Postponing the inevitable



I’m totally on board with the need to spay and neuter pets. I get that overpopulation and unwanted litters leave millions of animals to fend for themselves on the street every year. For those abandoned animals that don’t die of neglect, there’s always the chance they might be adopted from the shelter that takes them in – often though, adoption simply doesn’t happen, and that leads to shelters overflowing and having to make tough decisions about euthanasia. The ASPCA estimates that somewhere between 3 and 4 million companion animals are euthanized every year, so again, I totally get the need to spay or neuter your pet. But when it comes to my baby Oliver, boy it’s tough to imagine putting him through such a procedure.


We were fortunate that we got Oliver from a highly reputable breeder, someone who obviously cared very much about the welfare of the dogs in her family and the puppies she was offering. We were screened as potential buyers, we were given solid advice and guidance, and it was made clear to us that if we ever had any questions or concerns, that we would always have her support.


Wanting to make sure Oliver got the best possible beginning, we took him to the vet as soon as we brought him home. At nine weeks of age, he was started on a series of prescribed vaccinations and he was given a complete once-over to make sure he was in good health. He of course passed with flying colors, though I can remember having lots of questions for the vet about food, behavior, and that “procedure” I knew had to happen one day… fixing.


The vet offered to do it right there and then, and when I questioned how appropriate that would be for a dog so young, he assured me that it was OK. I figured it was inevitable, but the idea of putting Oliver through what would surely be a traumatic experience at such a young age didn’t sit well with me, so I declined the vet’s offer and said I’d do a little research and get back to him on setting a date sometime in the future.

3-7-13 oliver archive

Well, Oliver is growing up fast, and the future apparently is now. Most of the information I could gather on the subject suggested that somewhere between 5-7 months was a good time to consider having your dog neutered. So, since our baby is just shy of 6 months of age, I reluctantly called the vet a few weeks ago and scheduled Oliver’s procedure for this Friday, March 8th. Needless to say, the upcoming date has been weighing on my mind, and as it does, I have been further researching the process. Maybe I’m trying to find justification for what seems like a pretty barbaric action to take? Again… I fully accept that it is a necessary – and in the long run – humane thing to do, but I still feel pangs of guilt for imposing it on Oliver.


Just yesterday I was reading a blog post on a site that I follow – The Daily Golden – where the author highlighted a study which outlined the impact that spaying and neutering can have on Cancer and other aspects of animal health. The study was especially relevant in that it was conducted using information from a large number of one specific breed… 759 Golden Retrievers. Bottom line… there would appear to be potentially serious health implications for dogs spayed or neutered at a young age (i.e. less than a year old).

2-18-13 oliver2

At the same time that I was reading and digesting this information, my reservations about Oliver’s scheduled operation on Friday had prompted me to contact the breeder we had obtained Oliver from. Patty has considerable experience and a strong reputation for breeding healthy and happy dogs, so I knew her advice would be good. When she quite forcefully described to me why it was NOT a good idea to have Oliver neutered so young – despite what the vet had told me – I immediately got on the phone to postpone Friday’s operation. Asked when I wanted to re-schedule, I told them I would call back when I deemed it more appropriate to schedule the procedure for Oliver, and that it would be no sooner than six months from now.

2-23-13 oliverandjacksandbeach7

So, although I know it is a necessary and inevitable procedure, postponing his neutering for at least another six months has me breathing a big sigh of relief. I believe that pushing the surgery back to a more appropriate time will likely lead to Oliver having a happier, healthier, and hopefully longer life. Long post about a heavy subject I know, but look on the bright side… I get to share a little photographic review of the life and times of our soon-to-be six month old and still intact puppy… and besides, here’s a new one from this morning 🙂

3-6-13 oliver1

21 thoughts on “Postponing the inevitable

  1. Shelley

    Hi David, I really love your writing and your pictures. My Rufus (who looks eerily like Oliver…cousins, I am sure) has had several procedures – including being neutered. It’s hard but necessary. Harder than children, I think – because they can’t understand….but I think they know you do things because you love them. Good luck.

