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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Peach UK's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, January 18th, 2009
1:31 pm
The pups of war
A heartwarming story - a slice of humanity in a world of war, violence and death. Thankfully there are good people like this soldier in the world today.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1120544/The-pups-war-British-soldier-saved-horrors-Afghan-front.html

http://www.mayhewinternational.org/places/afghanistan/nowzaddogs/index.html


Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
8:22 am
Armistice Day - 11 November


Six-year-old Alfie Amos (above) attended the Remembrance Sunday service alongside WWI veterans – a nice picture and a reminder to future generations of how much was sacrificed so that we can enjoy freedom today.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

This is what we had to contend with yesterday:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1084422/Man-crushed-death-freak-wind-...

Aside from Armistice Day, this was one of the main news items today – what a brave girl, you have to admire her.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1084531/Girl-13-wins-right-die-doctor...
Sunday, November 9th, 2008
12:19 pm
A seven-metre tall "Poppy Man" at London’s Heathrow Airport reminds travellers of Remembrance Day.

http://www.cwgc.org/search/certificate.aspx?casualty=739494

http://www.bbc.co.uk/remembrance/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7718227.stm

Yes, today is Remembrance Sunday and I managed to get home in time for the traditional 2 minute silence, which I always observe, as do most people here. I then watched the Remembrance Day Service and Parade on TV as well.

"They shall not grow old,
As we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them"

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
7:04 pm
Autumn is well and truly here!


This article made me hoot with laughter - it is SO familiar! The comments are hilarious too. What is it all about ? Oh yes, your schooldays sex eduation lessons - usually accompanied by embarrassed teachers and unintentionally funny films explaining how your various bodily parts work and how to make a baby - no wonder it managed to put me off for life!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7686077.stm

I do think autumn is a beautiful time of the year, despite the chilly weather - as the photo above shows. It is Stourhead Estate in Wiltshire and here is a gorgeous slideshow of autumn colours, sent in by BBC viewers - they are all absolutely stunning!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7681729.stm

Oh my god, aren't these adorable tiger cubs just the sweetest things in the world ever? I want them all as pets!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1079961/Pictured-The-Siberian-tiger-c...

Current Mood: impressed
Saturday, October 18th, 2008
10:42 pm
My recent holiday
I have just returned from a week in Israel (my second trip in a year) and had a great time - it was boiling hot there (around 27C most days) and so I had a bit of a shock landing in temperatures of 10C and going down to 3 and 4C at night.

Back to work for me on Monday and less than 2 weeks now before I move to my new home - I am really looking forward to it but I suppose this means I'll be up to my ears in packing boxes for the next fortnight.

I was spoilt on the trip to Israel as I managed to get upgraded to Club World on both outward and inward trips (thanks to sis!) and it was nice to relax in a bit of luxury - it really made the flight go quickly, or was that just the champagne?

When I arrived back, my mum met me in T5 which was an unxpected surprise (but a nice one) and I was very impressed with how modern and stylish T5 actually is as this was my first experience of it - the time to get through luggage and customs was much shorter than usual and the terminal itself has a very luxurious feel and you could easily spend a whole day there, shopping at Harrods and Prada, to name but a few of the high-price shops there. Fabulous !

Anyway, for a slideshow of my Israel photos - please see here :

http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanbaldock/sets/72157608142637122/show/

For my videos, please see here :

http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanbaldock/2952345328/in/set-72157604901572013/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanbaldock/2952363320/in/set-72157604901572013/



Current Mood: cold
Saturday, October 4th, 2008
8:12 pm
Winchester City and Winchester Cathedral
This is a photo of my mum, taken in the car park at Hayes Town this lunchtime. We did a bit of shopping and then went into the Botwell for a quick drink before I dropped her back at her place and then came home. I also managed to get my photos developed, which I took in Winchester on Wednesday, although the quality is not exactly brilliant.

I found this quirky little video on YouTube, also featuring Winchester Cathedral, seemingly taken by an enthusiastic Italian tourist and featuring subtitles to the popular 1960s novelty song called - wait for it - "Winchester Cathedral" !

