No, I didn’t suddenly grow a pair overnight. But I do have plenty of first-hand experience on this issue. Though women serve as the primary caretakers when it comes to pets’ veterinary needs (in the U.S., about 3 to 1 over men), a surprising percentage of my own clients come from the testosterone-rich crowd among us.
These Miami men are usually educated and polite Hispanic males, but I get all ethnicities, races and classes, too. And, as you might imagine, plenty of “dogs” happy to ogle at a veterinarian sporting high heels and a librarian look (the glasses help).
Yesterday’s client was pretty typical of most of my male clients. A former rottweiler owner, he’d finally settled down to a pair of shelter pups of a smaller, Shih-tzu-ish type (perhaps a concession to his new wife?).
Because “Double” and “Trouble” had presented for their last well-puppy visits, discussing neutering was on my agenda. As usual, I steeled myself against the protests I normally have to overcome when braving these perilous waters with male clients of the visibly macho, athletic persuasion. Treading lightly, I advanced the topic. And, to my surprise, he blurted out, “Oh yes, please! How soon?”
Surprised and intrigued by this seemingly sudden change of heart, I couldn’t help but remind him how difficult it had been for me to convince him to neuter his rottweilers––one, in particular, who had suffered significant distress with a recalcitrant prostatic condition (neutering is the ideal “cure” for these patients).
That’s why I posed the question that was on my mind: Do you think it might be different for you this time because they’re small dogs?
The answer arrived hesitatingly, but he eventually confessed that it had been easier for him to identify personally with his larger dogs in this regard. He’d been resistant because of the empathy he’d felt for his rottweilers’ loss of “manliness.” With these smaller dogs, not only were they less macho by design, but their fluffiness made their testicles an “out of sight, out of mind,” non-issue.
The inappropriate marking behavior was already starting to show, he also explained. Whereas it had been easier to curtail his larger dogs’ indoor marking, the little ones occasionally urinated with impunity on furniture by virtue of their underfoot dimensions and their fluffy stealth. Hence, the request for sooner-rather-than-later sterilization.
This honest response jibed well with my typical findings. Though I seldom ask outright about male outlooks on neutering (some men can be quite hostile on the subject), I will query the occasional, receptive man. Not only does this build my confidence with respect to how to approach other men, it means I gain critical knowledge on how to do battle when neutering becomes essential for an individual dog’s health.
It’s like Sun Tzu said in The Art of War (and Machiavelli parroted) “Know thy lot, Know thine enemies, Know thyself.”
And, just in case you think me too willing to consider this an adversarial issue, I’ll quote Ulysses S. Grant, too: “I never advocated war except as a means of peace.”