Book Review: Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa

Book Review: Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa

It’s Thursday again!
Happy Almost-Friday, my lovely peeps🐥!
It’s time for this week’s book review and today, we’re featuring a nonfiction book about a very special cat named Oscar!

The cat has too much spirit to have no heart.
– Ernest Menaul

Book Description

Title: Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat
Author: David Dosa
Edition: Ebook > Kindle (Libby)
Length: ~240 Pages
Genre/s: Nonfiction, Animals > Cats, Memoir, Biography, Medical
Rating: 4.5 Golden Eggs

Blurb (Goodreads)

A remarkable cat. A special gift. A life-changing journey.

They thought he was just a cat. When Oscar arrived at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island he was a cute little guy with attitude. He loved to stretch out in a puddle of sunlight and chase his tail until he was dizzy. Occasionally he consented to a scratch behind the ears, but only when it suited him. In other words, he was a typical cat. Or so it seemed. It wasn’t long before Oscar had created something of a stir. Apparently, this ordinary cat possesses an extraordinary gift: he knows instinctively when the end of life is near. Oscar is a welcome distraction for the residents of Steere House, many of whom are living with Alzheimer’s. But he never spends much time with them — until they are in their last hours. Then, as if this were his job, Oscar strides purposely into a patient’s room, curls up on the bed, and begins his vigil. Oscar provides comfort and companionship when people need him most. And his presence lets caregivers and loved ones know that it’s time to say good-bye. Oscar’s gift is a tender mercy. He teaches by example: embracing moments of life that so many of us shy away from. Making Rounds with Oscar is the story of an unusual cat, the patients he serves, their caregivers, and of one doctor who learned how to listen. Heartfelt, inspiring, and full of humor and pathos, this book allows readers to take a walk into a world rarely seen from the outside, a world we often misunderstand.

Review

Just as with Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (another nonfiction that talks about the elderly and quality of care of residents and patients in their twilight years), this was also prompted because of a passing video I’d seen a good handful of years ago. I actually saw a clip about Oscar a while back, but only recently did it resurface when I let the autoplay pick my next Youtube video when the current one finished and I was too busy to look for another video. I sat there listening and thinking, “Oh hey! I remember Oscar from a few years ago! He was a special little kitty!” and then remembered that there was a book about him too. A trip over to the Libby app and I was set for the waiting room of an appointment the next day.

Oscar is a very special cat with the remarkable ability to know when someone is moments from taking their last breath. Shy and timid, generally Oscar does not hang around with patients and prefers to hide during the day, but when someone in the nursing home, The Steere House, is dying, Oscar will magically appear at their side, taking vigil, and not leaving until the coroners come to remove them. Told from the perspective of Dr. David Dosa, who at first does not believe the staff’s (and residents/family members’) tales about Oscar’s ability to sense death, he begins his own research about this extraordinary cat with a special gift. This book is a way to recount the various interviews he’d done with past residents’ family members and during their talks about Oscar, they would often discuss about the family/families that have lived in The Steere House, about Alzheimers, and how it affected the family just as much, if not more, than even the patients themselves.

Though much of Dr. Dosa’s interviews and research stemmed from trying to find a scientific reason behind why Oscar does what he does, he’s equally as curious about how just how many loved ones recalled that: yes, during their parent’s/partner’s final days, and especially the very last hours, Oscar was always present, if he could make it into the room. The Steere house may have multiple floors and several other felines (and birds/rabbits), but none would show up the same way as Oscar did.

In most, if not all of the cases (with whom Dr. Dosa interviewed), Oscar would be there and if he wasn’t, it was because he was already with another patient who was dying. The most fascinating cases had been Oscar clawing at walls if he wasn’t let into a patient’s room or, during a moment where two residents passed around the same time and Oscar couldn’t be with both at once, he had made sure to stay with one before sprinting across the nursing home to be with the other as soon as he could. Another had been when a resident had been taken away to the hospital, across the street, during his last days and eventually passing away from Steere with Oscar staring out the window.

Through the interviews and meetups with family members, while the main topic was Oscar, I also learned a lot about Alzheimer’s, such as that there are multiple forms of dementia, the stages of the disease, and how devastating the diagnosis is for families, especially caregivers who watch their loved ones slowly slip away. It’s heartbreaking to read and through these talks and interviews, Dr. Dosa also gains some insight into the disease, personal experiences from patients and their family members to help him be a better doctor to future patients and residents of The Steere House.

“Why can’t you do this anymore? A child could do it.” The difference is that a child is learning. A patient with Alzheimer’s is, as Robin said, “unlearning.”

I picked this book up because I’m a huge cat lover (and animal lover in general) but came out of it having learned a lot. From the families’, I took out many lessons including being there for the patients, being present, when to let go, to count the everyday victories no matter how little or small they are, and to cherish every day. From Dr. Dosa, who battles his own wars with arthritis, I realize that even the most minor things are taken for granted, like how I am able to type this review with my own fingers without pain or the fact that I have full function of my body for things we may not often think about (ability to bathe, eat, dress ourselves). And, from Oscar, the importance of simply just being there, curled at the foot of someone who needs that small comfort.

It was a quick read for me, though one that left me with a lot of emotions, things to be thankful for, as well as a valuable read of lessons in life as well as knowledge about a disease that I always have known of, but have not truly understood.

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