Sunday, August 10, 2008

What's in a name?

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"
William Shakespeare

A dog by any other name might NOT seem so sweet. I have a noticed some interesting things about pet names, especially when dealing with homeless dogs. A cute name helps them get adopted faster, for example. During my years in lab rescue, we came up with some good ones. I felt a freedom to come up with some silly names because the new owners usually changed it anyway. Bo Wiggly's new family liked his name so much they kept it. 

We took in a group of four chocolate labs, litter mates, from Las Vegas, all about one year old. We named them Fudge, Java, Dutch and Chip. At first Chip was Chaos, but we decided that was too negative for a rescue dog! 

Unintentionally, dogs seem to live up to their names. My Lab, Tank, certainly did. He was famous for plowing right through the high jump, instead of over it, in obedience class. One time my instructor Linda, who wanted to build enthusiasm and drive in our dogs, held Tank back and revved him up before letting me call him on the recall. He recalled so fast I though I was going to get killed! With Tank, it was more about calming him down.

Back to the chocolate dogs – our rescue coordinator, Mary Jane, complained to me once about "all those dumb chocolate names," like Cocoa, Snickers, Hershey, etc. I guess when you hit Cocoa the 15th, it gets a little old! So when I picked up a little brown puppy at the shelter, I named him Mudpie (see his photo here), and he was quickly adopted and became Harley to his new family. 

Another dog, a Lab mix, came to us with the name Dillon, but I renamed him Charley Whiskers, because he clearly had a wirehaired something in his genes! Charley moved on to a foster home with Virginia – she returned his name to Dillon – and she kept him until he died of old age. 

A black puppy I fostered was named Zorro, and  I named a collie mix Teddy. Teddy morphed into "Red Ted with a spot on his head." He had a weird red spot between his ears that made him look suspiciously like an Ibizan hound mix. I often wondered if he had been a puppy mill dog, where accidental mixes come out with purebred papers. I've seen several beagle-basset mixes touted as purebred bassets in a pet store. Teddy went on to become a resident dog in a nursing home, where he was much loved. His picture now resides on the Collie Wall of Fame at Southland Collie Rescue, under the name Care Bear.

One collie I fostered came to us so matted that he resembled a haystack more than a dog. Frosty was almost all white, which turned out to be loose undercoat. Since we were in Seattle, where so many places have Indian names (Suquamish, Issaquah, Sammamish, Snohomish, etc.), we christened him Frosty Five Collies. After we groomed him, he still looked like at least Frosty Two Collies, but the name stuck. 

My Maine Coon cat was named after his father, Moonshine. My first cat I owned as a child was Mustard. I love to see people smile when they hear a name they like. Especially if you own a breed like a pit bull, why handicap him with a name like Sharky?

It works for people too. Why have a boy named Sue when Mike will do? My mother's name was Molly, and when we would do art shows together, I could see people react positively to her name. Before she said a thing, her smile and her name made people like her. 

So think about it before you name your pet. Do you really want a dog named Cannonball or a horse named Buck?

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