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Oscar the Terrior

Julia D'Amora

Oscar the Terrior
Oil on Canvas. This painting was the product of a recent oil painting class. I discovered in this class that learning to mix paint is a lifetime adventure. The project was to create a black and white image without access to black paint. This was done by using the correct proportions of red, blue, and yellow which appear black in the painting. I learned, by doing this, there is no true black in nature. It is always a mixture of the primary colors. So, it’s true that everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten.

The sounds of chattering voices and laughter swirl around as the dark hallway opens to the grooming room. All the usual dogs are present. Josie and I walk toward the grooming tables. I’m on the leash as Josie walks with her head held high despite last year’s misfortune. I am not as confident. I’m remembering the show more clearly with each step.  I didn’t realize how much I was dreading this until now. We came in dead last for the first time in Josie’s show career all because I couldn’t hold in a sneeze. 

There’s Sammy, a German Shepherd. He’s a veteran of the shows, always looking smart and well put together. I see Gus next, a Basset Hound with an attitude. He just looks through me as usual. Josie is relaxed and smiling, but I know how much she wants to win this one. My father won this show years before, but I’m not my father. 

I hear cameras flashing from my left and look up to see the eyes of last year’s champion, Catarina the Pekingese, greeting me with a snarly sound as her proud owner looks down her nose at Josie. What did she call me? Don’t bark, don’t bark, good dogs don’t bark, I keep repeating in my head. One bark in a place like this and it’s over. Catarina is the one to beat today, and if she keeps up this attitude, I may be the one who wins. Josie looks down and smiles at me. “Come on, Oscar, let’s make you perfect.” I honestly don’t know how she can be so cheerful.

After hours of grooming, which I must admit I love, we are on the stage. The arena is huge and the crowd hovers over us. The lights are blinding, and the smell of dog shampoo floods my nose. I wait my turn as other dogs do their best to strut around the ring. Their owners are all smiles as they pull the leashes with each dog following dutifully.  Finally, I jump down from my perch, and I’m reminded of the pictures in the living room showing the day my father came in first at this show.  It meant so much to Josie. I have tried over the years to replace him in her eyes, but always come up short.  

I start to hear shouts from the crowd as I enter the show area. “You got this, Oscar!” The cheers and shouts from the audience send a much-needed jolt of energy my way. While keeping pace I hear a small bark. Was that me? I look around as best I can while Josie runs me around the ring. I see my old friend Catarina looking mighty guilty, her owner with a pained expression. Could this be my chance? Surely, she is out now. 

I stiffen my strut, looking directly at the judges as I pass. The crowd is on my side and is chanting my name.  Josie’s pace quickens to match the clapping fans.  We stop on cue. “Sit, boy.” Josie’s voice is excited and then we are up again to take another lap. Keep going, head up, keep the stride straight. Josie’s voice is running like a movie in my head.  I can feel all those years of training clicking into place. We go back to our perch and wait for the judge's decision.

The judge paces in front of us. Josie is behind me, holding my tail up to keep my shape perfect. He turns and points to Gus, Catarina, and a few younger dogs I don’t know.  Then, just as he starts to turn, his arm comes down in front of me. Before I know it, we are all running around the ring. No way, no way, this is not happening. I look up at Josie and she is running for her life. I wonder if this is how my dad felt. He must have done this same run. 

My heart is beating so fast as we come to a stop for the final ruling. “Number 1 is the Terrier, Number 2 is the Shepherd, number 3 is the Pekingese.”  I can’t hear anything else but the crowd going wild.

Josie picks me up and whispers in my ear, “I always knew you could do it, boy.”


Julia D'Amora

DO, Geriatric Medicine, Carilion