Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Oscar the Cat

Here's a story about a cat with seemingly exceptional powers.

Erica, I'm hoping you have access to the New England Journal of Medicine and can send me the full article about Oscar. Here's what AP News had to say about him, but I'd love to read the NEJM piece ...

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) -- Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours.

His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means the patient has less than four hours to live.

"He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," Dr. David Dosa said in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one," said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.

The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.

After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.

Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. "This is not a cat that's friendly to people," he said.

Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill.

She was convinced of Oscar's talent when he made his 13th correct call. While observing one patient, Teno said she noticed the woman wasn't eating, was breathing with difficulty and that her legs had a bluish tinge, signs that often mean death is near.

Oscar wouldn't stay inside the room, though, so Teno thought his streak was broken. Instead, it turned out the doctor's prediction was roughly 10 hours too early. Sure enough, during the patient's final two hours, nurses told Teno that Oscar joined the woman at her bedside.

Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, gray-and-white cat are so ill they probably don't know he's there, so patients aren't aware he's a harbinger of death. Most families are grateful for the advance warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure.

No one's certain if Oscar's behavior is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behavior of the nurses who raised him.

Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and has read Dosa's article said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying.

If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.

Nursing home staffers aren't concerned with explaining Oscar, so long as he gives families a better chance at saying goodbye to the dying.

Oscar recently received a wall plaque publicly commending his "compassionate hospice care."

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Fruits and Cheeses were Excellent

I don't drink wine -- however, Erica, Michael and Jason said they were excellent too. The feast in this photo was an excuse to enjoy a white something-something. The main course featured a dry red something-something and filet mignon. Props to J-man for a P-E-R-F-E-C-T grill job from my medium to Erica's "Dracula rare" and for procuring the fine meat and wines.

I neglected to take a picture of Erica's 3-layer dark chocolate cake with vanilla bean buttercream frosting. There's a little sliver left in the frige... maybe I'll take a picture of it on the special monkey plate she brought for Jason and post it...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Birthday Cake?

Hey Erica, I figured out what kind of cake I'm gonna make for your 35th Birthday dinner on Saturday...

Now there's a combination that Jason didn't think of!

Happy Birthday Erica!

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Dear Ratticus, Happy Birthday to you!

It's sort of a strange feeling having my "little" sister turn 35 -- considering I can remember having this picture taken and it doesn't seem like it was 35 years ago! (I like what you were doing with your hair back then.)

Happy Birthday to the only person I know who: can build a violin; play a cello; trap shoot; sew; crochet; speak Farsi; prep chemotherapy treatments; make good Bibingka; play the slap bass line from "Blister In the Sun"; AND will soon be addressed as Dr. Zulueta.

Big Deal.

According to the American politican and loving Christian, Pat Robertson: "Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

Here's proof that she's been practicing witchcraft for years... I think she's still got a lot of catching up to do. Happy Birthday Erica, I love you :o)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jr. Cat Snack

EPPING, New Hampshire - Jr. Cat Snack, 4yrs., 4mos., died Tuesday, July 17 in his home atop an antique sewing machine in Dominique's studio.

Caught as a little mouse-ling by Peanut, in March 2003, he was educated on the benefits of living in a cage and stayed his entire life there... with the exception of one brief excursion that only further solidified his education.

He enjoyed running in his exercise wheel, moving his bedding from nook to cranny, yogurt chips, sunflower seeds and peanuts (with a lower case p).

He was the coveted Snack of Punk, Peanut and Leo; and the treasured pet of Dominique and Michael.

Jr. Cat Snack will be remembered as a survivor who brought much fun and delight to our home. MousieVision is over but not forgotten.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Gram's Birthday Breakfast

Last weekend we were in Connecticut to celebrate Gram's 88th Birthday. We camped by the pond Saturday night, to the dulcet tones of the world's BIGGEST and LOUDEST bullfrogs. :o)

Sunday morning we had a lovely breakfast in the new screen house: canteloupe; freshly brewed coffee and tea; pancakes; sausage and home made cinnamon coffee cake. It was a weekend of food, food, food because later that day was her annual Birthday Barbecue followed of course by Birthday Cake. By the time we got home Sunday night we'd consumed our calorie needs for the week!

Michael and I are used to dining outdoors, but it's fun to do it with Gram and Karen... it's almost like taking them camping with us -- only fancier.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

More "Before" and "During" Shots

Tuesday night Michael re-attached the stove and even though the kitchen isn't finished -- it's a HUGE improvement! What a treat having four burners and an oven again. Yesterday I celebrated by baking a Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake... just to make sure the oven is working properly of course. Mmm, mmm, good.

The renovation continues and I'll post more pictures as we progress. The refrigerator is still in the dining room and there's a lot of sanding/repairing/painting to be done, but so far - so good.

The Amazing Destructo!

Here's our superhero tearing apart the front steps... preparing for new, sound, safe stairs to be built -- for the good of all ordinary citizens. The Amazing Destructo, he'll pry and chisel, he's able to leap through front doors in a single bound, he's Safety Man!