Suzie the Dachshund's Life Saved By Vet Who Discovered She Was Intersex

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What does Susie, a long-haired dachshund who was discovered to have an intersex trait, have to do with feminism? I'd argue quite a bit. Susie's experience is a harsh reminder that our society still holds simplistic ideas about bodies.

Less than a week ago, the world was introduced to Susie, the dog who was allegedly "saved" when her veterinarian surgically erased her intersex trait. Intersex traits involve being born with either internal and/or external ambiguous genitalia. Historically, individuals born with intersex traits were referred to as hermaphrodites (a term today considered derogatory by some individuals in the intersex community).

In Susie's case, she looked like a "normal" female dog. However, once on the veterinarian's operating table for a routine spay surgery, it was quickly determined that she had internal testes rather than ovaries, as one would expect given her outward appearance. It was also discovered that Susie did not have a uterus. Given the widely publicized description of Susie's anatomy, it is likely she was born with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS)-a condition that I am personally familiar with having been diagnosed with CAIS when I was a child.

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Susie and I share more than a diagnosis. We share a medical history filled with misinformation about what it means to be born with an intersex trait.The veterinary office that operated on Susie informed her human guardian that they needed to surgically remove her internal testes because, "If they had been left in, the testicles would have turned cancerous." My parents were told something similar when I was diagnosed, despite the fact that an intersex trait, especially CAIS, rarely poses a health threat. Still, the intersex trait was erased from our respective bodies.

Even if we pretend that the correlation between cancer and intersex traits is real, we must ask Why is it that we don't go around removing breasts to prevent breast cancer? The answer is quite simple: Preventing cancer is not really the goal. Rather, the cancer rhetoric is used to justify surgical interventions, making it the darkest of lies.

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Why do medical professionals seek to surgically erase intersex traits? Maybe it's their ignorance about sex variability. But I doubt it. Doctors, regardless if one specializes in canines or human beings, are smart people. What's more likely is that these medical professionals are acting on a dangerous combination of fear and authority. A body that challenges binary understandings of sex is scary to those who refuse to embrace natural biological diversity found across species. For years, many medical doctors reached for their scalpels to ease their fears and assert their authority over the body. They are experts on the body, after all. Veterinarians sadly seem to be following their lead, and Susie's vet is no exception.

My concern has more to do with how the media describes Susie as being "saved" by the scalpel. This framing has implications for all of us, regardless of the size or shape of our genitalia.

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We must actively stand against oppressive expectations imposed onto our bodies. If a dog that was born with a body that challenges ideas about sex isn't accepted in society, how can we expect folks to embrace other natural biological diversities? As a feminist, I stand with Susie. I hope you will, too.


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The author does, indeed, seem to be projecting her own issues onto the dog. The dog was being \"fixed\"... whether it was male or female... it was going to lose it\'s puppy-maker. The fact that she was projecting leads me to the whole issue of \"spaying and neutering\". I have friends who are active in the Los Angeles area in providing free or low-cost spay and neuter clinics. Along with the spay-neuter can come free shots and chipping... plus a cheaper rate for licensing. What they encounter again and again are young men who refuse to have the surgery on their dogs, male or female, because they project their own sexual pleasures, etc onto that dog. Sadly, it often ends badly. A few years later they come crying back to this group trying to get help for their male dogs who now have testicular cancer or their female dogs who now have breast cancer... or they bring in a litter of pups that they can\'t even give away. Not long ago there was a very sad case - this one guy had a great dog, a female, that he\'d worked really hard with obedience. She was the best dog in the training group.... He could put her in a down-stay and walk 2 blocks away w/o her moving a muscle. She took distance directions... run there, down, jump that over there.... etc. She even passed the Good Canine Citizen test. He never had her spayed because he projected human sexuality onto dogs. As a consequence, he could not afford to license her. Moreover, he probably also never got her shots... and certainly not chipped.... and it all goes back to the sexuality issue. He got into some difficulty and had to leave the dog with his cousin. The dog missed him and started acting out. The cousin dumped the dog at the shelter. She immediately got sick, and despite it being \"No Kill December\"... she was put down. Many in that group volunteered at that shelter, but it all happened so quickly that she was missed.... Everyone was devastated - she\'d been the star pupil... and it all goes back to the projection of sexuality onto the dog.

