O is for Oscar the cat

Oscar the cat’s sense of smell may be just one explanation.

oscarthecat Oscar the cat lives in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. He is, by all accounts, “notoriously anti-social.”

That is, until, he cuddles up with residents in their final dying days. “After about six months, the staff noticed that Oscar, just like the doctors and nurses, would make his own rounds. Oscar would sniff and observe patients, then curl up to sleep with certain ones. The patients he would sleep with often died within several hours of his arrival.”

The story was even written up in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine back in 2007, A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat by David M. Dosa, M.D., M.P.H. Dr. Dosa believes that Oscar “might be picking up on specific odors surrounding death.”

Some animal behavior experts say the explanation about Oscar sensing a smell associated with dying is a plausible one. “I suspect he is smelling some chemical released just before dying,” says Margie Scherk, a veterinarian in Vancouver, British Columbia and president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners…

“And cats can certainly detect illness.” Dr. Jill Goldman, a certified applied animal behaviorist in Laguna Beach, California says that “Cats have a superb sense of smell,” adding that keeping a dying patient company may also be learned behavior. “There has been ample opportunity for him to make an association between ‘that’ smell [and death]”…

The sense of smell may, however, be just one explanation. Dr. Daniel Estep, a certified applied animal behaviorist in Littleton, Colorado suggests that “One of the things that happens with people who are dying is that they are not moving around much. Maybe the cat is picking up on the fact that the person on the bed is very quiet. It may not be smell or sounds, but just the lack of movement.”

The story of Oscar the cat was not without controversy, as in this review of Dr. Dosa’s 2010 book, Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat would indicate. “The NEJM piece was an essay and in no sense a scientific article, which raises questions about why it was published. If we expected the book to provide something resembling scientific evidence, we are again disappointed.”

In any case, Oscar was still at work, as of this March 2015 Redbook article. Here’s a short video, and Oscar’s Facebook page.

abc18
ABC Wednesday – Round 18

The Right to Die and other topics

My mom was not the greatest cook, by her own admission.

rip.euthanasia1More from Chris:

– what’s your take on right to die and why?

Literally, I could spend a week’s worth of posts on this topic. This is the very abbreviated version.

In 1998, I watched Dr. Jack Kevorkian make the case for assisted suicide for the terminally ill on 60 Minutes. “From 1990 to 1998, he claimed to have helped end the lives of some 130 willing subjects.” I thought he made a compelling case.

After he “videotaped himself injecting Thomas Youk, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, with a dose of lethal drugs,” he ended up in jail and ended up serving eight years in prison. I’m convinced his gaunt look allowed the moniker Dr. Death to stick.

Meanwhile, there was that circus of the Terri Schiavo case (1998-2005), which I needn’t rehash, except to say that the grandstanding about protecting life from Jeb Bush and congressional Republicans I found repugnant because it was so clearly a quality of life issue, the nuance about which they clearly did not recognize. This 2015 TIME magazine article suggests that overreach has set the stage for the current right-to-die movement.

But I had been thinking about this for decades. Long before health care proxies became the norm, I had a pact with a friend of mine in college. We agreed that if either of us were seriously injured so that the quality of life had been severely diminished, the other would sneak into the hospital, if necessary, and literally pull the plug. Glad we never had to test this out.

Of course, we make right-to-die decisions all the time these days, such as Do Not Resuscitate in hospitals, applicable when my mom died nearly five years ago. I thought the whole characterization of the Obamacare “death panels” was fascinating because surely, there ARE limits of what services any medical system can/will provide.

Guess I’ll pass on the my general philosophy of the American way of death and how it is related to mummification, and the afterlife, and the rational evolution towards cremation.

– do you ever carry on elaborate imagined conversations with people? If you do, has Facebook changed these conversations, like picturing posting something and the imagining the responses?

To the first point, sure, now and then. This is usually some wish fulfillment. I wish I had said THIS rather than THAT.

To the second, not at all. FB is such artifice to me. I can have a decent “conversation” now and then, but I find too often certain tropes that for me are conversation enders, involving the false comparable designed to change the topic, or the “that’s unimportant”, designed to do the same.

About 10% of the time, maybe more, I write responses, and then delete them before publishing. I’m just not as invested as I am with a REAL, face-to-face chat most of the time UNLESS it’s someone I know in real life, or have gotten to know well enough from their previous online interactions.

-if you could pick any writer living or dead to tell your story, who would it be?

James Michener, who would turn my life into the epic that it is in my mind.

– what do you consider the most creative time in your life, when you were the best at imagining things?

I could make the case for right now. I’m writing a blog post seven days a week. Three or four or five of them might be substantial. Moreover, I see the whole arc of the blog as somewhat creative. If I write X and you’re not interested, hey, maybe you’ll be interested in Y, which I’ll tackle tomorrow.

And blogging helps my thought process.

Other times: the second through sixth years of the current job, when I had to find ways to interact with SBDC state directors when they had to be sold on the efficacy of that. Or some period at FantaCo, not the first year and surely not the last, when I was editing magazines, doing the mail order, balancing the checkbook, and managing the staff.

– what simple device would improve your life that isn’t on the market?

All my thoughts and dreams going right to the computer in comprehensible English.

– what were your favorite meals when you were a kid?

My mom was not the greatest cook, by her own admission. So I don’t have this great pool of favorites. I liked Kraft macaroni and cheese, chicken cooked any number of ways, corn on the cob. We used to go out most Fridays and get fish from W.T. Grant’s department store; I remember liking that.

My father spent hours making spaghetti sauce, and so that was good. He also had the capacity to throw leftovers into some delicious concoction he called gouly-goup; only later did I realize he stole the name from goulash. He also made waffles with such panache that it was always enjoyable.

We had eggs a lot. Fried, scrambled, deviled, omelet. We all became competent making those.