Title: Neutering Is Forever
Author: Clea Saal
Born: June 8, 2021
Genre: Dog care/personal/controversial (general)
Format: Kindle eBook
‘The only balls your dog needs are the ones he fetches,’ so reads a sign outside a veterinary clinic. I guess they thought it was funny. This story, unfortunately, is anything but. It is the story of my best friend, whose life I basically ruined by listening to a vet who shared that casual attitude towards his physical integrity; a vet who saw dogs as a bunch of bits and pieces that could be taken out at will… who saw dogs as things that were there for humans to play with, and to be modified in any way we saw fit.
Now, before we go any further, I want you to understand that I do realize that telling this story is unlikely to win me any friends. In fact it has already cost me quite a few of those. You had a bad experience neutering your dog? Shut up, we don’t want to hear about it, we don’t want you spreading the word, and we certainly don’t want you to get others to question the practice! Sexually mutilating our ‘best friends’ is something we do for the greater good. It is an easy sell, especially because we humans don’t like to acknowledge our mistakes, and would much rather sweep them under the rug. That makes it all too easy for others to shame those of us who have had a bad experience into silence. I also realize that my experience may be something of an outlier. That’s what I’ve been told time and time again, especially by those who just want my boy’s story to go away. I don’t know, and I freely admit that I am working with a sample size of one. I have had one dog neutered in my life, and that was enough. I am not about to try it again in the hope that things will go better the second time around, not when I know how devastating the consequences can be. As far as I’m concerned, my dogs’ happiness comes first.
In addition to the loss of those friendships, another consequence of this whole mess is that I am no longer allowed to adopt from a ‘reputable rescue’, as they either require you to sign an agreement promising that you will have the dog neutered within a certain timeframe, or do it themselves before they even place the animals into their forever homes. Of course, the latter is a practice that has the added benefit of serving to ensure that the new owners –who are feeling great about themselves, and their good deed in taking in a poor, neglected animal– will never know the damage that was done to that dog before he got to them. For those owners there is no before and after, there is no difference, there is no outrage, so the cycle can continue unimpeded. For me there most definitely was.
I was the one who took him to the vet; I was the one who held him as the anesthesia took hold; and I was the one who reassured him as he closed his eyes that everything was going to be fine, that I would be there when he woke up. I was there, that much of my promise I managed to keep, but remember how one of the things I told him was that everything was going to be fine? Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. In fact the aftermath of that day was absolutely devastating for both of us. It is something that will haunt me for as long as I live, and I will never put another dog through that hell again, not if I can possibly avoid it (and by that I mean that the only circumstances under which I would even consider having a dog neutered would be if I were dealing with something like cancer, or extreme aggressiveness, i.e. under circumstances in which euthanasia comes across as the only viable alternative).
But now a word about this series of texts. These can be subdivided into two, or maybe three, distinct categories. On the one hand there are the updated versions of four blog posts I wrote shortly after Terri’s neutering, and those in turn can be further subdivided into two batches. Two of those were deeply personal, and those have only been lightly edited, as I wanted to retain their rawness as much as I could to better reflect my feelings at the time. The other two also date back to those days, but their subject matter is a lot less personal. Those have been more thoroughly rewritten, as I wanted to expand on their content without adding extra chapters that would have come across as at least somewhat redundant. Besides, those weren’t so specifically tied to my own experience, so trying to maintain their rawness didn’t really make sense. On the other hand there is an entirely separate batch of six texts (like the one you are currently reading, and which actually open this volume), that I am writing as a tribute in the aftermath of the one year anniversary of my Terri’s passing (he died on July 31, 2019, and my goal is to publish this thing on June 8, 2021, on what would have been the eight years anniversary of our first encounter). The thing is that back when I wrote those early posts –the ones that constitute the last four chapters of this volume– I didn’t know what the end result was going to be. I was still hoping things would improve, that I would in time get my best friend back to his former self, as everyone kept telling me I would. That never happened. In fact things got worse, a lot worse, before they got even marginally better.
As for the question of why am I doing this. This is my mea culpa. I made a mistake, I trusted the so-called experts when I shouldn’t have, and that had a devastating impact on my best friend’s quality of life. He is gone now, and there is nothing I can do about it. I am never getting him back, and I can only hope that now that he is gone he has found peace, that he is whole once more, but I also want to honor his memory, and I want to do it in a way that would have been meaningful to him.
No, I don’t want to go put some flowers on his grave, that wouldn’t do him one lick of good, but maybe, just maybe, if I can spare at least one dog from having to go through the hell he went through, and one dog owner from having to live with the guilt caused by seeing the joy dim from their eyes, and knowing that it was their call that caused that dimming; or if I can help another dog lover who is wrecked by guilt, but is being bullied into silence, to realize that they are not alone, then it will have been worth it.
This is for you, my friend, my constant companion. I will never forget you, and I can only hope that, wherever you are now, somehow you will be able to forgive me. I may have meant well, but as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I am all too aware of the fact that my good intentions did not spare you from the consequences of my actions.
Until we meet again.