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=yDZD7mdTDSI

By comparison from the sublime to the ridiculous, here is MY effort :

http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanbaldock/sets/72157607729023538/show/

Winchester is a beautiful city and the cathedral is absolutely stunning. My mum used to go there with her sister for the carol service every Christmas and I can see why Debbie likes living there. Apparently, Winchester is the second favourite place to live in the whole of England. The cathedral is spectacular and so many famous people are buried there, including Jane Austen, and most of the very earliest kings and queens of England.

The full list is:


King Cynegils (611-643)

King Cenwalh (643-672)

King Egbert (802-839).
Egbert claimed the kingdom of Wessex, defeated the Cornish and the Mercians in battle, and was accepted as king by the Northumbrians. He therefore has a claim to be the first English king. St Swithun was his chaplain.


King Ethelwulf (839-858)

King Canute (Cnut) and Queen Emma (1016-1035).
Canute was a Dane who won the crown in battle, but later became regarded as a just ruler. He kept separate wives and families in both of his kingdoms (Denmark and England), and is remembered for the legend that he ordered the waves to hold back in order to impress sycophantic courtiers that even a king had limited powers.


Bishop Alwyn (1032-1047)

Bishop Stigand (1047-1070)
Chaplain to Edward the confessor. He became, irregularly but simultaneously, Bishop of Winchester, Archbishop of Canterbury, and master of several abbeys. Although he probably crowned King Harold, and supported Edgar Atheling in his rebellion against King William he must have wielded considerable power to have remained in place for four years after the conquest, until William replaced him with Bishop Walkelin.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008
2:41 pm
Courage in the face of adversity
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm not a "god botherer" or a particular fan of any organised religion but I did receive an uplifting email from my friend, "Trigger", today (who IS a bit of a god botherer, but each to their own) about a Christian festival she went to in Lincoln over the weekend. She particularly enjoyed listening to one speaker and told me:

"Both sermons were interesting, especially the one in the evening. He was an American minister and you immediately think of a 'bible basher', but in fact he was a very good speaker. He suffers from cerebral palsy and his catchphrase is ' I have Cerebral Palsy, what's your excuse!'. Basically the talk was about overcoming adversity. He was born with the disease, both his parents died when he was young and he was immediately told he wouldn't become anything. He learnt to walk, talk and go to school. He went through school and college OK, even though it took him a bit longer to do. He became a minister and even met a lady who wanted to marry him, had 4 beautiful children and now he is going to be a grandparent. It was amazing and kept your attention as you did have a bit of difficulty understanding him, but it was good."

Food for thought when your own particular gripe of the day may be the organised horror of the daily commute or something else equally trivial in the grander scheme of things!

Current Mood: contemplative
Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
7:03 pm
Team GB arrive home and jolly well done to them!

Victorious Team GB landed back at Heathrow yesterday and even the nose of the BA plane they were in was painted gold, especially for the momentous occasion, as you can see in today’s photo. This was our best Olympics for 100 years and we managed to finish 4th overall in the table which was a great achievement for our boys and girls.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7581183.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/olympics/7579871.stm

I will end with Team GB's promo video which was shot before the start of the games - didn't we do well?




Current Mood: happy
Monday, May 5th, 2008
7:17 am
Happy Birthday, Mr Fish!
Wishing Mr Fish many happy returns of the day.

http://shlomif.livejournal.com/


Sunday, April 27th, 2008
8:18 am
Strictly Baby Fight Club

I just finished watching Strictly Baby Fight Club on TV, which I taped from last night and quite frankly, I was shocked, disturbed and very much disgusted by it. It was basically following the lives of some chav families in the UK (unfortunately) who encouraged their kids to get in the boxing ring and smash each other up, all in the sake of entertainment - girls included - some as young as 5. Now I am no fan of kids but even I can see this is very very wrong on every level. I'm all for kids doing exercise and sports rather than becoming obese little couch potatoes but really - is this the answer?

http://www.channel4.com/culture/microsites/C/cutting_edge/strictly_baby_fightclub/strictly1.html

I then went online to C4 and found that most of the people on the associated forum agreed with me about this vile exhibition.

http://community.channel4.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/69460501/m/7720099389

I'll leave you with a clip from last night's show so you will see what I mean - perhaps I am over reacting, I do enjoy boxing (adult boxing) as a spectator sport myself but this I found to be on a par with dog fighting or bull fighting - has no place in a so-called civilised society. Sorry - rant over - enjoy the weekend !



