The Fatalism of Dogs (and why humans should learn it)

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June, my German Shepherd, got spayed last week (the process by which the dog is sterilized through removal of the ovaries, aka ‘fixed’). It was a decision we had taken when we got her since consensus medical opinion is that it provides the dog with a longer and healthier life. Besides, it takes one more pedigree female out of the breeding cycle, which does the dog and many potential generations to follow a favour.

Even with all her powers of perception, I am sure she had no inkling about what she was in for or what will follow. Occasionally she did throw me a look that suggested she knew what we were up to though.

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Then again, perhaps it was just my nervousness at play. The kind of nervousness one would feel about one’s own child going through a surgical procedure.

The recovery process is not a long one; about 2-3 days of complete rest followed by another week of restrictions. What makes it complicated is that explaining the rationale, timelines, and need for restrictions to the dog is obviously  impossible. She was in good hands as far as the people operating on her were concerned – we as dog parents were full of trepidation only with regard to the post-operative care. We needn’t have worried much.

One of the primary concerns in the recovery is that the sutures shouldn’t be disturbed. Dogs have a tendency to lick and gnaw at anything that seems like it needs fixing. To prevent this, an e collar is used. This [nasty] little device prevents the dog from reaching the sutures.

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The unintended effect is that the dog is also unable to perform many necessary acts like cleaning up after peeing and pooping (you’d be surprised how scrupulous dogs are in keeping themselves clean), scratching an itch, cleaning the ears, rubbing their chins on their family, accessing food in the bowl, etc. Basically, many things that make a dog, a dog.

The first day of adjustment was terrible, as expected. By the second day, June had figured out ways to reduce the inconvenience. The discussion at home between us was about what would be going through her mind in terms of this darned appendage that stops her from doing what she wants to and when she’ll be rid of it. This made us wonder about what goes on in the minds of these wonderfully intelligent creatures.

My theory is that unlike humans, dogs are very fatalistic in their outlook. In a nice way; perhaps stoically fatalist. After the first day, the e collar was probably accepted by June as an appendage. It was considered by her to be permanent and something that needs to be adjusted to – and sooner the better. This, I think, helped her figure out ways to do things differently and more effectively.

What would we as humans have done? Irritation at being forced to wear it, cursing ourselves (and whoever else) for getting into this situation in the first place, counting the days when we’ll be rid of it, ruing everything we are missing out on…..all things that make reconciliation difficult and the mood bitter. Cultures that are fatalistic in their outlook are as such because they preach what is natural to living beings. Most religions at the basest level actually encourage this sense of acceptance. It is not a blind, handicapped acceptance of circumstances – rather it is a means to figure out the most comfortable way out or around the circumstances. We consciously choose to ignore whatever little that culture and religion have to offer that is truly useful.

June has another week to go before the e collar comes off. I cannot begin to imagine her elation when it does. June is just another dog in this sense – what is true for her holds true for other dogs as well. I just wish it held true for us humans as well.

‘Change everything you can that needs changing (including yourself); accept the rest’

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