My Nephew’s dog, Cool, gets “fixed” tomorrow. One of the workers at the vet sure as shit didn’t help matters with her glib attitude.
My sister’s family got the dog as a pup from my nephew’s high school friend, whose own dog had her first and last litter.
Cool got his name the way all pets do, it just seemed to fit.
When they took Cool to get his first shots, the people at the Vet clinic said Cool needed to be neutered, and set up an appointment. At 13, my Nephew had long heard of the term, but being as Cool was his first pet that wasn’t a turtle, he had questions.
“Is it really necessary?” he asked.
His Mom, my sister, was put off by the Veterinary assistant who scoffed at the question as if my nephew was an idiot for asking, and she smugly replied, “Balls are for toys, not boys! Get him snipped!” The staff behind the counter smiled in approval. It was the slogan adorning posters in their waiting room.
I was over for dinner that night. It was the topic of conversation. After dinner, my Nephew was still talking about it and my sister’s patience was starting to wear. All day she’d answered every question he had as delicately and compassionately as possible – not how she wanted to spend her Saturday.
The dinner invitation was last minute and early into it I’d began to suss why I was invited. I do my best to be delicate and compassionate, but as my family knows, a Lack of Tact seems to be my super power.
My Nephew was gaining knowledge on his phone in regard to the procedure, but the ‘Net, as you’d expect, has multiple and conflicting answers to every damn story and they all present themselves as Gospel.
“Boys are neutered, girls are spayed.” he told me.
“That’s not quite right,” I said. “Neutered just means Not possessing generative organs. It works with boys or girls: You can’t make babies.”
Neph: “That’s not what they said at the Vet.”
Me: “Then don’t go back there. They’re uninformed nincompoops.”
My saying ‘Nincompoop’ always got a smile out of my nephew, but not tonight.
He scratched at his phone to verify what I told him, which I bless. I’ve always been clear to the kids in the family,
‘I won’t tell you everything, because everything isn’t your business, but I’ll never lie to you. That said, I’m only human and I can always be wrong. So check and correct me when I am.’
My Neph nodded at his phone. My definition of Neutered passed muster.
Neph (rather worried): “But he’s going to be the same, right?”
Me: “Nope. He’ll be in pain for about a week and blame you.”
Sis: “That’s not true! Stop telling him those things!”
Me: “Maybe you’ll get lucky and Cool will blame your Mom.”
Neph: “Mom. Seriously!”
Sis: “Your Uncle’s an idiot.”
Me: “No argument, but still.”
Neph: “Is he gonna hate me?”
Me: “No, he just won’t trust you.”
Neph: “I don’t wanna do this.”
Sis: “Oh great! Thanks Feo! Honey, remember that getting fixed keeps Cool from getting cancer, too.”
Me: “That’s bullshit. Towser (our dog when we were kids) died of cancer and he was fixed.”
Sis: “No, Dad said Towser died from a growth… – Sudden realization – …of cancer. Jesus.”
Neph: “So then we shouldn’t get Cool neutered.”
Sis: “It’s still good for the dog.”
Me: “No, it’s good for humans. It’s for our convenience so we can keep them in our small apartments, houses, tiny backyards, and all that other unnatural stuff. That’s not how dogs or cats evolved.”
Neph: “So I’m right. We shouldn’t get Cool neutered.”
Me: “You want to keep him in your house and yard, so you have to. Like most humans, dogs have no sense of long term consequence. He’ll run away every chance he gets and, if he doesn’t get hit by a car, he’ll breed like mad and leave the Mother and puppies to die.”
Neph: “We can tie him up whenever he’s outside.”
Me: “Every day of his life? That’s awful.”
Neph: “But I don’t want to betray him”
Sis: “Great job, big bro!”
Me: “You think tying him up is better? You think he’ll love you more if you do that?”
Neph: “But he won’t trust me if I get him fixed?”
Sis: “Cool won’t know he’s been fixed.”
Me (shrug): “Maybe, but he’ll know he’s in pain and he’ll remember you left him somewhere that hurt him.”
For a silent moment my Nephew sat there looking left and right, as if seeing walls closing in.
Neph: “He’ll never trust me again.”
Me: “Not like he does now. Would you ever trust him if he bit you?”
Me: “If you don’t let Cool out to breed, his hormones will drive him crazy and he’ll get aggressive with you. Same as wolves do to each other in a pack.”
My Nephew’s eyes got watery. Trust was the whole point. His mind kept looping back to it and I had a hand in him feeling that way.
Neph: “But he’ll think I betrayed him?”
Me: “He will and he’ll be right. You’ll damage, maybe even break the bond between you.”
Sis: “Oh God! You can leave now!”
Neph: “No, Mom! I wanna know!”
Frustrated – she’d been dealing with this ever since they left the Vet – My sister got up from the table to go to the living room and fixate on her phone.
Sis: “No matter what, the dog gets fixed!”
Me: “Yep. Has to be. Or plenty of his babies will suffer and die.”
Neph: “We could give them away!”
Me: “Cool could get four bitches preggo at a time. Births can be 6 pups per. Too many pups, not enough homes.”
Neph: “This sucks!”
Neph: “So he has to be fixed.”
Sis (on her phone): “Yes.”
Me: “So long as you want to live in the city surrounded by dogs, it’s the best of a bunch of bad choices.”
Neph: “But he’ll never trust me. And I’ll deserve it.”
Me: “He won’t fully trust you ever again, but Yep.”
Neph: “He’d be better off if I gave him away.”
Me: “Someone gonna love him more than you?”
Neph: “I dunno.”
Me: “You think you can give him extra love and attention to make up for what you’ve done?”
Neph: “Will that help?”
Me: “It’ll help.”
Neph: “But I broke the bond, our bond. He won’t trust me.”
Me: “Dogs forgive. They love us more than we deserve.”
Neph: “Such bullshit.”
Me: “You’ve hated your Mom, but you forgave her and loved her again.”
Nephew shoots me a stricken look.
Sis (loudly from the next room): “What crap are you telling him now?”
Me: “Oh, you’ve hated Mom! I was there when you told her!”
Sis (full attention): “I was a kid! I was mad! I said it but I never meant it!”
Cool comes up to my Nephew. Neph starts petting him.
Neph: “He doesn’t know what I’m going to do to him.”
Me: “He’s a dog. He wouldn’t understand why anyway.”
Neph: “He loves me and I’m going to hurt him.”
Me: “You’re going to break his heart and he doesn’t deserve it. But if you give him away it will make everything worse. You have to keep him and mend the heart you’ve broken.”
Like all dogs, Cool was sensing his human’s sadness and tried to comfort him.
Neph: “I will.”
Me: “Good. Doing the Best thing and doing the Right thing aren’t always the same thing.”
Neph (still petting Cool): “This is adulting.”
Me: “Yep. This is Adulting. One of those things that don’t make sense until you live through it.”
Neph: “… sucks so much.”
Me: “Bet you’re starting to know how your Mom felt whenever she had to hurt you.”
Neph: – deep breath –
Copyright April 27, 2021