Monday, March 01, 2010

Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa, M.D.

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa, M.D.
Copyright 2010
Hyperion Books - Nonfiction
225 pages

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!


  1. I love a good, true animal tale!

  2. Diane,

    Me, too! I just got All My Patients Are Under the Bed: Memoirs of a Cat Doctor from PBS, today. I think I've been in love with animal stories since I read my mother's James Herriot books in my beanbag chair. Am I dating myself? :)

  3. Yes, you are dating yourself. I'd say you are about the age of my children, who also used beanbag chairs in their growing-up years.

  4. This sounds SO good. And perfect for me.

  5. Bonnie,

    Even worse, the beanbag was red, white and blue. I'm sure you remember that exciting bedroom fashion craze. I wanted to paint an American flag on my wall. Dad said, "No." :)


    You know, I think you're right about that.

  6. I must have been under that rock because I'd never heard of Oscar! I've read about dogs able to detect cancer in patients, however. I must have this book! Thanks, Nancy!

  7. Jenclair,

    I almost mentioned that I pretty much live under a rock, myself. I just happened to catch that news article online. I'm sure you'll enjoy the book. It's nicely written. I was really surprised that the doctor who wrote it is afraid of cats!

  8. I heard of Oscar, but didn't know there was a book about him. Will have to check this one out!

  9. Jeane,

    I didn't know till I saw the Hyperion ad. It's right up your alley.

  10. I know Oscar is an amazing cat, but I'm not sure I could read this one. I'm not sure there are enough tissues in the world for that.

  11. Kathy,

    There were only one or two bits that had me tearing up, but it's definitely a moving book.

  12. Dr. Brian Herdeg11:26 AM

    My wife spotted "Making Rounds with Oscar" in a Barnes & Noble stack of new books. She told me about it and it piqued my curiosity I downloaded it on my Kindle and began reading it the next day.
    In 49 years of general medical practice, the patients and problems so honestly described by the author, were familiar... but each interview showed insights everyone could profit from.
    The author uses the structure of the story of Oscar as a framework to discuss the very real problems faced by terminal Alzheimer’s patients and their families.
    It is an enjoyable read, especially as the doctor’s doubts about Oscar gradually
    evolve into belief. It also gives incredibly useful insight into terminal Alzheimer's disease. One example; A person in the bloom of life, with no concept of what his final
    years my bring, leaves orders with his family to use all possible medical treatment
    to prolong his life. He had no concept of the kind of “life” he would be prolonging
    and what his comatose body could be put through in his later years.
    I want my entire family and all my friends to read this book.

  13. Brian,

    I so agree with you that this is a great book to pass around to friends and family. That story about the father who "wanted everything done" was really sad and an excellent example of why it pays to know and understand the truth about what exactly happens with a demential patient so one knows better than to torment a person who has no quality of life. Thanks for dropping by!

  14. I am glad you enjoyed this one so much, Nancy. I hope to get to Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper soon. I was supposed to read it back in September, but, well, things didn't work out quite as planned.

  15. Wendy,

    I think you'd enjoy reading about Oscar. Homer's Odyssey is on my wish list. I haven't managed to acquire a copy, yet, but I hope I will soon. As to books you're supposed to read by a certain date . . . stuff happens. I've lightened my reviewing load and am going backwards a bit, trying to insert some books I was supposed to read in 2009. Sometimes you just have to get to them when you get to them. I do my best to get everything read by its due date, but that doesn't always work out. I've still not read a single one of the books to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month! Ack! That was probably 5 months ago. I'll get to them, eventually. Big sigh.

  16. We may never know how some animals have the ability to sense certain things that we can not. I know this isn’t the same as cancer detection, but we have Chihuahua that can sense a storm many hours before it arrives. How do birds know how to fly thousand and thousand of miles and return the same nesting place year after year? I like books that include animals I may have look for this book the next time I go to the bookstore. Thanks for your review


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