Thursday, April 15, 2010
Making Rounds with Oscar
Published by Hyperion
Dr. Dosa is a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medicine School of Brown University. Several of his patients reside at Steere House, a facility serving the elderly who need extra nursing care. Steere House also serves as residence for several cat. One particular cat, Oscar, lives on the third floor where those who need the most care due to dementia or need end-of-life hospice care reside.
Dr. Dosa begins hearing stories of how Oscar has a gift for identifying those who are nearing death. Being a scientific-minded sort, the good doctor scoffs at first. But as time goes by he becomes curious and begins to interview those families who have had a Steere House resident who was on the receiving end of Oscar’s peculiar services. The book revolves around Dr. Dosa’s supposed skepticism and these interviews.
Having lived with cats for some 40 years now and also having had a mother who had Alzheimer’s disease, I was eager to read this book. However, I was rather disappointed. Dr. Dosa’s skepticism seemed a rather disingenuous device to base the book around. After all, therapy dogs have been around for a long time now, as have cancer-sniffing dogs and those who sense oncoming epileptic and diabetic seizures. We have scientific evidence that the proximity of a pet can lower blood pressure and aid the release of relaxing endorphins. Why could there not be a cat who senses the advent of death?
But then, I have lived with cats and have benefitted from their presence in my life. Dr. Dosa had not. I suppose I should cut him some slack.
I can just see Oscar lifting a hind leg to do his laundry and thinking, “What’s the big deal?”