The Case Of The Dog That Couldn’t Bark

In Silver Blaze, Sherlock Holmes famously deduced the identity of a wrongdoer by focusing on a dog that didn’t bark. What would Holmes deduce, I wonder, about dog owners who have their pooches undergo vocal cord surgery — sometimes on multiple occasions — to keep the dogs from barking?

The surgical procedure involves cutting the dog’s vocal cords.  The dog tries to bark, but little sound is produced.  Because the vocal cords can reconnect as scar tissue forms, allowing the dog to again produce sound, some owners have their dogs undergo multiple surgeries.

In the story linked above, a dog owner said her dog barked constantly.  The surgery was a last resort, undertaken only after other debarking methods didn’t work, and was the only option that would allow her to keep her dog and avoid complaints from neighbors and citations for violation of city noise ordinances.  I’m sympathetic to her plight, I suppose, but I’m more sympathetic to the dog.

It’s bad enough that humans have taken animals descended from wolves and, through selective breeding, have produced fou-fou dogs that live in purses or are groomed to look like topiary, but cutting a dog’s vocal cords crosses a line.  Some dogs are barkers, others aren’t.  Those who bark are trying to communicate something — Kasey, who barks constantly while I am getting her morning food, obviously is saying “Hey buddy, speed it up!” — and it just seems cruel to deprive them of that part of their personality.  What would a self-respecting dog feel if her expected bark came out as only an embarrassing squeak?  Any surgery, too, involves risk for the dog. It’s one thing for a dog to undergo surgery to deal with a health issue, but quite another for a dog to undergo surgery solely to avoid annoying an owner or a neighbor.  What’s next, canine cosmetic surgery?

Neighbors shouldn’t have to suffer through constant dog barking, but any owner with a barking dog who can’t deal with the problem through non-surgical means has two options:  move to a place where the dog can bark freely, or find the dog a home in the country, where neighbors aren’t going to complain.

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