Hopefully, not you, if you’re a patient at the Steere Nursing Home in Providence, Rhode Island. I’m not talking about the prestigious award given to actors and actresses of high rank. I’m talking about a different Oscar. Oscar the Death Cat.
For quite some time Oscar has held the fascination of doctors and scientists for his uncanny ability to sense impending death. Indeed, Dr. David Dosa, a professor at Brown University Medical School, wrote a piece about Oscar in 2007 in The New England Journal of Medicine. Oscar is drawn to the bedside of patients about to die, usually within an hour or two of their demise. His batting average is about 98%. Certainly, an intriguing little kitty.
There was the time that nursing home staff were sure a patient was about to meet his maker, and they placed Oscar on his bed. Oscar, though, would not stay put and it turned out that the patient rallied for several days. Then, an hour before passing, Oscar joined the man, curled up at his side. Other similar stories abound.
One must wonder, though, how do they keep the business coming in at this place? I would think that the nursing home chapter of one’s life is rather grim enough, without having Dr. Kevorkian’s cat gnawing at your door all night. And the idea that staff would bring this corpse-inducing beast into your room, seemingly hoping that you will die soon, seems contrary to common sense. Aren’t they supposed to be keeping people comfortable? How do you get comfortable with this creepy cat curled up at your feet? Is there nobody in the neighborhood with a can of tuna that could lure this creature away from the building?
I understand the fascination, but at some point you would think they might get a little sheepish about it. I mean, these doctors and scientists running around with clipboards and sketch pads, meanwhile, this place has more chalk outlines than Einstein’s first blackboard. Patients must avoid tuna sandwiches like the plague. Anything that smells remotely like catnip is out of the question. Speaking for myself, I would have a hungry German Sheppard tied to my bedpost.
Dr. Dosa remarked that Oscar was helpful in that staff could notify relatives early. I’m serious. Who makes that call, and how exactly does that go? “Why don’t you warm up the car, Oscar is sleeping on your uncle’s head…” Or, maybe, the staff simply calls and whispers “meow” into the phone.
I’m going on record right now, to my friends and family. Should I make it to the nursing home, make sure it is a home with a zero-tolerance “No Pets” policy.