Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Getting Fixed

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

As I scraped the ice off the windshield, Buddy, our six-month-old caramel-colored Labrador Retriever, stood and watched, excited. "What are you doing?" he seemed to be asking. "What are you doing? Are you doing something? What are you doing?"

But when I opened the car door and waved him in -- "C'mon Buddy! Let's go!" -- shock and horror and betrayal swept his face.

"You're gonna cut off my balls! You're gonna cut off my balls!" he shrieked, and bounce-skittered away from me across the icy driveway, then floundered desperately away through the snow drifts.

He was right. We were headed for the vet to get "fixed," code in American English for "castrated." Even by 21st century standards, this has to be the oddest of euphemisms. But America is swimming in unwanted stray dogs, which are every day rounded up and put to death; and in another few months, a 25-kilogram Buddy would be humping everything in sight, from the neighbor's Rottweilers to my leg. So the fix was in.

"C'mere Buddy!" I called. "Who's your buddy, Buddy?"

"No way!" he barked. "Screw you! You can't have 'em!" (It sounded more like: "A-rooo Rowf Rowf!" but the meaning was clear).

I took a plastic bag of doggy treats out of my pocket, shook it, let the plastic crinkle loudly. Buddy was transfixed.

"C'mere, Buddy!" I called, and held out a gray T-shaped liver-flavored cracker. Buddy bounded through the snow, skittered across the driveway -- and as I took his collar, realized his mistake. His mouth sagged in horror; the treat dropped to the driveway, unchewed. "Damn," he was thinking: "I just traded away my testicles for a cracker."

At the vet they offered me some extra services -- to take advantage of Buddy being out cold on the operating table. For $10 they'd clean his ears. For another $10 they could "express his anal sacs," a procedure the secretary, to my enormous gratitude, did not go into, but which she did say was something to do if a dog had an irritated behind and tended to drag it on the grass. For $40 we could get some designer blood work done. I said "no thanks" to all these.

Another "optional" service, for $18: "pain medication." So who doesn't spring for pain killers when they have their dog castrated? I asked. The answer: Women. Men, it seems, always dig into their wallets for that extra 18 bucks; a few women out there don't. Perhaps they need their anal sacs expressed.

Best of all, for $30 the vet would put a microchip in Buddy's head. This is the new rage: if your dog gets lost and ends up in a shelter, purportedly the first thing the shelter workers do is run a scanner over his head. If he has "the chip," the computer brings up his name and address, and dog and owner are tearfully reunited.

I imagine parents will soon be putting a chip into their kids. (Separated at the Mall? Just teach junior to go into the nearest Gap outlet and price-check his forehead.)

The good news is that as I write this, Buddy is lying at my feet on his pillow under the computer table -- testicle-free and content, master of forgive and forget.

He's aware he's fixed-for-life when it comes to liver-flavored crackers -- and that, it seems, is a fair trade.

Matt Bivens, a former editor of The Moscow Times, is a fellow with the Nation Institute. [ www.thenation.com]