I Have This Horrible Nagging Feeling

zippy greayer by rochelle greayer www.pithandvigor.comI’m going way off topic here, but I am really (unexpectedly) struggling with something today.  I just dropped off my 21 month old dog to get neutered and I am a distracted mess.  It isn’t the surgery part (though I worry), but it is this nagging question about whether or not I should be doing this to my dog at all.

To back up a bit — I have had many pets in my life and all of them have been neutered.  All of them were shelter animals and it wasn’t an option to take them home without this procedure already done.  So I guess I never really thought twice about it and it was done before I really got to know the animal.  But Zippy is different.  He came from a breeder and the breeders were quite clear to me that they do not condone neutering (to use their words – “needlessly cruel and inhumane”).  In the face of this, I held off because after doing quite a bit of reading on the subject, I learned that the hormones that neutering deprives of a developing body can have lasting effects (it makes sense and offers a possible explanation for so many dogs with skeletal problems like hip displasia and bad knees, cancers and new diseases).  Early neutering has been linked to all sorts of issues including joint problems and dogs not developing as they naturally should.  The recommendation and advice I settled on was to wait until at least 18 months and then catch the ‘sweet spot’ before they turn 2 ( I honestly can’t remember the logic of the before two thing at the moment).  So here we are, and I made the appointment on a day last week when Zippy’s dominant traits were getting to me a little more than normal.

The deed is done (I am pretty sure) he has been at the vet since 9:15 and it is after 12 now.  So I know that there is no use trying to call the vet for a panicked last minute save – he is probably already in the recovery room.  But nonetheless, I can’t help but feel like I have done something regrettable and I wish I could take it back – but then I am not sure.

I told my young son about Zippy’s surgery today on the way to school and as he asked me many questions, I became increasingly rattled.  He didn’t understand ‘Why would we cut off a piece of Zippy’s body?’  ‘Won’t that hurt him?’ ‘Do testicles have to do with testing things?’ ‘Why don’t we want puppies?’ (on this piece I am quite ok — but the reality is that our dog doesn’t have a whole lot of contact with other dogs, and overpopulation is not an issue where I live -dogs are regularly shipped here from other parts of the country to be adopted- and we have no intent to breed him).  ‘Is it cruel and painful?’  and the final (said in a state of total confusion and some distress) ‘Why would we do this to him?’ (this is the one that just keeps playing in my head).

Is this really necessary?  Is this really what is best for the dog?  Take away the accidental pregnancy thing and all I have left is that it might calm him down a bit and maybe make him a little less alpha-ish — but by my readings on this is are all pretty questionable (as science goes) and it may have no effect at all.

I wonder, did we all grow up with so many constant reminders by Bob Barker to the point that we haven’t thought that maybe this isn’t the best thing anymore?  Is it one of those things we do (to our pets) because we are supposed to and after a time we forget the reason in the first place?  Our dogs don’t tend to run around un-leashed or unconfined by fences as much as they once did (at least not most — but if they did then I could see the point).  It also seems that maybe we might know more about development and hormones 30 years later that make me question our quickness to just cut it off without any expectation that this might come with other knock on health effects. I really don’t know.  Our vet seems to think it is a good idea but she also prescibes (pushes) all sorts of expensive drugs and treatments that clearly line up with the wall to wall advertising posters in the office (the billboard-ization of the vet office makes me grumpy).  I often wonder if I should view her not as a partner in maintaining my dog’s health and happiness but as an unwitting agent of veterinary phamaceutical and chemical company corruption.  Or maybe it still is the right thing to do and I am feeling horrible about this because I just do.   -Rochelle

P.S. I took this picture of Zippy about a month ago. The shot was driven largely by the fact that I was perfectly lined up capture his remarkable physical symmetry – and he was holding so still (a rarity).  He desperately wanted to go play soccer with the kids in the distance and just stared anxiously at them. As I flipped through my photo archives for a great shot of him to share, this one just seemed particularly apropos. 

image rochelle greayer

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rochelle greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.
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4 Comments

  1. Jenn on November 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I’ve been reading up on this too. I’m going to take this opportunity to share a bit of my thoughts…

    I’ve got friends that are holding off neutering because they run their dogs in sports (flyball, agility, dock diving) and there is thought that the growth of bone is influenced by those hormones.

    An option that one article mentioned was to start requesting the same kinds of surgeries that humans get when don’t want to reproduce: tube tying and vasectomies. She was a vet herself, and said that while these procedures are more detailed than the traditional cut and pulls, she thought the industry would quickly pick up the skill set if people started requesting them.

    This wouldn’t ‘calm down’ a dog like the hormone removal, but it’s a option that I think needs to be out there.

    Respectfully,
    Jenn

  2. rochelle on November 7, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks Jenn — I have to say I never even considered vasectomies and tube tying. That leads me to wonder even more if perhaps I made a rash decision. (in that I never considered this as an option) Though admittedly the hormone removal was part of the reason — albeit one that I am not sure will have the desired effect.
    I agree that this should be an option presented to pet owners…I can’t imagine it is considerably harder than a full removal.

  3. Amy on November 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Speaking as a former animal shelter employee – yes, definitely neuter your dog. You may intend to keep your dog his entire life, it may work out fine, but not one of the people who brought us their pets ever said, “Yeah, I only wanted this dog for 2 years and now I’m done.” Being in a shelter is hard if you don’t want to breed or fight every other dog in the place (not saying that all intact males automatically pick fights but with the increased stress and other dogs that may or may not be well-socialized…) it’s infinitely harder if you do. Understand, I’m not a HSUS or PETA devotee, I raise and eat animals and I don’t think of them as part of my family. I do, however, want them to be content as long as I have them and for the males, if they have that testosterone in them, on some level they are always going to be looking for something to breed or fight, be they goats, dogs, pigs, chickens, horses or whatever.

  4. Heidi on November 8, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Hi Rochelle,

    I can certainly understand your concerns about your dog. I watch Cesar Milan often and would trust anything he recommends. Here is what he has to say about neutering:
    http://www.cesarsway.com/tips/basics/spay-and-neuter-myths

    Best to you and a speedy recovery for Zippy!

    Heidi

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