What's In A Name?

The name of your pet can directly impact how people perceive you the pet owner, as well as your pet itself and to some extent, how your pet perceives you. Let me give you an example. When my daughter was six years old, my wife and I made the decision to get a dog. Actually, I wore my wife down with constant pleading for years. She was attacked by a neighbor’s dog when she was young. To say the least she was not a fan of dogs. The canine perpetrator was a large breed dog. Part of my persuasive argument was, “We’ll get a small dog, like a cocker spaniel, what can go wrong?”

We picked up the cuddly, cute, golden coated, floppy eared bundle of joy when he was eight weeks old. My daughter immediately fell in love with him. My wife was still on the fence. I was elated and still basking in the glow of wearing her down and getting my way. The next logical step was the naming of our new family member. My wife and I agreed to give the dubious honor to our daughter. Watching a six year old toil over the immense responsibility was one the cutest things we’ve ever seen. The names spurted none stop from her, all based on characters of the children’s programing she was watching at the moment. A few she grasped from the air and she became very fond of Pretty Boy. I had visions of taking Pretty Boy for a walk and a neighbor asking what the name of my dog was. I would stand slump-shouldered, staring at my shoe shuffling around dirt, waiting for the laughter to subside. Snapping back to reality I realized Pretty Boy was not an option.

Of the multitude of names she had, as a family, we narrowed it down to five or six. In an exercise of democracy, I told my daughter that I would write all the names on individual slips of paper, we’d put them in a hat, and whatever name she drew would be the little guys name for good. She was delighted with the idea. Of the final names I only liked one. Liked is a little strong; found acceptable would be more accurate. The name was Elmo, based on the Sesame Street character. I wrote Elmo on all the slips of paper. My wife had no idea I did this, I didn’t want her to be guilty by association. Call it what you want, I called it parenting. When my daughter pulled the name Elmo out of the hat (surprise…), we collectively looked at our handsome little puppy and in our minds we heard strains of the infectious laugh of the Sesame Street Elmo and his squeaky baby talk voice. Yah.. right… our Elmo as nothing like that.

At the time I worked nights. Elmo was always home with my girls. He became very protective of them. The three of them were inseparable. Elmo spent so much time with the girls he became anti- male. I was the only male allowed entrance into our home without a security detail surrounding them. He would circle male friends like a shark, we contemplate a chain suit to hang by the door. Our preconceived notion that a cute name would equate to an equally cute personality was long gone. Don’t get me wrong, Elmo was a great dog but he behaved more like Oscar the Grouch. If the three of us went out and left him home alone, he would send a clear distinct message signifying his disapproval when we returned. Opening the front door, traces of shredded trash bag, paper towels, banana peels, and coffee grounds, led to the mother lode in the kitchen. There Elmo would stand amidst the garbage rubble, the fur on his face, ears and head greased back and shiny as if he’d been bobbing for glazed donuts. His upper lip would crinkle exposing his perfect white teeth. Somewhere in my head I could hear the squeaky, baby talk Elmo say, “Elmo not like to be home alone, he he he he he he.”

Our beloved Elmo lived to the ripe old age of 14, something to be said for the trash diet I guess. Our house is adorned with family pictures of all of us together throughout the years. We still miss Elmo and often share stories about his legendary shenanigans, bringing back smiles and laughter to all that knew him. So I guess the moral of this story is; there is something in a name. When Elmo met a stranger that thought his name was cute, they would bend down and stick their face in his. He would have nothing to do with it. He would react as an animal. When challenged face to face with scent of an unknown person that didn’t live in his house, primal instinct kicked in.

Enough about my unruly buddy Elmo. If you wish to adopt a new furry family member from the Humane Society, a name or name change is huge to the adoptee. A majority of the dogs come from out of state; I mean way out of state, where they move from street, to shelter, to an uncertain tomorrow. Through the miracles of the staff and volunteers at the New Hampshire Humane Society, a new lease on life is granted when they arrive on Meredith Center Road. One of the first tasks is naming, so staff and volunteers know who is who. Something to keep in mind if you are considering adoption. While it’s ok to rename a younger dog, some of the older ones have moved around a lot. With each move, more than likely came a new name. Consider hyphenating the name, adding the name you like as a secondary. Some of the dogs have moved so much it’s as if they are in the witness protection program. There is no worse feeling than calling a dog and he gives you the Travis Bickle (portrayed by Robert De Niro, in Taxi Driver), pug faced look with questioning eyes, asking, “You talking to me?” “You talking to me?”

For all the cat lovers out there that think I’m dog biased, I’ve yet to meet a cat when its name is called, that didn’t give me the, “You obviously didn’t get a copy of my itinerary today, I have no time for your nonsense”. Cat names are just as important, some would say they are already named, we as mere humans have to get it right, but there is no guarantee they are going to answer if something more important is going on in their mysterious lives. Don’t get me wrong, I like cats too, but they always seem like they are waiting for the Mother Ship to come back and pick them up.

Until next time, Love, Live, and Laugh, and include your pets when you do.

For cat and dog name ideas: http://dogtime.com/top-100-dog-names