When I was a kid, staying home sick from school meant getting tucked in on the couch with ginger ale, saltine crackers and game shows on the TV. I wasn’t allowed a lot of TV, so it seemed extra special, sort of a cosmic equalizer for the horrors of the flu.

These memories are deep. I don’t even have to try to conjure up the theme song and the giddy thrill as Johnny Olson (yes, I am that old) called out the name of some lucky audience member and told them to “Come on down!” because they were the next contestant on “The Price is Right.”

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at heather@heatherdmartin.com.

Equally burned into my memory banks is the host, Mr. Bob Barker, signing off with a plea to spay and neuter our pets.

I didn’t understand why he did it, but I was a supporter. My family rescued a lot of animals, and spay or neuter was just part of the package as we helped an animal to heal and find their forever home.

This has been much on my mind this week as I sit with the newest member of our family while she recuperates from her spay.

Enid came to us through a rescue shelter (you don’t so much find the classic “stray” anymore) which is a great system because not only have you, the human, been prompted to think about exactly what sort of companion it is you are looking for, but the animal comes to you evaluated, vaccinated and already spayed or neutered. Granted, there are adoption fees and some of those are steep, but even the steepest is a fraction of the cost it would take to give that same care to the “freebie” found wandering the streets.


Enid turned out to be an outlier. The vet down south who treated her saw the massive scar on her abdomen and assumed, with logic on his side, that she had already been spayed. Given the rest of the medical nightmare she’d just been through, he decided not to put her under the knife again. Naturally, she went into heat as soon as she arrived here.

Our vet was able to spay her, the rescue gallantly picked up the tab, and she is snuggled up next to me as I write, healing beautifully – and I am able to rest easy knowing that not only have we prevented an unplanned litter, but she is now statistically much more likely to live a longer, healthier life overall.

While there are some ongoing studies about spaying being potentially linked to certain forms of cancer, and those with large breeds should consult with their vet around timing and bone growth – in general, animals who are spayed or neutered live significantly longer.

According to a study by the University of Georgia cited by the Humane Society, in dogs, life expectancy is extended 18% for males and 23% for females, and spayed female cats lived 39% longer and neutered male cats lived 62% longer. That’s a lot.

With this one outpatient surgery, according to Brown University, we have removed the chances for Enid contracting pyometra, a serious and potentially fatal infection of the uterus; eliminated the chance of uterine cancer and greatly reduced her risks of breast cancer, too. Male dogs who are neutered have significantly less risk of prostate cancer, and both males and females are also less likely to demonstrate aggression or roaming behaviors.

That’s why it matters for each individual animal.

In the broader conversation, spaying and neutering helps reduce the overall population. It might be hard to think of our pets as potential “unwanteds,” but the harsh reality is that approximately 1 million animals are put to death in shelters every year, according to figures from the ASPCA. Other organizations put the number much higher.

Therefore, for the good of our pets, for the good of the animals waiting in shelters to find a safe and loving home, consider adopting and please, as the late, great Mr. Barker implored us, “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

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