I had to travel for work last week. I  finished the book I brought with me for the trip out. And because of the “no electronics during take-off and landing” rule, I needed another book to keep me occupied on the return trip until I could read on the iPad (or, in this instance, re-watch the season finale of Sons of Anarchy). Anyway, I was in a really small airport that had a really small selection of books. The only one that really caught my eye was Making Rounds With Oscar.

Dr. David Dosa works with dementia patients and their families at a nursing home called Steere House in Rhode Island. Steere House is also home to Oscar and several other cats. While all the cats interact with the staff and patients, Oscar seems to know when a patient is going to die. Normally standoffish, Oscar makes a point of waiting, curled up next to a patient, in their final hours. He doesn’t leave until the patient has passed.

SPOILER ALERT: I only do this with books about animals, but before I bought the book, I flipped through the last few pages to make sure we were still talking about Oscar in the present tense.  I cannot read books where the animals die, so I know it is a spoiler, but it’s one I’m OK sharing. SPOILER OVER

A scientist, Dr. Dosa was admittedly skeptical of Oscar’s ability to sense death. But he began interviewing the families of former patients about their experience with Oscar.  And while he learned that Oscar provides a great sense of comfort to the families (and staff)  during their loved one’s final hours, he also gained a greater understanding on the impact of dementia (which includes but is not synonymous with Alzheimer’s) on the patient and their families.

I enjoyed the book because as a pet owner I’m firmly convinced that animals can sense our moods and provide comfort and companionship when we need it most. But at the same time, I call the experience of reading the book bittersweet. My family has a history of Alzheimer’s,  and those personal experiences (and fears that come from that place deep down inside that make me wonder if one day, I too, will suffer from it) brought a special poignancy and touch of melancholy to the story.

Still, it is a story of companionship and love in the sense of Oscar being a part of a patient’s final hours and in the stories of love from the patient’s families. It is overall heartwarming and comforting, and one I would recommend.