie Johnston Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Glad to hear your little trooper is doing so well.

    Thank you for the update. I hope you are not hearing too many negative comments about having to do your trips. We do all have to work in some fashion and we do all have times when we have to struggle to fit in our companions needs with our work obligations. We know you will always make the choice that is best based on the situation at the time - just like we all do.
    Wishing you all the best with the new book. Looking forward to it.

  • Mary Sharples Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Well-said, Gwen! We all KNOW you love Homer and only want what's best, but being a published writer means that you have to promote your book and that means being away from home. By writing such a heartfelt book about a blind cat, you gave Homer to all of us, but ultimately, he's your guy and you will take good care of him. Love to you all.

  • Lee Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Homer and you

    A well thought out post and so true... No one knows how much time each of us has on earth (human or fur creature) so we live our lives showing those around us that we love & care for them and will always be there for them if not in body but spirit. If we were afraid something was going to happen to our live ones while we are gone, we never never leave their side or LIVE the lives we are meant to LIVE
    I wish you and your family many more happy times together and I know that you treasure each and every day you are blessed to be surrounded by the ones you love

  • Lee Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Lol typing on the phone alot of typing errors

    It the thought that counts not the spelling right lol

  • gwen Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Darn righ! ;-p

  • Thelma Lyle Saturday, 12 January 2013

    I admirer you.

    I stumbled upon Homer on Facebook. I am " the crazy Cat Lady from Canada". I have four cats all with their own personalities and quicks, I love them all. I have TC ( which is short for Too Cute)' he looks like Homers twin. He turns 10 in April. Then came along OJ, an orange tabby, short for orange juice. Then came Boots into our lives, he have extra toes and then came Rugby another orange tabby. I am so glad I have found your Facebook page and regularly keep up on Homers recovery. Your awesome and I look forward to reading your new book. Kisses for Homer and his family.
    Sincerly, Thelma

  • Kari Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Understood & appreciated

    Homer could NOT have found a better family. I'd like to think that everything you wrote above is stuff that most of your readers understand. We're just silent about it. I'm glad you don't let people get ya down when they don't understand. Please keep doing what you're doing for yourself and your family.

  • gwen Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Thank you, everybody, for all your support! :-) It means more than I can say...

  • Mary Donaldson Saturday, 12 January 2013

    As one of the mom's of a special needs cat who also gets to work from home (I manage a cat shelter and live on the premises), I know in my heart that you would never, ever do anything that would compromise Homer's health. You are a shining example of what love and commitment can do for an animal. Glad to hear Homer is feeling well, and hope your tour is great.

  • Leigh G-H Saturday, 12 January 2013

    No Defense needed!

    I am a bit jealous of your ability to spend so much time with your cats and work from home as you do. Over the holidays, my 10 year old baby fell ill. I knew something wasn't right, but I had to go to work (as group homes never close and I had to pick up an individual from the airport and there was paperwork involved, so there could be no last minute changes to who was doing the pick up). As it turned out, he had a urinary blockage and it would have cost way more that what my new husband and I could afford. He's not working full time right now and there was no guarantee that the problem would not recur (even with 24 hours of expensive procedure). I had to make a very painful and sudden decision (he'd been playing with his new toy just on Christmas day and 3 days later he was so sick). I'm still struggling with that decision and people keep telling me it was the right one to make. I miss him tremendously. He got me through my terrible twenties (especially the early parts).
    Anyway, I didn't mean to unload. I just wanted to say that you have no need to be defensive as you are one of the most caring cat owners I've ever known. You get that these are our children even if we didn't birth them ourselves. You do so much and give them so much. We know that you would never leave Homer if you didn't feel you could or that it wasn't in his best interest. I live with guilt and regret that I couldn't get Smef to the vet on the 27th. Would it have made a difference, I'm not sure, most people tell me "no".
    Anyway, I'm super excited to read your new book and also to re-read Homer's story (I like to read my favourites at least once a year. I'm a fast reader and there is no way I could afford new books all the time. I just have to get it back from a friend as I passed it on to share the story.) Any trips above the border by chance??
    I hope Homer continues on his upward movement health wise and that the kittens continue to protect you from bad news (saw that facebook picture).