Current Mood: aggravated
Thursday, February 14th, 2008
2:53 pm
Welcome to the wonderful world of Sleeveface !
What a pointless but great idea – AND it started in Cardiff (Wales) where Torchwood is based !

Just when you thought vinyl records were being consigned to the dustbin of musical history, something comes along to make them relevant again.
Sleeveface started in a Cardiff bar and is fast becoming an internet phenomenon requiring just a record sleeve, a camera and big dollops of imagination.

Put the sleeve in front of your face, strike the pose of the rock god you've chosen, and get yourself photographed.

Sleeveface has its own website, material on YouTube, and a presence on social networking site Facebook which has almost 5,000 members.

There have been pictures posted from Sleevefacers in the USA, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Iceland and Israel, as well as the UK.

More here - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7243151.stm
and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/7243080.stm

Monday, January 28th, 2008
1:57 pm
Fenced in - or out ?
Do good walls make good neighbours? The Victorians thought so but those on either side of barriers between Gaza and Israel, and the US and Mexico, may differ.

The breaching of the wall that separates Gaza from Egypt set me brooding on the subject of barriers and borders. I think it was Oscar Wilde who once observed that he couldn't see why people put railings around cemeteries, because those who were buried inside couldn't get out, and those who were alive outside had no wish to get in.

More here - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7209002.stm

Current Mood: thoughtful
Saturday, January 26th, 2008
6:57 am
A fat lot of good ......
Fat people could be paid to lose weight under a new government strategy to curb obesity.

If Health Secretary Alan Johnson gets his way, your doctor will be able to give you vouchers for "healthy foods". Which begs the question: what is healthy food? All food is nutritious, to a degree.

And I'm not sure I want to be told what to eat by politicians, who are capable of tucking away a monster lunch, with wine.

Ministers also want "lunchbox police" in schools, to check on the food pupils bring in. This is a daft idea. No teacher should have the power to confiscate little Mary's Mars bar.

The motive behind Alan Johnson's campaign is laudable. The nation is supposedly in the grip of an obesity epidemic affecting one adult in four and 20 per cent of children. But you can't make people slim by passing laws or rolling out strategies !
Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008
11:39 am
My weekend trip to Israel
I just returned from a long weekend in Israel, courtesy of my sister, who works for British Airways and can get me vastly subsidised airline tickets. I had some doubts as to whether I would even get on the flights (as I was flying standby) but managed to get on my chosen flights without any trouble.

My main impression of Israel was that it WARM and SUNNY - and yet this is supposed to be their winter ! It was a complete shock after the cold and rain of London recently but a pleasant shock at that. I also found it to be a place of very modern and very old-fashioned type buildings and places, which was also a surprise to me and I was distinctly unimpressed by finding cockroaches in the ladies toilets at the Azriely Shopping Centre - I made a most hasty exit !

I visited Jaffa on Saturday, which was an interesting place to see although I did get upset over seeing the poor, unfed and unloved street cats there (as well as in other parts of Tel Aviv) and it made me realise how spoilt my own 4 cats truly are. I ended up feeding the mother cat I saw and her kittens with some peculiar concoction that resembled a tuna burger in a bun and the poor creatures were so hungry they even ate the bread!

I visited Jerusalem and the old city on Sunday and was completely overwhelmed by the street vendors there who were quite persistent with trying to sell their wares to tourists. Having been brought up to be polite to people and to answer when spoken to, it was quite a culture shock to have to ignore them and just walk by - otherwise I would have been there all day and with no money left at all! I also met with TDD Pirate and Shlomif, which was good fun so I think I crammed quite a lot into just a weekend visit.

