Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa, M.D. – Book Review

June 27, 2010

There are cats and then there are cats.

As many of you, my loyal readers, know, I am a human observer sent here by The Brain. I was assigned to observe The Lady and The Man after the Mighty Mike Tyson (the feline, not the fighter)was called home to the Mothership. At that time I was a wandering observer in the SoCal Quadrant of the United States. After landing the cushy gig with The Lady and The Man, I really lucked out. We pulled up stakes and migrated to the great Pacific Northwest where now I fancy myself a gourmet feline who has added the duties of sampling specialty cheeses and sharing my “tasting notes” with anyone surfing the internet searching for knowledge and, alas, amusement.

Most days when not napping or performing other feline habits, I am quite full of myself; I have my own blog; I have my own bedroom; I even have my own powder room (which I never share); my meals are served to me on my own schedule (even the one at 2am); I am in charge of the manse… there are many cats who would love to move into my paws… such as that rascal with the white-collared neck who has been lurking around the deck of late and boldly ventured into the kitchen yesterday morning. The Lady is still cleaning up his fur off the rugs…

But just when my ego swells and I decide I can be a bit more snarky than the average cat, The Brain sends another feline along, of such extraordinary stature, to slap me in the whiskers with an overdose of reality.

That would be Oscar…

The Lady and I knew of Oscar when news reports began surfacing about his uncanny ability to predict the deaths of dementia and Alzheimer patients at a Rhode Island nursing home. Burt, aka The Flirt, gave The Lady a copy of the book because they both share a love for pets of the feline persuasion. It wasn’t until The Lady and I began reading Making Rounds with Oscar that we realized we were reading about that cat.

Dr. David Dosa, the author of this book, works with the elderly suffering from these generally late life infirmities;  infirmities that start with simple absent-mindedness and graduate over time into heartbreaking losses that rob the patients and their families of their pasts and often their presents.

Oscar brings comfort to both the patients and the families as he stands vigil in the final hours of the lives of those who have lost the most precious of human possessions: their memories. Oscar soothes the families in the days leading up to the deaths of their loved ones and in the final hours of life, Oscar offers unconditional love and calm to the dying by laying with them to the end of their lives.

How Oscar “knows” is a mystery; one that Dr. Dosa set out to solve after Mary, the day shift nurse, “introduced” the doctor to Oscar. Oscar was curled up next to a dying patient.  The doctor was surprised because Oscar rarely gave the doc the time of day, preferring to ignore him. Oscar, like most of us superior felines, has little day-to-day use for humans and rarely hangs out with the inferior species. As I have mentioned before, weight and that opposable thumb give humans a leg-up on felines; but that’s about it…

Mary explained that Oscar was keeping his vigil and this was not the first time he had lain down beside one of their patients in their final hours. In fact, Mary added, that Oscar’s “batting average” in knowing when a patient was dying was becoming legend among the staff and the patients.

As is to be expected from a man of science, Dosa was skeptical; after all he is a human and by nature, humans are, for the most part, dubious of that which they don’t understand or can’t explain. How could a cat know when someone was dying when he, a medical doctor, could not predict such a time… a cat… naw… not possible.

As the doctor studied Oscar’s actions and interviewed the families who had received the benefit of Oscar’s gift, he began to perceive and although he will probably never understand; Dosa came to accept the miracle that is Oscar.

For humans, this is a book that offers reassurances that the end of life needs not to be feared. For felines, it reminds us that there is more to life than sleeping and tasting notes on specialty cheeses and gives hope that we can each make a difference the way Oscar does.

Oscar is now five years old and his extraordinary gift continues to bring joy and solace to patients and families in a nursing home in Rhode Island.

I recommend this book unconditionally; but it comes with a warning: Have tissues available; you’ll need them.

To buy this book, please click here.

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