I believe in Oscar, the hospice cat. And in Lulu, my 2 year old yellow lab; Elsie, my dad’s black cat; Fritz, my white and gray tabby and especially Samantha, my long deceased miniature dachshund. The ability of our pets to read our needs and provide comfort and care is beyond what science can understand. And I believe in them with and their unwavering love with all my heart.
In the July 26, 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a “Perspective” article ran on Oscar, the hospice cat, and his ability to predict the death of residents in the dementia unit of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. I took lovely comfort in this story of Oscar curling up beside a dying dementia patient in her final hours of living, and great offence when a local radio station quoted a newspaper article calling Oscar “the furry grim reaper.” My dad’s little cat, Elsie, spent many hours with him on his bed when he was on hospice for five weeks before he died last year. I believe it gave both Dad and Elsie comfort.
When I was diagnosed just over a year ago with Scleroderma, a potentially life threatening autoimmune disease, it was Lulu, my sweet, exuberant yellow lab puppy who let me hug her neck and cry my eyes dry. Her unwavering support and love were crystal clear, even if she didn’t exactly understand why I needed it. It didn’t matter – she just knew I needed her and she was there for me.
Once, before I had children of my own, I was babysitting my infant cousin and he had colic. I was at my wit’s end trying to calm him, and I put him on a blanket on the floor in the sunshine and went to get a drink of water to calm myself. Suddenly there was silence. I ran back into the living room to be sure the baby was ok, and there was Samantha, my little miniature dachshund, curled up on the floor with him next to his tummy, letting her warmth warm and relax him. You see, Samantha had had two litters of puppies herself, and she knew what a crying baby needed better than I did. Years later, she always slept under my own daughter’s crib when she was crying, too.
And then there’s Fritz, the world’s cutest cat, who lives with my husband, Lulu and me now. When I’m treating my hands, hard and sore from Scleroderma, Fritz lies with me and purrs. She meets me at the door when I come home, just like Lulu does, to welcome me. And I fully expect, if Fritz is still alive, she’ll provide me warmth and comfort if I’m ever on hospice and need her care.
You see, our animals love us know matter what, and often have an instinct to know what we need, even if we don’t know it ourselves. This I believe . . .
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