To summarise, I found the place not the least what I expected it to be like but the cockroaches I can definitely live without ! The beach was lovely and it was great to be able to walk around with no coat or jacket on in JANUARY although I did notice that the natives were rugged up in thick jackets, coats and hats, despite the warmth, which I found most comical! My slideshow of photos can be seen here :
http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanbaldock/sets/72157603778503973/show/
I did take some videos but haven't been able to upload them yet. However, when done, they will appear on my YouTube channel at :
http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=PeachUK

Current Mood: rejuvenated
Friday, December 14th, 2007
12:01 pm
The cats and dogs of war get their own VCs at special awards ceremony
They have often been the unsung heroes of war. But yesterday the animals which have put their lives on the line for the sake of thousands of servicemen and women, as well as civilians, were given official recognition.

In a unique ceremony, military honours were given to the 62 animals which have received the PDSA Dickin Medal - the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross. The medal, which carries the words "For Gallantry" and "We also serve" beneath a laurel wreath, was first awarded at the height of the Second World War. Recipients - including pigeons, dogs, horses and one cat - have played a part in just about every conflict involving British troops in locations as far apart as Burma, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the UK. Yesterday's ceremony, hosted by actress Jenny Seagrove, took place at Ilford Animal Cemetery in Essex. Wreaths were laid, a bugler played the Last Post and there was even a fly-past - by pigeons. Also present were two dogs awarded the PDSA gold medal, which goes to heroic animals that serve outside of military conflict. Cocker spaniel Jake was sent into the wreckage of the Tavistock Square bus after the July 7 bombings in 2005 to ensure there were no more bombs inside. And labrador Endal was honoured for saving the life of his owner Allen Parton in 2001. Mr Parton, who uses a wheelchair, was knocked unconscious in a car park. Endal moved him into the recovery position and covered him with a blanket from his wheelchair, refusing to leave his side until he had regained consciousness.

BEAUTY THE WIRE-HAIRED TERRIER

During the Second World War the wire-haired terrier became the original search and rescue dog. She was owned by Bill Barnett, a member of the PDSA animal rescue unit during the Blitz. Mr Barnett was on a squad dedicated to looking for animals trapped in the rubble after bomb blasts and Beauty was his companion, providing good company. Then one day in 1940 Beauty suddenly started to scrabble in the rubble too and minutes later the team uncovered a cat buried beneath a table. From that day on Beauty was a working member of the team, going on to save 63 animals from being buried alive. She received the Dickin medal in January 1945. Six other dogs went on to receive the medal too, having followed in Beauty's pawsteps. Now search and rescue dogs are used around the globe.

OLGA, REGAL AND UPSTART THE HORSES

For a time during the Second World War police horses in London were evacuated for safety reasons. When they returned they came to symbolise a sense of normality and went about their duties despite explosions and fire all around. Three police horses were chosen to receive the Dickin Medal on April 11, 1947. Bay mare Olga had been on patrol in Tooting, South London, when a bomb exploded, destroying a row of houses and sending debris flying. Yet even when a sheet of glass crashed at her feet, the horse stayed on duty, helping in the rescue operation. Regal similarly remained calm when an incendiary bomb exploded near his stable, and three years later when a second bomb landed so close that part of his stable was damaged. Upstart was showered with debris when a flying bomb exploded while the horse was on patrol in Bethnal Green.
The animal recovered its composure to help direct emergency services to the scene.

