I regularly take the tram to and from the city center of Ghent and I’ve found that there is a pattern involving the occurrence of unusual events and my presence on the tram. The other day I was just on my way home after a long day of classes at Ghent University and I was allowing my brain a few moments of relaxation while I enjoyed the warmth of the tram car, watching people going about their day on the other side of the glass. We went slowly past the Kouter and that was when I saw something unusual.
Two women were chatting with each other on the edge of the crosswalk, one with a little dog on a leash, both wearing their tall winter boots. The two women were having an expressive conversation, obviously happy to see each other. I imagined that they had just run into each other by chance that day while they were out. They were wrapping up their brief conversation and saying goodbye when I noticed that the fluffy little dog had lifted his leg and was saying his form of goodbye on the unlucky lady’s boots. My eyes widened in disbelief as they often do when I’ve taken up my observational post on the tram.
I started to think about how often I see this. Not dogs peeing on people’s shoes specifically, but dogs peeing anywhere and everywhere. There are designated spots for dogs to do their business, but the dogs are blissfully unaware of this courtesy. I imagine the situation in Ghent is like the situation in any other city but one difference I’ve noticed between Belgian pet owners and US pet owners is that many Belgians don’t choose to have their male dogs neutered. This seems to result in the dogs’ instinctual behavior of marking their territory all over the city.
This leads me to wonder if it is just Americans that are convinced of the benefits of spaying and neutering pets?
I remember watching The Price is Right on some of my childhood days spent with my great-grandmother. At the young age of 6 or 7 I didn’t particularly find the television game show so enthralling; after all, not many children care about the pricing of supermarket merchandise. I always knew it was over when Bob Barker would urge his viewers to be responsible and spay or neuter their pets. Later in my life my own experiences with pet ownership in the US also supported the idea that the decision was a responsible one. The veterinarian always encouraged spaying or neutering when I took a new pet for a visit. Additionally, many US animal shelters will not allow you to adopt a pet without signing a written agreement to spay or neuter, and in some cases you may not take the pet home until the procedure has been carried out.
Out of curiosity I looked up some information on the benefits. The ASPCA site lists many advantages for spaying and neutering, including but certainly not limited to prevention of certain cancers in pets.
After reading this information and drawing from my own experiences with pet ownership I’m curious to know why so many Belgians choose not to spay or neuter their pets, if not for the health of the pet perhaps to simply save their friends’ expensive suede boots?