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Naming adopted pets. January 23, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood just saw an article about whether you should rename an adopted animal. We say, of course you should, assuming you don’t like your pet’s original name.

However, if your pet already has a name, we also don’t think you should stray too far from it when you give it its new name. Let’s say your dog’s name was Meatball. Changing it to Farley might seem like a good idea, but Meatball might not have a clue about what you’re calling him. Remember, it’s not his fault his previous owners were idiots; it’s just up to you to come up with a new name you can tolerate that sounds enough like Meatball for your new dog to recognize it.

Dogs, after all, aren’t stupid, unlike their owners who give them stupid names and then abandon them. They’ll quickly come to recognize their names if they sound vaguely familiar and respond to them.

We should know. We chose to adopt a delightful golden retriever whose owner had named her Banjo. We didn’t think a dog should be named for a thing. We’d planned on naming our dog Maggie, but Banjo and Maggie were too far apart. We decided on Annie instead, since it was closer to Banjo. Sure enough, Annie responded to her new name from the moment we took her home.

Meatball? Maybe if he’s a tough-looking guy, or you’re a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, you could call hime Eagle. Just a thought.

Whatever, don’t settle for a name you hate just because the dog or cat’s already been saddled with it. (Precious or Mister or Fella or Fluffy, anyone?) Just try to come up with something that sounds enough like the name for your pet to adjust. After all, they’re already grateful to you for taking them in. Making sure that the new name means them—always addressing them by that name, praising and petting them while using the name—will help them adjust quickly. Don’t settle for Cuddles or Puddles if you want Carruthers.

What do you call your dog? April 9, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. As readers of Poor Richard’s Almanac know, our friend Ben and I love our black German shepherd, Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special. Over the course of two lifetimes of pets of every type and stripe, we’ve learned a thing or two about naming pets. One thing, obviously, is to enjoy being creative while coming up with a pet’s formal name but to keep the call name to a simple, easy-to-say two-syllable name like “Shiloh.”

It’s also good to make sure the name is something you’d want to shout in public. Linus Theodore Aquinas, our friend Ben’s first parakeet, and Kissie, the name my sister gave our family’s first cocker spaniel, are not good choices in this respect. (The poor parakeet, which proved so long-lived that it accompanied OFB to college, was simply referred to in his family as Bird.)

PR is also important in our lawsuit-happy times. Fond as we are of the idea of the faithful dog defending the family and family home, names like Killer, Butcher, Jaws, Godzilla, Chopper and the like are not especially wise. And old-time favorite descriptors like Blackie, Spot, Tiny, Bullseye, Hero, Lurker (describing the dog’s breed work, not its personality), Fella, Muttsy, and so on are unlikely to win favor in these very different times, when more often than not, dogs really are considered part of the family, not hangers-on confined to a doghouse in the backyard.  

I’d thought OFB and I saw eye-to-eye on the dog-name situation until a few nights ago, when I had a dog-related dream. I dreamt that our vet’s office called to tell me that they had a young male German shepherd named Sherman whose owner had died. Sherman was well trained and very much in need of a loving home. Would we want to take him? Well, of course we would, assuming he got along well with Shiloh and the cats. But not with that awful name.

The next morning, I related the dream to our friend Ben. And then I said, “I was thinking of calling him T. Rex.”

“T. Rex?!!!!” OFB looked at me as though I’d lost my mind.

“Well, of course, Ben. We both love fossils, after all, and just think how many German shepherds have been called Rex. Why not T. Rex?”

“T. Rex!” OFB looked even more appalled by the thought of my suggested name than by the prospect of adding a new (fictional) dog to Hawk’s Haven, our tiny cottage home. “What on earth would you call him, Mr. T.?!”

“I was thinking of calling him T. Rex,” I replied.

“Well, you said his original name was Sherman. And he’s a German shepherd. So how about Sherman the German?”

“Nothing named Sherman is ever setting foot in this house.”

“But, Silence—“

“Ben! Why are you arguing with me about the name of a hypothetical dog?! It was my dream, so I get to name the dog, and his name is T. Rex!”  

OFB stomped off, and I’d swear I heard him muttering something like “What about Booga-Wooga?” as he left the room.

Sheesh. Thinking about this later, I wondered what real people were naming their real dogs. What dog names were coming out on top? Thanks to my good friend Google, I was sure I could find out.

Apparently, if your dog is a male, you’re most likely to name him Max, followed by Bailey, Buddy, Jake, and Rocky, at least according to stats submitted by the Veterinary Pet Insurance company based on policyholder registrations. If your dog’s a girl, you’ll most likely call her Molly, Maggie, Lucy, Daisy, or Bella. Sadie, Sophie, Chloe, Ginger, Emma, and Sasha are also high on the list of girl-dog names, while males are sporting call names like Cody, Charlie, Duke, Sam, Harley, and Oliver. (Interesting that Marley didn’t make the boy-pup list, but Gizmo did.)

