A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Friday, July 27, 2007

Oscar – Death Predictor

A heart warming, human interest story has come to light in the past few days about a cat living in a hospice facility in Providence, Rhode Island. His name is Oscar, and the staff at this facility has noticed something unusual about him. When Oscar senses that a patient’s death is imminent, he will curl up with them on the bed. Death has occurred within two to four hours in twenty-five cases observed by the staff.

Okay, so this story is not so much heart warming in a feel good, life affirming way, but you have to admit it’s definitely interesting.

The story, which first surfaced in the New England Journal of Medicine and has been featured on the Spanish language Univision television network, speculated how Oscar is able to do this. Some believe he senses something by sniffing the patient, or he notices a change in the behavior of the nurses caring for the patient. I would like to offer my own twisted theory. Perhaps Oscar is responding to instinct, some strain of DNA that harkens back to his ancestors on the Serengeti Plain, who would hover near a dying creature because they sense a free lunch is about to be prepared.

Regardless of the reason, the staff of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center see Oscar’s talent as a good thing. Whenever they see Oscar sit next to a patient on their bed, they will notify the patient’s family to come say goodbye. In this sense, it is good and reports say that family members have been grateful for the notification to be with their loved one during their final moments.

I could not help but see myself in such a situation someday. I’d be dozing in my bed one day at the facility and I would wake up to see Oscar curled up between my legs. I would smile, talk lovingly to him, stroke his head, and tell him he’s a good boy. Then the nurse would walk in and say to me, “Don’t worry, Mr. Gunther. Your family is on their way here now.”

“My family?”, I would ask, “Why are they coming?”

“To say goodbye. Oscar is with you and whenever he does that, the patient dies within a few hours,” the nurse replies.

“What?”, I would scream, “No, no. He’s wrong! Bad Oscar! Bad cat!”

Then I would leap out of bed in such a way as not to startle Oscar. After all, I don’t want to offend anyone who has already pegged me for imminent death, lest that anyone decides to take matters into their own paws. Once out of bed (and wincing because my knee smacked into my bed tray on my way to the floor), I would do a few dance steps I remember from the Bloomsburg Players production of Carousel (1979). Of course, these steps would be performed with utmost precision and pain. I would ignore the creaking of my hip joints, and act oblivious to the fact that my jump disconnected me from my IV drip and my heart monitor, even though the monitor would be giving out a loud, incessant high-pitched screech at this point.

“See Oscar, ouch!”, I would yell as I danced. “Does this – oww – look like someone who is – grunt – dying?”

I can see Oscar now, sitting up, stretching his back and yawning. It turns out that Oscar is not only a predictor of death, but he’s also a dance critic. He would continue to watch my pathetic dance of denial and look at me as if he’s saying, “Get back in bed, loser. Come on! You’ll ruin my record if you don’t die soon.”

Perhaps Oscar and I will never cross paths, which is just as well. I am grateful for the service he is performing at the facility. I hope that, when his time comes, one of the staff members will lay down next to him and give him the same comfort he’s given all of these families during their hour of need. Good cat!


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