biotechnology’s strange new creatures

And then there’s even trickier territory: the use of prostheses to alleviate an
animal’s mental anguish. Take the dog owner Gregg Miller, for example, who
swears that his beloved bloodhound Buck was downright depressed after
getting neutered. According to Miller’s recollection, Buck came out of
surgery, went to clean himself, noticed his missing ’nads, and then looked up
mournfully at his owner. “Good God, it was horrible,” Miller recalls. In those
awful first days after the operation, a novel thought occurred to Miller: Maybe
he could buy some fake balls and use them to make Buck look whole again.
“Don’t they make artificial testicles so it can reduce my trauma in neutering
Buck and Buck’s trauma at losing a body part?” he wondered.
When Miller discovered that no one made prosthetic dog testicles, he
decided to create them himself. “People thought I was nuts,” he says. “No pun
intended.” Working with veterinarians over the course of two years, Miller
developed “Neuticles,” and launched the CTI (Canine Testicular
Implantation) Corporation to sell them. The implants are shaped like
oversized lima beans and are designed to perfectly replicate the “texture and
firmness” of the genuine articles. (I’ll have to take Miller’s word for it.)
The first dog received his counterfeit gonads in 1995.* The Neuticles were
popped in while the pooch was on the operating table having his real testicles
removed, adding just a few extra minutes to the surgical procedure. When the
dog came to, it looked as though he’d never even been neutered. (As CTI’s
slogan asserts: “It’s like nothing ever changed.”) The prostheses come in an
assortment of sizes and materials; prices range from $109 for a “petite” pair
of the original Neuticles to $1,299 for a set of extra-extra-large, top of the line
NeuticlesUltraPLUS. The company also sells models designed for cats,
horses, and bulls, and more than 250,000 pets in forty-nine countries have
now received fake balls.
That’s a lot of animals that have been spared the humiliation of
emasculation. Perhaps. It’s hard to know what the dogs think of the implants,
or whether they’d even notice if they suddenly vanished. That’s the challenge
involved in outfitting animals with prostheses: Other species can’t weigh in
on whether and how they want their bodies to be remade. Though brain
imaging lets us witness animal minds in action, as one neural circuit or
another lights up, we’ll never truly comprehend what life is like, on the level
of subjective experience, for a member of another species.* (We have enough
trouble imagining what life is like in another person’s shoes.)

Strawberries

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