Sunday, October 17, 2010

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary CatMaking Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa, M.D.

Dr. Dosa works with geriatric patients who suffer from dementia. Oscar is one of two resident cats on the advanced dementia unit of the nursing home where Dr. Dosa spends a lot of his time. The staff and patients on the dementia unit quickly notice that Oscar has a unique ability. He always seems to know in advance when a patient is going to die and he insists on being present with them while they pass from life to death.

Oscar would settle himself on the end of a patient's bed prior to their death and simply be. Sometimes he would visit with the patient's family and other times he would just sleep. Oscar seems to know a truth that eludes many people, the gift of one's presence is the most amazingly powerful gift we can offer someone.

Facing difficult times in life can be very scary and unsettling, and facing those times alone makes it even worse. Having someone be truly present in a hard time is very comforting and soothing and yet it is rarely done in our culture. Rather than being truly present with someone in their pain we offer platitudes, meant to show our care but from a safe distance. More than words or things, simply being tuned into and close to someone in the midst of a challenge can be the most powerful show of support and encouragement we can offer. Oscar inherently knew this.

After reading this book, I am left with the idea that Oscar functions as a compassionate guide to the dying, their families and their caregivers. His job is to assist the person in making the transition from this world to the next, like a well meaning parent, making sure their child is well prepared for the harrowing journey ahead.

Making The Rounds With Oscar tells the story of how Dr. Dosa, a hard-fast believer in science and overall non-cat person, wrestles with accepting Oscar's mysterious, undeniable and unexplainable abilities. The story also provides an understanding of dementia and the heartbreaking challenges families experience as they grapple with being powerless to intervene as they watch their loved ones gradually unlearn everything, leaving them empty shells of their former selves.

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