May 16 2013 at 12:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The author is obviously more concerned about their "platform" than life - it is WELL known that letting testes remain in the abdominal cavity significantly raises the risk of testicular cancer.... and because they are in the abdomen it becomes very difficult to detect.... and very deadly. That's why the standard is to surgically "go get" any testicles that are undescended by the age of one year in a human infant. Animals have the same risk. As for the breast comments she makes..... oh, how uninformed she is. PLEASE disregard most of her writing, as it is not based in fact, and is quite biased. Do not let her bias issues become your health issues.

May 16 2013 at 10:54 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

My dog is a hermaphrodite - we discovered it when she was spayed too. She was female (uterus and ovaries) but with a small penis as well. Doesn't bother her, doesn't bother me. She's 9 now and doing fine! The author of this article is projecting their own issues on the dog. Humans could take a lesson from the dogs - they don't care, why should we?

May 16 2013 at 10:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jenny Beard

The veterinarian was telling Suzie's human guardian the truth. Retained testicles in dogs are very likely to develop into Sertoli cell tumors, which are highly malignant and life-threatening. It would be malpractice for a veterinarian to suggest not removing them, and the vet did, indeed, likely "save" Suzie's life.
I am a vet myself, and this article angers me. The author is projecting her own issues onto a dog, whose life would be endangered by such thinking.

May 16 2013 at 10:01 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jenny Beard's comment

Yes, the author is screwed up in the head and is definitely projecting his/her gender identity issues on an innocent animal. PawNation needs to screen articles to prevent disturbed individuals from using animals as a cover for their own sex/gender issues. As you said, the author's position would likely harm the dog, but he/she doesn't care about that and just wants attention as a member of a human "oppressed/misunderstood" group.

May 16 2013 at 10:25 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

What does it matter if the vet removed her intersex parts? Susie was being spayed! It's a non-issue. Before the vet operated, they were going to remove the one sex part they thought she had!

My pets are 'fixed' but really, what right, do we have, as humans, to take away the reproductive abilities of any animal? We do it to try to further shape and control nature to our ideals.

I agree with Pat, Susie has no understanding of the issues raised in this article. She could couldn't care less. I'm sure, if she could, she would rather have not have had any surgery. Go, Susie! Get well and enjoy your life.

May 16 2013 at 9:48 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

How do you tell a dog's gender without looking at its privates?

May 16 2013 at 8:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bioniclepluslotr's comment

You misunderstand the meaning of the word "gender." It is not synonymous with sex.

May 17 2013 at 1:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Diane Johnson McCart

How absurd! This. Story is about the dog, the one with four legs. Who gives a $hit about that POS??? This precious little one is beautiful, thankful someone saved her!

May 16 2013 at 4:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Diane Johnson McCart

What in the world does A J have to do with an intersex dog???? The world is well aware of what she did, and who cares, pray tell?.... The light is on this precious little dog, enough with AJ, pleeeeeezzzzzze!!!

May 16 2013 at 4:30 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I think the author is projecting personal feelings a bit too heavily on the case of this dog. The dog would not feel any confusion over having internal testes removed, or wonder about its rights to choose its own gender - things that a person would feel. If the veterinarian and owners felt that Susie would have a better chance at a long and healthy life without the internal testes; there should be no reason not to remove it. I do know, from reading and from personal observation, that in a dog who is not intersex, retained testicles can definitely turn cancerous; and the standard veterinary protocol seems to be to remove such organs to assure the dog's future health. I think it's a bit of a stretch to project a human's sensitivities to his/her own gender and sexuality, not to mention feminism, onto the case of a dog born with intersex traits. I'm delighted that Susie will be well - she has no understanding of feminism and gender issues; it is the right and duty of her owners and veterinarians to act on her behalf. A human born with CAIS would be a different matter completely in terms of the human's comprehension and right to self-determination.

May 16 2013 at 4:26 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I stand with Suzie too what a sweetie pie!

May 16 2013 at 1:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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