YUMA, Ariz. – Dogs around the world are getting possibly the most curious gift a pooch can receive: testicular implants. Most humans and dogs themselves really can't tell the difference, and that's good news for dog owners who opt for this procedure for keeping their male dogs looking, well, fully intact.
Gregg Miller swears that a dog losing his testicles means a potentially serious blow to his sense of well-being. That's why he invented Neuticles and why he thinks that makes him Fido's best friend.
"Wouldn't he know that the body part he's been cleaning all the time is missing? It just makes sense," Miller told The Sun during a phone interview from his Missouri headquarters. "My customers tell me that their dogs are so much happier not knowing they were neutered."
Then there's the feelings of the other critter involved the equation: the owner. Miller stressed that a dog's appearance and comfort mean a great deal to owners, who are willing to pay a few extra bucks to keep everyone involved happy with the post-snip outcome.
"They cut off a dog's testicles and suddenly he becomes female in appearance," Miller said. "People want their dog to look natural. With the Neuticles, it looks like nothing's changed at all."
Veterinarian Cheryl Haugo with Desert Veterinary Clinic in Yuma said that male dog owners get creeped out by the whole neutering process a lot more often than people might think.
"I've seen a lot of cases where I have to talk about it to the wife more," Haugo said, calling men's reaction a mix of squeamishness and male-to-male guilt. "It's a discussion that is more than some men can handle."
Haugo added that although she hasn't implanted Neuticles, she agrees with Miller's argument that the implants probably facilitate many neuterings that otherwise may not have happened.
A sure trigger for giggles or groans whenever they're mentioned, Neuticles are actually just small, straightforward pieces of solid polypropylene. It's the same stuff used to make dishwasher-safe food containers.
Neuticles are shaped just like the real thing, and thanks to research Miller performed with real pairs from various breeds, Neuticles are also just the right size and weight.
They are implanted right after the veterinarian removes the real testicles.
Neuticles' splash in Yuma hasn't been very big yet. Most veterinarian clinics here haven't implanted Neuticles, but those who have eagerly report positive results.
"I've only done it a handful of times," said Dr. Jeri Dioguardi with Foothills Animal Hospital. "It's nothing we advertise and is certainly something I have recommended only for a few people. But everyone has been happy who has done it."
Miller sells Neuticles for $94 a pair for little dogs up to $129 for bigger breeds.
Naysayers often insist that the kindly inventor has stumbled across something fringe at best. But Miller's got the numbers to prove that Neuticles are anything but a fad and feed more than just a minority market out there in the rest of the world.
To date, 240,000 animals have been decked out with Neuticles. They've been implanted in all 50 states, as well as in 49 countries.
It all began back in the 1990s with a dog destined to be famous. He was Miller's beloved bloodhound, Buck. He's the fella whose neutering gave Miller his greatest idea.
Miller had worked in journalism and then the candy industry, where he invented the SweeTube — plastic tubes filled with candies. At one point Wal-Mart snatched up $670,000 worth of the goodies, but then the numbers all went south.
When Buck died several years ago, The Associated Press hailed him as the world's first canine co-inventor.
Yuma veterinarians Dioguardi and Haugo agreed that Buck probably hasn't led his fellow dogs down the wrong path, either. Neither saw the implants as being cruel in any way or the source of any possible discomfort for the dog.
Haugo, however, mentioned concern about infections and the chance of the body rejecting the foreign substance, although Miller says it's never happened. He added that Neuticles are covered for up to $2 million per procedure, just for added assurance.
The animal docs also concurred, however, that they don't think dogs really care about having testicles or not.
"Most dogs go home and it's like they say 'Surgery? What surgery?"' Haugo said. "I don't think the dog cares a lick."