I had the best 7th grade teacher.
His name was (is) Mr. Thompson, and he was one of those teachers that absolutely loved his job. Everyone knew it, even the stupid, too-cool-for-school 13 year-olds he taught, because you could just tell. His domain was the vague subject of Language Arts - the public school equivalent of the subject called English at the Catholic school from which I had transferred.
But he made it more than English, and more than even Language Arts. Mr. Thompson made his class project-based, in the hopes of opening our minds beyond the cares and worries of passing notes with the scribbed words: Do you like me? Circle YES / NO.
We watched The Bad Seed in class and discussed Nurture vs. Nature. We studied Edgar Allan Poe, learning to appreciate cadence, tension and the macabre; we learned about the concept of Story Arc through the beating of the Tell Tale Heart.
For our final project, he gave us each a recording of a classical music piece. We had a month to write a story to be read in time with the music, and we were to read it in front of the whole class, with the music playing - not an easy feat when you consider each piece averaged five minutes in length. Have you ever written a speech that lasted five whole minutes? It's a long time.
But there was a smaller project from the beginning of the year that's has been on my mind this week. It was a poster campaign he encouraged us to join. Meant to raise our awareness about social issues, to get us involved in the community and to illustrate the effectiveness of pictures as a form of language, he had each of us draw a poster to encourage people to Spay / Neuter their pets.
My favorite one, hands down, was the poster that decried, "DON'T SHOOT HER! NEUTER!".
Not quite right, but it still makes me giggle out loud, 15 years later.
This morning I brought George to be neutered. I have been brought up to believe that neutering is the humane and responsible course of action for any pet owner, but this week my sense of dread and guilt has increased with each passing day.
George isn't exactly out romping around the neighborhood unsupervised. My mom won't even let him out on the back porch at her house without her beagle Max out there to protect him against chicken hawks. For real. Shih Tzus don't have the instincts that allow them to be safely outdoors alone, and there's a wild cat in our neighborhood that could take him out without breaking a sweat, and George keeps trying to make friends with her. Anyway, my point is, he's not exactly going to have the opportunity to skip away and father a litter of strays.
So, why are we neutering him? Are we mutilating him simply for the sanitary convenience of avoiding embarrassing moments of excitement?
I know they're two-sided questions, and in any case, the deed is done, with no going back. He's there now, lying helpless at the chop shop that is my vet's office, and I am sad.