  • Billy Sargent Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Leigh G-H, you are a good person

    You are compassionate, sympathetic & nurturing. You made the best decision you could & you did the best thing you could do; you spared your dear, dear friend pain & misery. We've all been there. Did you know cats can become allergic to their teeth? I've had two with the condition. The second one was treated & is a healthy, crabby, grumpy (with other cats), toothless lad who loves being petted & brushed. The first suffered untreated because I mis-understood the vet; I thought the only treatment was steroids, which burns out their livers & shortens their lives. Somehow I missed the critical info that their teeth can be surgically removed. I count that cat in with the dozen or so I've failed & it always makes me sad, but I know that like you I did the best I could with what I had & knew at the time & that they were loved & comfortable. There isn't anything more you can do than that.

  • I. M. Krumins Monday, 14 January 2013

    Stomatitis can be treated by very, very small doses of steroids


    I believe what you are talking about ... a cat becoming allergic to their own teeth, is a condition known as "stomatitis". It seems awfully weird, but all indications seem to be that there is a one-to-one relationship between pulling the cat's teeth (all of them !!) and he/she getting better after the surgery. However, I didn't stop there ... I looked for a better solution than a drastic, can't-go-back disfiguring of a cat's face.

    Two of my cats came down with the symptoms almost at exactly the same time. A third cat came down with it about 6 mont6hs later. The mere fact that three cats in the same household came down with it suggests that there is a contagious aspect to the condition ... after all, it seems rather improbable that they all became allergic to their own teeth at virtually the same time ! But the illness doesn't seem to be bacterial, viral or parisitic in nature. So, I did what the conventional treatment was - steroids. But I changed the treatment a little. I've always believed in homeopathic medicine, that extremely small amounts of medicine treats many conditions otherwise untouched in humans. I thought that very short-lived periods of small doses of steroids may bo the trick, without the severely negative side-effects the steroids come with. I also thought that, like treating any illness that was "systemic", a base of a very healthy and nutritious diet was paramount to treating the allergy or sensitivity with steroids. As it turned out, I treated my cats with very small doses of steroids (prednazalone) every day for 2-to-three weeks, combined with s diet of high quality, clean protein (chicken breast, turkey, etc.) - make sure they eat because they will have a sore in the mouth and therefore they won't be wanting to eat much. Repeat these two oe three week treatments every six months for a year-and-a-half or so. My cats have all recovered to where the sores have disappeared and the mouths seems to not hurt at all for eating, etc. I didn't have any of their teeth pulled and I took a break from their regular teeth cleanings (for fear that a teeth cleaning might kick up bacteria or other irritants in the already sore mouth). I am happy to report that 5 years after the initial discovery of stomatitis, all three of my affected cats are 100% okay ! :-)

  • Robyn Monday, 14 January 2013

    Sorry for your losses

    To Leigh G-H - you did the best you could with the information you had at the time. Please forgive yourself by making the best decision you possibly could.

    And to Billy - I am only sorry the vet didn't make your choices abundantly clear. If there is a fault here - that would be it. Vets need to realize that we all haven't gone to veterinary school and to make sure we know what we are dealing with in plain language.

    I can tell from you both that you loved your fur-friends dearly. I am sure they knew that.

  • Shellie Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Homer and Tour

    Gwen, only you know what's best for you and Homer. No need to explain yourself. I know people are concerned for Homer's well being, but they should not be critical of your choices. We are privileged to know Homer through your writing, however we don't take care of him. You do. I would never criticize your choices.
    I hope you are able to come through Kansas City, MO/KS on your tour. Please consider visiting Wayside Waifs or the new Heartland SPCA. I would love to meet you!

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