I’ve been reading a lot about this subject with all the pro’s and con’s from both sides. I can only talk about my own personal experience with my own dogs.
I was planning to move into the newly built house so a friend gave me two little puppies from the litter his dog had. He gave me a male and a female. They were not purebred but they were two beautiful little pitch black dogs with gold eyebrows, some gold near their feet and a patch of white on their chests.
I got the puppies in December, and as I thought I would be moving to the house early in the following year, I was ecstatic. This euphoria did not last long, for problems occurred with the building of the house and my moving out there was delayed. In the meantime the dogs kept growing, and growing, and growing. I thought that with every breath they took they grew larger, and by the end of six months I had two very strong, very large pitch black dogs with huge white teeth.
When I used to take them for a walk around the block, the pavements miraculously cleared of pedestrians. People seeing two large black dogs dragging a slight woman behind them, prudently crossed to the other side of the street. Although the dogs looked ferocious, they were the gentlest and most loving of creatures and I loved them more each day.
At the time I was totally oblivious of any decisions I had to be making pertaining to these dogs other than vaccinating them, ensuring that they were properly fed, trained and exercised. Added to that the unbelievable amount of love showered on them by my Mom and I.
So it came as a shock when at the age of eight months they had fully matured and before I could blink, they were mating. I was horrified. I still had a few months to go before moving into the house with the garden, so what was I going to do with the new litter? Well, nature took its course, and in due time my Cleopatra presented me with the most adorable four little bundles of pitch black joy. All of them females! I nearly had a heart attack!
I was faced with the fact that I now had two adults and four babies to care for in an apartment. I shall not take you through the systematic wrecking of the apartment, because that was balanced out by the great joy these little puppies gave us. What did tear me up for a few weeks was the thought of trying to decide if I was going to keep any or give them all away. The longer I had them the more difficult the decision became. Why should I give these away and not those? What will happen to those given away? Will they be properly treated and cared for? How can I be sure of that? Suffice it to say that after a great deal of soul searching I decided to keep them all.
When the babies were four months old, matters reached a head with my neighbours. I had to move out. Six large dogs in an apartment were causing everybody a headache. Moving from the apartment to the house and getting all six dogs there is another story, but move we finally did.
This time I was not taken unawares. I realised that Cleo was going into heat and this time she might give me a bigger number of little bundles of joy. Drastic action was needed.
Again I went through all the heart wrenching process of trying to decide how to put a stop to that and the only conclusion I could reach was to neuter Caesar. One male and five females, this was no contest! The simpler operation was that on the male. But Caesar was my pride and joy. I never loved a dog like I did him. He was so beautiful, proud and strong, so young and full of energy and life. How will neutering him affect these traits? I had a horror of all the implications of castration, eunuchs, and the implied slur on his manhood. But I was lucky. I had a cousin who set me right, gave me the facts and figures, clarified the situation and made my decision easy.
First of all, unlike us humans, in a dog’s world there is no slur on a neutered or spayed dog. The only difference is that a neutered or spayed dog is less sexually aggressive than one which is not. I did not say disinterested, but less aggressive. Does this in any way affect their energy or their male traits of guarding and defending his territory? Not in the least. We attribute so many of our own hang ups to dogs that we think that we are depriving them of some essential psychological attribute when we sexually neuter them. This is total nonsense.
I had my beloved Caesar neutered when he was just over one year old. I kept my fingers crossed and a very sharp eye on him both physically and on his behaviour to see how the neutering affected him. It took me a few weeks of close observation to start relaxing. He was the same as ever.
Still the alpha male, dominating his clan, as aggressive a guard dog as ever, keeping stranger at a distance from the fence, and as active and playful as ever. The added bonus was that he was healthier than ever before. Because he was neutered at an early age when his energy was at its peak, he never put on extra weight. Till his dying day he was a trim and beautiful dog.
My mistake was in not spaying the females of that family. I was still very ignorant and thought by neutering the one male I no longer had a problem with unwanted puppies. What I did not realise and only got to know later, was that spaying those females would have spared them a great deal of health problems later in life. Most of the females died of complications from infections to their reproductive organs. They went off one after the other starting at the early age of eight years, the last one to go was at the old age of 13. Still, the last one to go suffered the same complications as her mother and siblings had. What about Caesar? He lived to the ripe old age of 15 and was in perfect health till the last day of his life.
He gave me fifteen years of love and joy, he was a grand old gentleman, and he died quietly one night last September, curled up in front of the door. He lived a long and healthy life, neither his character nor his health were adversely affected by the neutering. On the contrary, he was a healthier, happier dog.
With my new dogs I have not repeated my previous mistakes. At the early age of eight months I have had them all neutered and spayed. Do I feel guilty about that? Absolutely not. They are healthier, happier and far more energetic and fun loving without the added sexual tension that makes for a great deal of aggression among dogs. I am hoping they live a full, happy and more importantly healthy life because of that. Have I deprived them of the joy of parenthood? This is a purely human concept, ingrained for the sake of propagation and survival of the species. With animals once the child is weaned it is no longer a child, it becomes just another adult. So animals, unlike people, do not have the same feeling about their children after they become adults. When still young, the maternal instinct is very strong, but once the children are weaned, they are just like any other adult with which they can fight or mate, dominate or ostracise. By spaying and neutering our pets we give them a better chance at a longer and healthier life, and spare ourselves the heart wrenching decisions about what to do with new puppies.
25 January 2016