“Cats may have nine lives, but we have only one and we’re all terrified to talk about the ending of it.”
So goes a line from “Making Rounds With Oscar,” a fascinating book by David Dosa, a physician who has written about a cat called Oscar, who is ordinary by all appearances, but who actually has an extraordinary gift.
He is the resident cat at the Steere House Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island, a facility that houses many elderly patients with dementia who are near the end of their lives.
He is a typical cat in that he chooses where he wants to nap and spend his time. But his uncanny gift is that he can sense when someone’s life is about to end, and he will jump up on the patient’s bed and spend his time there until the person has passed away.
Dr. Dosa and the staff say that Oscar has made at least 50 correct calls about imminent death.
How does Oscar know? Is there a scent or pheromone that someone who is near death gives off that he can detect? Is there some sixth sense he possesses?
Whatever the reason, Oscar’s gift can be a blessing to the families at Steere House, many of whom have spent years nursing a loved one through the ravages of dementia.
One man in Dosa’s book, Jack, described his mother’s death after she had suffered for 16 years with the disease. Oscar had taken up his place on the bed beside her, and Jack knew death was not far away.
“I knew this was the way she was going to die, with a cat at her side. Two hours later, my mother took her last breath. Oscar never moved until she died. Then he got up casually, like nothing happened and left the room. …
“I suppose my mother would have been happy to know that she died with one of the critters she loved the most.”
Rather than being morbid, the book discusses end-of-life issues with great sensitivity – and it is nice to know that Oscar is there for people when he is needed most.
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