Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Making Rounds with Oscar by Dr. David Dosa

See that face?  Adorable, right?  Fancy a snuggle with this sweet little kitty?  Think twice.  For this is no ordinary cat.  It's Oscar...the death cat.  Remember last fall on the news, about the cat that predicted the impending deaths of rest home patients?  This is he.

The phenomenon appears to be that in the last twelve hours of life, for a patient who is visibly weakening or else perfectly fine, Oscar appears and cuddles them in their bed.  He is not affectionate at any other times.  Infallibly, it seems, he's accurate, and the patient dies.

Dr. Dosa really didn't fall for the idea at first, and took some convincing.  In terms of evidence, they simply kept track and noted that for the most part, there is no preceding signs that would tell Oscar something was up.  No catnip-scented medical equipment or anything else that would lure him to the bedside. Some patients were unconscious, others were speaking and behaving normally. No one can explain how his intuition works, or if it's just a fluke.

Aside from the fascinating but creepy details, the book details the ins and outs of rest home life (um, not appealing in any way).  Apparently cats are a typical accoutrement of rest homes, as they provide comfort and a homey feeling that residents appreciate.  Obviously, my cats would not likely be hired because of their surly attitude. 

I expected the book to be rather light-weight, and hesitated before reading it.  I'd received piles of 'dogs of note' books over the last year that were cutesy and saccharine sweet.  It was odd to actually see a cat book by a doctor.  Once I began reading, I did find it an interesting subject to analyze.  Just how much do animals understand?  How keen are their senses?  We take for granted dogs can sniff out drugs, but cats?  What can they do?

I think my only complaint is that the portions of the narrative that contain dialogue sound forced and unnatural-people don't speak in full sentences, and the back and forth exchanges of conversation didn't feel real at all.  Other than this, and the depressing nature of rest homes in general, this was a satisfying read.

Special thanks to Hyperion for the Advanced Review Copy.

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