SIMON THE SHIP'S CAT

Simon used his ratcatching skills to protect his crew's precious food supply during a terrifying siege. Born on Stonecutters Island, Hong Kong, the black and white cat was presented to the Captain of the frigate HMS Amethyst in 1948. A year later the ship was making its way up the Yangtse River to Nanking when it came under attack. Badly hit, several crew members, including the captain were killed and others injured. But somehow, perhaps using a few of his nine lives, Simon emerged a couple of days later from the debris of the captain's cabin, licking his wounds and with his whiskers a little singed. Taken into care by the crew, he returned to full health and soon became a valuable protector of the ship's food supply, which was dwindling rapidly as the crew sat captive for 100 days. He was a champion ratter and also a favourite among the young crew members - many of whom thought they would never see home again. Because of his animal heroics Simon was taken back to Britain, unlike most animals who were left overseas because of quarantine restrictions. But he died in quarantine. His gravestone reads: "Throughout the Yangtse incident his behaviour was of the highest order."

SADIE THE LABRADOR

Two suicide bombers had already unleashed their deadly blasts when Sadie was called into action in Afghanistan.Working with Lance Corporal Karen Yardley, the nine-year-old explosives search dog saved the lives of dozens of servicemen and women within the United Nations compound in Kabul. The dog, part of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, sniffed out a bomb concealed behind a wall, inside a seemingly innocent metal pressure cooker. Alerted by the dog's sudden change in behaviour, Lance Corporal Yardley was able to call for assistance and the bomb was made safe. The pressure cooker, filled with TNT, would have had the impact of a massive grenade when it was detonated by remote control. The dog, which has served in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo, had uncovered an array of weapons in the past, but had never detected a bomb. She was awarded her medal on February 6 this year.
Thursday, October 11th, 2007
2:10 pm
When two (virtual) worlds collide
A virtual character, or avatar, for all the virtual worlds in which people play is the goal of a joint project between IBM and Linden Lab. The computer giant and the creator of Second Life are working on universal avatars that can travel between worlds.
The project aims to open up virtual worlds by introducing open tools that work with any online environment. The companies hope to boost interest in virtual worlds as well as make them easier to navigate. At the moment every virtual world requires a player or user to go through the process of creating an avatar that will act as their proxy in that online environment. Typically, an avatar created for one world, be it a game or a system like Second Life, cannot move between these different virtual spaces. The project started by IBM and Linden Lab aims to create a universal character creation system so people only have to create a digital double once. While the character's appearance may change depending on where it is taken, its basic characteristics, such as looks and underlying personal data, would be retained. "It is going to happen anyway," said Colin Parris, IBM vice president of digital convergence in a statement. "If you think you are walled and secure, somebody will create something that's open and then people will drain themselves away as fast as possible," he told the Reuters news agency. By making it easy to travel between different worlds the two companies hope to sharpen competition in the burgeoning market for online worlds. Initially the partners will concentrate on creating a system that lets people move between worlds. Later will come the universal character creation system that lets people create a single avatar to venture into online worlds. The partnership was announced prior to the start of the Virtual Worlds conference taking place in San Jose, California, from 10-11 October. Virtual worlds are rapidly becoming hugely popular. When the first Virtual Worlds conference took place in early 2006 only nine such cyberspaces were widely known. In 2007 more than 30 will be on show at the Virtual Worlds meeting.

Current Mood: full
Tuesday, September 11th, 2007
11:02 am
Medieval women 'had girl power'
A new study by an academic says that "girl power" was alive and kicking around 600 years ago.

Dr Sue Niebrzydowski at Bangor university said medieval women enjoyed a golden era with a greater life expectancy than men. "We found women running priories, commissioning books, taking early package tours to visit the Holy Land," she said. She added women were also defending their property and property rights. Dr Niebrzydowski's research involving middle aged women in the middle ages will be discussed at a conference at the university on Wednesday. Middle aged women in the middle ages had far more power and independence than we might first imagine

The medievalist at Bangor's Institute of Early and Modern Studies, studied legal records, literature and songs to build up a picture of life for women between the 12th and 15th Centuries. Dr Niebrzydowski, whose research is funded by the Royal Historical Society and the British Academy, said: "Women were often widowed by the age of 30 and it gave them greater freedom. "They could be more sexually liberated as there would be no child as evidence of their fornication or adultery. "And if wealthy, they could enter the marriage market on their own terms - and for their own reasons, whether economic, for love, companionship or pleasure." The study's findings will be explored on Wednesday at a conference in Bangor, attended by some of Britain's top female academics in the fields of archaeology, history, language and law. Dr Niebrzydowski said: "We assume that women in the past had little economic independence or social power and that they were reliant on fathers or husbands for most of their lives. "But we should be wary of holding too many misconceptions about women's lives in the past. "It is true that most of the information we have is drawn from art, literature or historical records which relate to wealthier women, but middle aged women in the middle ages had far more power and independence than we might first imagine." The conference, which runs until Friday, will bring together experts in literature, archaeology, art and history.

