Up here in Sonoma, it’s a terrier world and we just live in it. And one of the famous Two Terriers of Two Terrier Vineyards or Rancho Los Dos Terriers, is little Oscar. He goes by many names. His official kennel name is Kenterra Little Big Man, nicknamed Dustin. As soon as we adopted him, we did away with that one. He was actually named after Oscar de la Hoya. Because he’s brown faced, handsome and a little fighter. But, as do all our terriers, he also has an official English name. So he’s sometimes known as Sir Oscar Doglington-Smyth, Baronet. Just in case he gets invited to star in Downton Abbey — which we do have to note has a shocking lack of terriers. The notable thing about Oscar is that he is always in motion. Running around, catching mice, digging up mole holes, barking at the pond named after our dearly departed founding terrier, his uncle, Charlie. A pair of delighted six and seven year old boys once visited the Rancho and dubbed him “The Fastest Dog in the Universe”.
Well, we’ve had a scary incident that has put the brakes on Oscar’s frenetic activity. We were wandering around the North Forty checking to see if the erosion control measures were holding in the face of our latest El Niño rainstorms. One minute Oscar was racing around, the next minute he was hobbling. I took him back to the barn and he was clearly agitated and in pain. Off to the emergency pet clinic we went in the the pouring rain.
A vet examined him, took some X-rays, then gave me the ultimate “best case/worst case” scenario. Something appeared to be up with one of his vertebrae. The vet, who didn’t exactly have the best bedside manner, said it could be one of two things. Either he had the doggie version of a slipped disc. Or he had cancer eating into his spine. Kind of a spread there. The X-rays were referred on to a neurologist who may be able to get back to me tomorrow. Or he may not be able to tell from the X-rays and will refer us on to an MRI. The prescription for now is to keep him on painkillers and keep him quiet for a full week. So that will be the only week in his life — including the week that he had the big snip — that Oscar has been quiet. Because he has one speed…and that’s Full Tilt Boogie.
The scary thing is that there was no warning that there was a problem. I’d put Oscar in doggie daycare a few weeks ago and they said he was favoring one paw. But it’s sort of a terrier thing to raise up one paw. I carefully checked his paw, leg and shoulder for thorns, cuts or swelling. Nothing. The vet thinks he might have been in pain for quite awhile, but he sure has been doing a good job of hiding it. But, of course, the owner’s guilt is strong.
To make this even more difficult, I’m on the eve of a long planned trip down to Death Valley to see the Super Bloom. Part of me thinks I should cancel. Part of me wants to go out to the desert to process this all. Especially after the cancer death of our founding terrier, Charlie, I want to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Charlie was another hyperactive terrier, who was suddenly diagnosed at an early age with a rare and virulent cancer. He was my first dog and I was in no way ready to lose him. We ended up going through operations, chemo and radiation until he was so debilitated and so not himself that all he could do was lie on the bed in a drugged stupor. The veterinary specialists were still talking about operations when we finally called a halt. He wasn’t happy, he wasn’t himself and they couldn’t promise us anything but a few more months of drugged, semi-painful half life. We opted to end his suffering and let him go peacefully.
Of course, with Oscar, I’m hoping for the best case scenario — which is that a week of rest and maybe some doggie massage returns him to his energetic self. But I don’t want to put him through the suffering Charlie went through. Especially since the vet is telling me that the worst case scenario is that Oscar might soon be paralyzed. An Oscar who can’t run around, catch mice, harass gophers and savage the remains of Mountain Lion kills, just wouldn’t be Oscar.
I’m leaning toward going to the desert and letting Oscar relax this week under the care of Ranch Manager Louis who has offered to watch him. I’m hoping a week on painkillers, muscle relaxants and crate rest will fix him up just fine. Because, as hard as contemplating the loss of a dog can be, it’s especially difficult with a terrier. And even harder when it’s a male terrier and you are a woman. As a friend notes, male terriers are the Italian bachelors of the dog world. They are the ultimate Mama’s boys. For nine years, this little boy has followed me everywhere. (Yes, there are no private bathroom privileges with Oscar. He’ll sit outside the shower and watch me.) He’s curled up next to me in bed every night and always with his paw touching me.
In the meantime, we could use some good vibes for a good little terrier, who is the best little dog even when he’s being very naughty, which he often is.