As we wrap up our series on pet grief, it seems appropriate to pause for a moment to pay tribute to two exceptional companion animals who apparently have a calling to provide companionship to humans and their family members at the doorstep of life's biggest loss.
Oscar the cat is one of them, a former rescue who found a home at a Prividence, Rhode Island nursing home. A CBS News Article by Kathleen Doheny, "Cat's 'Sixth Sense' Predicting Death?", says Oscar seems to possess an uncanny intuition as to when residents in the advanced dementia unit are very near to death. Sometimes Oscar even aids in getting information to family that time is short. But his presence at this time is perhaps the most meaningful gift of all:
When he senses their time is near, Oscar goes to the room, jumps onto the bed, curls up next to the patient, and purrs. The 2-year-old cat provides welcome company for grieving family members and staff keeping their bedside vigil; sometimes he fills in for family members who haven't yet arrived at the bedside.
There's much more in a CBS News video featuring Oscar's 'supervisor' Dr. David Dosa:
Our other four-legged caretaker is Baxter, a therapy dog who volunteered for years at a San Diego, California hospice. Apparently Baxter became quite well-known, and even has his own book, Moments with Baxter. Sadly, he passed away last Fall at the venerable age of 19, and Alana Elias Kornfeld and The Huffington Post note: "In the last few years the arthritic Baxter needed to be pushed into the hospital rooms on a cart and gently placed into the arms of the dying. It was his vulnerability in his old age that helped him bond even more to the patients he helped let go of life" (10/22/09).
The following video captures that bonding with incredible poignancy. It's a bonafide tear-jerker, especially being reminded of my own grandmother who passed away in hospice last Summer. But the simple moments captured on film are moving beyond belief: