Image: Chris Mendiola

Chris Mendiola loves his dog Bear so much, he decided to get the same tattoo the dog bore when Chris adopted him six years ago. When he shared his mark of devotion with the internet, he knew he’d get some heat, but he had no idea just how far the images would go.

“[T]hose of you who know bear know that he has a tattoo given to him from some previous owners,” wrote Mendiola on Facebook. “It sickens me to know that people actually tattoo their pets. So tonight I got his tattoo.”

As soon as Mendiola posted the image of his new ink, however, he faced mockery from the people he used to think were his friends. “That means he’s neutered!” wrote one Facebook friend, “My rescue female has one too!!” Another commented, “Guess you’re neutered Chris.”

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Yes, the tattoo that Bear had on his belly was a symbol meaning the dog had been neutered. And now Mendiola carries a sign that seems to show he’s been fixed, too.

One of Mendiola’s old classmates even shared a screengrab of the Facebook post on Reddit so the whole internet could mock his solidarity. It’s since been upvoted nearly 10,000 times, with users posting comments like, “It’s literally the symbol for ‘male’ with the balls crossed out lol.”

To an extent, Mendiola was prepared for the response. “I knew I was going to get a lot of backlash from it. I did. I got some from my coworkers. I got some from people I thought were my close friends,” he told Gizmodo. “It’s not for them. It wasn’t for them. It wasn’t to humor or please them. It’s for my dog.”

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Mendiola told Gizmodo he has felt especially close to Bear since the dog experienced a medical issue similar to one he had gone through. “He actually just went through surgery. He tore his dog-version of the ACL and I suffered the same injury a couple years ago,” Mendiola said. “He’s my best friend. He’s been there for my highs and he’s been there for my lows.”

Commenters on Facebook and Reddit don’t believe that Mendiola knew what the tattoo symbol meant when he got it, but Mendiola insists that he was well aware of the meaning of the tattoo.

“I definitely did my research. I actually talked to my family vet about it when I first got him,” said Mendiola. “I don’t think that people should crop ears. I don’t think that people should cut tails off their pets. If they’re going to be a member of your family, you should treat them as such. I don’t see tattooing your dog as something that you should do... My vet would never just say, ‘Hey, willy-nilly, I’m going to tattoo your dog.’ It’s not going to happen.”

However, a previous owner likely had nothing to do with this decision. The Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ standards require vets to tattoo spayed and neutered shelter animals so that no one unnecessarily operates on the animals again.

Mendiola plans on keeping the tattoo for the rest of his life. But he said he’s also considering covering it with a tattoo of his dog’s paw print, so the two tattoos fade together.

[Facebook, Reddit]