Making Rounds with Oscar, The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat
David Dosa, M. D.
Hyperion, HarperCollins Publishers, 2010
Going in I had no idea what the book was about, only that it was about the cat who knew when people were going to die. What it turned out to be was a book about a group of compassionate care givers in a nursing home, devoted to caring for patients with end-stage dementia, or Alzheimer’s. The nursing home, Steere House, is located in Rhode Island and has cats on every floor of the home. Oscar lives on the third floor with another cat named Maya. The third floor is where the dementia patients go to die.
Here are some quotes I found meaningful:
“As I left the lobby I looked back at the cats in the atrium; they were already engaged in chasing each other, like two kids playing tag. My comings and goings were of no concern to them. They were truly in the now. My life is made of pagers, deadlines, appointments, and responsibilities. At that moment the existence of a cat looked pretty good to me.” Pg 45
- I wonder how at peace humans would be if they learned to live in the now the way we cats do. We are occupied with the present. If we are hungry, we eat. If we are tired, we sleep. If we are dirty with take a bath. If we feel happy, we play. If humans followed such a philosophy, which includes letting go of the past and not worrying about the future, would we live in a world of peace
“Maybe that’s all [Oscar] was: a companion, a sentient being who might accompany one person on their journey to the next world, or another through the grief of losing the one they loved—a kind of underworld of its own.” Pg 189
- During the end of life, both patient and family need support. Oscar provided that support in a subtle, gentle way. Everyone, cat and human, benefit from having someone with them as they take their last breath. What the benefit is, we don’t know. The person or cat takes that knowledge with them when they leave. But not knowing is alright for now.
“Animals like Oscar can teach us through their steadfastness, their patience, and their presence. They don’t have to be anywhere else except where they are. When Oscar visits his patients, he doesn’t care what time it is or whether there is somewhere else he would rather be. He is in the moment. It is so important to be able to spend time with someone with dementia—even if you think that they no longer know who you are.” Pg 221
- During their lives humans spend so much time and effort on things that ultimately are meaningless and so little time on things that are eternal. But that is who and what they are. Maybe one day people will slow down, take stock of their lives and loved ones and savor each moment. Seriously, take a look at the cat who stretches out asleep in the sunshine – you really want to do that too, don’t you? Then do it!
Dr. Dosa offers well heeded advice on end-stage dementia for caregivers. He provides multiple incidents of Oscar’s ability to tell when a person is going to die and how it affected the family members. It is a beautiful book and one full of hope and promise.
I probably won’t read this book again unless I need to (and hopefully we won’t need to – no offense intended, Oscar.) But we will keep it in our library just in case, that and the lovely portrait of Oscar on the cover.
Courtesy Hyperion Books
Dr. David Dosa is a geriatrician and an assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, both in Providence, Rhode Island.
Click here for more info on Oscar.