Whenever I think about the importance of naming a pet, I recall a story from about 30 years ago. My children went to school with the boy next door. Eric was a funny kid. There were times I wasn’t at all certain he was a good influence on my own son, but those are stories for another time.
On one particular occasion I accompanied Eric’s mother to the Kindergarten pet show where Eric would be sharing the family German Shepherd, Sandy. Eric paraded Sandy in front of the class, the noble Shepherd adorned with a red plaid bandana, and when the teacher encouraged Eric to introduce his dog, he boldly spoke up and said, “This is my dog Duke!”
Duke? Marie and I tried to hide our astonishment, but when we collapsed in laughter I think it was clear to others that Eric considered the name Sandy inferior to one of his own particular choosing.
A pet’s name is important. Alexandra Horowitz, Ph.D., author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, suggests choosing names with a pleasant sound. She reminds the new dog owner to choose a harmonious name, suitable for snuggling up to your dog for the next two decades.
We somehow failed to consult a specialist before naming our family dogs.
Our first dog was a small terrier mix acquired while on a neighborhood walk. Jay and I were pushing Aimee in the stroller when a cheerful gentleman, perhaps a little too cheerful for mid-morning if you know what I mean, approached us, leash in hand, and asked us if we wanted a dog. Ordinarily the answer would appropriately have been “no,” but I suppose we assessed the situation as “dog-in peril” and “Truckee,” the name by which we were introduced, became our first family dog.
I couldn’t imagine living with a dog deliberately named after his place of birth, Truckee, California, so he became Norman. I have absolutely no memory about the choosing of that name, but he was a great little dog with an out-of-control over-bite and Jay’s mother, with whom we were living, adored him. Marian convinced herself that Norman was a Lhasa Apso. She loved the idea that he had been bred as a sentinel to protect the monks in Buddhist monasteries. In truth, I think Norman was part Wookiee.
Our next dog was chosen, as a puppy, in response to a friend’s constant jabber about her own wire-haired fox terrier. Winston B. Louie–we named him after a work associate– came into our lives when the children were still quite small, and we probably had no business opening our home to a truly rambunctious dog with the habit of bolting every time the door was opened.
The one story that remains a favorite is the time he somehow followed us to church. I taught three-year olds in a Sunday School class in a room adjoining an interior courtyard and the same friend responsible for our decision to choose Winston in the first place came to tell me, “Your dog is in the courtyard.” What? “Your dog is in the courtyard.”
Somehow I summoned Jay from wherever he was at the time and he chased Winston down and got him home. We never did figure out how Winston found us. And how does a busy mother have time to chase after dogs that think they are Mary’s lamb?
It took me a few years to get beyond the drama that always followed a day with Winston, but years later another neighbor talked me into adopting a much older dog–a small gray “old lady terrier” named Foggy. Foggy was without a permanent home, displaced after her companion entered a convalescent facility. I didn’t need a dog then either, but she looked like she needed
me us. I loved that little old dog–but I wasn’t crazy about her name.
And now we’ve brought another dog into our lives. Our son and his fiancée brought Zena into their home as a rescue. She was not in a healthy circumstance and was badly stressed, and they knew they’d need to find her a permanent home. Their Vizsla, Obi, wasn’t going to share mommy and daddy forever.
She came for a visit and seemed to love our home. We invited her to stay.
It’s unfortunate, however, that once again we have a dog with a name not of our own choosing–and the misspelling of her name seems a bit lazy to me. But this sweet, yet very thin retriever mix with hints of Border Collie, isn’t quite up to the Xena Warrior Princess title anyway. Maybe when she gains a little weight I’ll have the spelling changed.
Maybe Zena’s herding instincts will help keep Darwin from straying. I see many interesting encounters in our future. We didn’t need this dog either–I didn’t think–but she needs us. I’m a sucker for the stories.