Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa, M.D.
Hyperion Books - Nonfiction
Let's get the FTC info out of the way up front. I begged for a copy of Making Rounds with Oscar when I saw info about the book and a very kind rep from Hyperion sent me a copy. Cat-deprived little me was dying to read anything at all about cats to get my feline fix (and the offer still stands -- I will always review cat books of any kind).
Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard about Oscar, a cat who became famous for curling up with nursing home residents within hours of their deaths. Oscar's ability to determine which patient is going to pass away at Steere House, the nursing home in which he lives, has made it easier for nurses to determine when to call family members to let them know it's time to say their last goodbyes; and, Oscar has served as a comfort to many.
David Dosa is the doctor who brought Oscar to fame when he published a journal article about the cat's special abilities. He is not particularly fond of cats, which lends the narrative an interesting perpective; he was initially skeptical of Oscar's ability and writes about the cat with a tiny bit of distance.
In spite of the fact that Dosa is intimidated by felines, the story of Oscar is beautifully written. With a touch of surprise and a boat-load of scientific curiosity, he describes how the nurses at Steere House began to take note of how accurately Oscar predicted the coming deaths of patients, often stunning the staff by curling up with a patient thought to still have days while rejecting another expected to die right away.
In search of answers to the mystery and curious about how family members felt about Oscar's presence, Dr. Dosa began asking family members of the deceased if he could interview them and found that not only were they willing to talk about Oscar, most were eager to talk to the doctor as it gave them a chance to reminisce about their loved ones.
Making Rounds with Oscar isn't just about the cat, though. Dr. Dosa is a specialist in geriatrics and the patients on the third floor of Steere House, where Oscar resides, suffer from dementia. With extraordinary compassion, Dr. Dosa describes his patients as formerly-vibrant individuals touched by a devastating, fatal illness and illuminates the suffering that family members experience as their loved ones "unlearn".
Dr. Dosa also touches on the state of our health care system and how coming reform is likely to make long-term care even more unaffordable. His comments are frightening and critically important to Americans, and a subject with which I'm personally acquainted. My sister and I dealt with temporary nursing-home care for my mother. It was, quite frankly, terrifying. Medicare paid for only about 10 days' worth of post-hospitalization recovery and after that, we were told, if she needed long-term care we would have no choice but to begin selling off her possessions to cover the cost. My mother had attempted to get insurance coverage for such care several years before her final illness but was denied by everyone she contacted.
I shall now step down off my soapbox and return to the subject. I loved Making Rounds with Oscar. It's a quick, touching read that I highly recommend to anyone and everyone -- not just cat lovers.
5/5 - A clearly-written tale told with a tenderness for dementia patients as well as objectivity and scientific curiosity about a very special feline.
Huge, gushy thanks to Lauren at Hyperion Books for the review copy!