Current Mood: chipper
Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
11:14 am
Virtual game is a 'disease model'
An outbreak of a deadly disease in a virtual world can offer insights into real life epidemics, scientists suggest.
The "corrupted blood" disease spread rapidly within the popular online World of Warcraft game, killing off thousands of players in an uncontrolled plague.
The infection raged, wreaking social chaos, despite quarantine measures.
The experience provides essential clues to how people behave in such crises, Lancet Infectious Diseases reports.
In the game, there was a real diversity of response from the players to the threat of infection, similar to those seen in real life.
The players seemed to really feel they were at risk and took the threat of infection seriously - Some acted selflessly, rushing to the aid of other characters even though that meant they risked infection themselves. Others fled infected cities in an attempt to save themselves. And some who were sick made it their mission to deliberately infect others. Researcher Professor Nina Fefferman, from Tufts University School of Medicine, said: "Human behaviour has a big impact on disease spread. And virtual worlds offer an excellent platform for studying human behaviour. "The players seemed to really feel they were at risk and took the threat of infection seriously, even though it was only a game." She acknowledged that a virtual setting might encourage riskier behaviour, but said this could be estimated and allowed for when drawing conclusions. She said a major constraint for epidemiologists studying disease dynamics at the moment was that they were limited to observational and retrospective studies. For example, it would be unethical to release an infectious disease in real life in order to study what the consequences might be. Computer models allow for experimentation on virtual populations without such limitations, but still rely on mathematical rules to approximate human behaviour. A virtual world may be a way to bridge this gap, said Professor Fefferman. Her team at Tufts are looking to use models such as the World of Warcraft to further study human behaviour, particularly in relation to disease outbreaks. Dr Gary Smith, professor of Population Biology and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, has been working on modelling infectious diseases. He said: "Very few mathematical models of disease transmission take host behaviour into account." But he questioned how representative of real life a virtual model could be. "Although the characteristics of the disease could be defined before hand, once released into the virtual world, the study is just as 'observational' as disease outbreak studies in the real world. "Nevertheless, I suppose one could argue that the proposal describes an opportunity for study that we might not otherwise have."

Current Mood: cold
Monday, July 30th, 2007
11:00 am
The abandoned ducklings raised in a teacup
A pair of tiny abandoned ducklings found battling against waves after being washed out to sea are being nursed back to health - in a teacup. 

The fluffy birds were saved from a watery grave when they were found by passing canoeist Chris Murray. He plucked the pair out of the sea and brought them back to land in his canoe. He then took them to Pennywell Farm, in Buckfastleigh, Devon, where they are recovering from their terrifying ordeal. Now the tiny creatures are happily paddling around in a small white cup. The ducklings, which are only a few centimetres tall only take up half of the cup's space. The birds were washed into the sea via the Erme estuary. 


Current Mood: chipper
Thursday, July 26th, 2007
11:14 am
Grim reapurr: The cat that can predict death
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 they have less than 4 hours to live.   He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in 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 dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre. The facility treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.   After about 6 months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He would sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would end 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 was not eating, was breathing with difficulty and that her legs had a bluish tinge, signs that often mean death is near. Oscar would not 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 said most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, gray-and-white cat are so ill they probably do not know he is there, so patients are not aware he is a harbinger of death. Most families are grateful for the advanced 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 is certain if Oscar's behaviour is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behaviour of the nurses who raised him.  Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioural 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. It is possible his behaviour could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.   Nursing home staffers are not 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." 


Current Mood: cold
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