    One other thing – if you have time google “dogs without names” It’s a program in Alberta started by a wonderful Vet to help control the population problem on Indian reserves in the area. I have gone with them – the implantation is not even noticed if one has a bit of food in the other hand!


    • David Patterson

      Thanks Shelley. I appreciate the support, and the introduction to the dogs with no names project… looks very cool.

  2. Sean

    Hi David!
    I also love your writings and your blog, and very much enjoyed your images and your new addition to you family! He looks to be a fantastic companion. I also have a new companion,…somewhat,..she turned a year old a couple of weeks ago. She has been fantastic and every day I am surprised at how much one gets attached to these little ones! I was a bit stressed and had some trepidation as the day of the “fix” neared. My little Grace came out just fine….Good Luck!
    PS, we very much enjoyed Ireland and look forward to returning!, You have a beautiful and special home!

    • David Patterson

      Thanks… not sure there will ever be a “right” time for this, but am prepared to do what we need to do.

    • David Patterson

      I have strong feelings about this… but I do believe it is the right thing to do… and we also signed an agreement with the breeder that we would have it done.

  3. I agree with your decision. Besides, you are obviously a very attentive owner. He won’t be “over-populating” without you noticing, so you can avoid it, unless you want him to breed. I had heard it was healthier to have them neutered, so that was a very intresting article.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks. I think the only potential health benefits are around no longer being susceptible to testicular cancer, and that he would be less likely to roam in search of the ladies… therefore making him less likely to get lost, hit by a car etc.

  4. Well David… on the subject… I think I do understand your point, however not sure where you get the idea that this is a necessary step to take. Finn now being 5 years is still in his original state (you know what I mean) and he is as rampant as always. I would hate for him to loose his spirit and energy. Not sure if I am describing that correctly, guess you get my drift… love the last pic – brilliant !

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Jurgen. I do get your drift – I think it might be more of a cultural thing here in the US. Finn sounds like a lot of fun.

  5. The healthiest and most humane way to deal with pet overpopulation is with vasectomy and partial hysterectomy. There are actually quite a few studies showing the benefits of keeping the hormones. Additionally, most of the behavioral problems are just myths used to increase rates of spay/neuter. (Just take a look at Europe, many intact pet dogs there with no problems) Here is a quick summary of BOTH the health and behavioral benefits of sterilizing with methods that do not affect the hormones.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks for the opinion and for the data. I’m definitely going to look into finding an alternative for Oliver.

  6. David, I so admire your persistence in seeking the options that feel right for you and Oliver, despite the information you received from your vet. I find so many people take that one opinion as the only way and walk blindly down a path, all with good intentions. There is so much information out that and it makes me a bit crazy that so many vets are set in their ways without providing options for people to make decisions. Another common example is the vaccination protocols. Until the last couple years, I didn’t even realize there was an option. I now have titer blood tests done for my Grace (seems like a theme in dog names here!) and she hasn’t had a vaccination since I started because the results show she still has enough of the necessary levels to protect her (except for rabies which is mandated by law, unfortunately). Research is showing that we are over-vaccinating our animals, but most vets continue on the course. I’ll get off my soapbox, but truly appreciate the level of care and research you are doing in your decision-making process! Oliver is a wonderful dog and so lucky to have you.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Robin. I steadfastly believe that doctors, and vets for that matter, choose their profession for all the right reasons. Unfortunately, I also believe that the system can rather easily lend itself to overprescription. Also, old habits die hard sometimes, especially if they’re making money. The best thing I can do is make what I consider to be informed decisions that are best for MY kids, or MY dog – not everyone’s dog and not everyone’s kid – but mine.

  7. Inspired and pretty

    I don’t understand why vets don’t tell us about the risks of neutering too young. I have never heard this before. You made the right decision. I just read your last comment and I agree with that.

    • David Patterson

      To some degree it’s still an inexact science. If you look hard enough you’ll probably find research that supports both sides of the discussion, but like I said… it’s my baby we’re talking about here, so I’m going to do what I think is right for him.

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