Blackie Stays Up Nights Monitoring His Guardian's Breathing for Emphysema Attacks
"I don't know if he's helped save my life or not, but he's saved me from some full-blown breathing attacks. I'm now getting more sleep than ever because it takes an hour to get back to sleep after an attack."
-- Charles Bennett
Seventy-two-year-old Charles Bennett of Albany, Oregon, received an unexpected bonus when he and his companion, Phillippa Meehan, decided to take in from the streets a waif known as Blackie. (See photo above.)
Afflicted with emphysema, the retired engineering consultant used to wake up early mornings gasping for breath. He then would have to get out his inhaler in order to pump oxygen back into his lungs.
All of that is a thing of the past following the arrival of Blackie. Now, whenever he wakes up it is to Blackie licking his forehead.
"I don't know if he's helped save my life or not, but he's saved me from some full-blown breathing attacks," Bennett told the Democrat-Herald on January 10th. (See "That Cool Cat.") "I'm now getting more sleep than ever because it takes an hour to get back to sleep after an attack."
By closely monitoring his sleeping companion's breathing pattern, Blackie has learned to anticipate these attacks. "He's in tune with Chuck," Meehan told the Democrat-Herald. "I wonder if he stays awake just to be sure he will be there to wake Chuck up. Maybe that's why the cat sleeps so much during the day."
The first time that Blackie came to his rescue Bennett misunderstood his intentions and thought instead that he wanted to go outside. "But when I didn't say anything to the cat, he started bumping his head into my side and arm," he recalled. "When I still didn't say anything -- I didn't know he wanted me to -- he put his teeth on my hand but didn't bite."
Once Bennett got out his inhaler and reassured Blackie that he was all right, the cat immediately curled up on the bed and went back to sleep. Now, with Blackie watching over his slumber, it does not appear that he is going to be joining Johnny Carson, Samuel Beckett, T.S. Eliot, and Guy Madison (old-time radio's Will Bill Hickok) in the next world anytime soon as another victim of this chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
While the evidence that cats are able to anticipate these types of attacks, seizures, and other ailments is largely anecdotal, it is nevertheless continuing to amass. For example, a cat named Tiger recently was credited with detecting lung cancer in his guardian. (See Cat Defender post of April 11, 2009 entitled "Tiger Saves His Owner's Life by Alerting Him to a Cancerous Growth on His Left Lung.")
Perhaps even more amazing, at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, a resident feline named Oscar is able to more accurately predict when a patient is going to die than trained physicians. (See Cat Defender post of July 30, 2007 entitled "A Visit from Oscar the Cat Means the Grim Reaper Cannot Be Far Behind for the Terminally-Ill at Rhode Island Nursing Home.")
Blackie arrived at Bennett and Meehan's Takena Street residence in August of 2004 after he scampered through a hole in the fence. Since he had been sterilized and cruelly mutilated, it immediately was obvious that he previously had been domesticated.
Consequently, they sought and received permission from a neighbor who had been feeding him to adopt him and he has been with them ever since. Because of his sedate personality, he is the perfect companion for the retirees.
Like them, he is a connoisseur of classical music and routinely attends Meehan's piano recitals. The ivories also come in handy whenever he wants to be let out in that all he has to do in order to attract his guardians' attention is to give them a few swipes with his paws.
Individuals who adopt homeless cats are saving lives and these grateful animals will repay them for their kindness for as long as they live. That certainly has been the case with Blackie and Bennett.
Moreover, as the general public becomes better acquainted with the numerous health benefits associated with cat ownership, hopefully this will lead not only to fewer of them being abandoned but to more adoptions as well. In particular, their ability to anticipate attacks and to detect cancerous growths should open up new employment vistas for them in doctor's offices as well as in private residences.
Already renown for their ability to lower blood pressure and to catch mice, cats such as Blackie, Tiger, and Oscar are living proof that the species has a huge reservoir of untapped potential. Best of all, these talents can be exploited without inflicting upon them the despicable crimes that laboratory cats are subjected to every moment of the day.
Photo: David Patton of the Democrat-Herald.