The Dogtime website even breaks the popular dog names down by breed. For German shepherds, the top ten names are: Franz, Zeppo, Winston, Duke, Annika, Heidi, Paz, Sasha, Thor, and Jackson. Franz?! Unless their last name is Ferdinand, why? Zeppo? Have German shepherds joined the Marx Brothers?! Winston and Paz seem a bit confused, country-wise. Friends and neighbors already have dogs named Duke and Jackson, so they’re definitely out. I like Thor, but it’s a bit too Conan the Barbarian for everyday use. And I love Sasha, but my best friend’s son is named that, so it’s also out as a dog name. Ditto my friend Heidi. Annika’s a lovely name, but it’s three syllables, and hard experience has taught us that two syllables are best for pet call names.

T. Rex. That’s just about right.

            ‘Til next time,

                        Silence

Have fun with pet names. July 28, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in pets, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben is a strong believer in having a lot of fun with the naming of pets. Studies have shown that giving people unusual names can warp them for life, but it can also make them unforgettable: Tallulah Bankhead, Tennessee Williams, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Yul Brynner. Or our friend Delilah Smittle. This is so true that savvy actors and others have adopted more memorable names to fix themselves in the public’s mind. Who could forget Boris Karloff, but who would remember William Henry Pratt, the English actor who adopted that stage name? Groucho Marx is indelible; Julius Henry Marx sounds like a cross between Karl Marx and an Orange Julius. You’re not likely to forget 50 Cent, or to remember his birth name, Curtis James Jackson III.

Our friend Ben doesn’t blame you if you prefer not to name your offspring Royal Stove or Einstein Shakespeare Ghandi the Great. (Silence Dogood actually went to college with a girl named Chase Morgan, but then, she really was related to both the Chases and the Morgans, so Silence figured it was just good advertising.) I think it’s best to give your children attractive names, then let them, like the Native Americans of old, choose their adult names as they go along and learn more about themselves. Our friend Ben’s niece Katie has chosen to live her adult life as KT; our friend Paul goes by Fritzjambo and an assortment of other alter-egos.

Instead of trying to shape your offsprings’ destiny through their names, how about putting that creativity towards your pets’ names instead? Our friend Ben has always thought that pet names were fair game, at least, until last night, when one of our friends took us to task for naming our black German shepherd puppy Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special. There’s actually a logical sequence behind this name: Pioneer German Shepherds is the name of Shiloh’s birth kennel, and thus must be represented on her registration form; Hawk’s Haven is our home, and has been part of the names of all our dogs; and her grandfather is Lucas von Shiloh Special. But beyond that, we find it highly entertaining.

Mind you, our friend Ben comes by quirky pet names naturally. My parents named their first parakeet Philomelia the Elegant Fowl. My father’s Afghan hounds were named Cleopatra, Robespierre, and Ariadne. As a very young child, Father named his family’s two roosters Diddum Yahoo and Justus. Our friend Ben’s own first dog, circa sixth grade, was named Homely Homer Hapilus. Silence is not immune to this trend, either: She chose to name our small flock of hens with Regency romance names, such as Serena, Olivia, Stella, Sophia, Lucretia, and Portia. (I’ll admit that later additions, such as the half-sisters Imelda and Griselda, bore more of my own stamp.) Then there was our friend Ben’s brother, who chose at an early age to name his pet guinea pig after our Aunt Bernice, but was convinced to change its name to Burnoose to avoid giving offense.

Over many years and many pets, our friend Ben has decided there are exactly three rules to the successful naming of pets:

Rule #1: Name your pet exactly what you want. If it’s Genghis Khan Tiberius Caesar Moronicus the Fourteenth, that’s your business and nobody else’s.

* Rule #2: Call your pet a one- or two-syllable name. Your pet bird may be named Alcibiades, but for everyday use, you’d better call him Al or Alfie. Our cats and dogs have all had many “official” names, but at home they’re Linus, Layla, Jessie, Annie, Molly, Shiloh, Simon, and so on. Occasionally, we’ve had a pet with a one-syllable call name, like our cat Boone or our parakeet Belle, but it’s definitely the exception. Pets seem to recognize two-syllable call names best, so we’re all for them.

* Rule #3: Give your pet a call name other people can recognize. The youthful Ben learned this lesson early on with my dog Hapilus (actually named for Louis Leakey’s Homo habilis). After years of hearing the poor dog addressed or referred to as “Hapless,” “Helpless,” and even “Hopeless,” our friend Ben learned a life lesson that has remained with me ever since. Molly, Maggie, Simon, Duke and the like are easy to understand and easy for other people to say. We hope Shiloh falls into this category as well.

I guess there’s a fourth rule, and that’s not to name your pet something derogatory. Pets are inherently innocent beings, and they can be hurt as quickly as children. “Dumbo,” “Dickhead,” “Wacko” and the like are not appropriate pet names, since they invite ridicule from total strangers which the pet has done nothing to deserve. Never call your pet something you wouldn’t want to be called yourself. Ditto for names that invite ridicule even if they’re not inherently offensive, like naming a massive Rottweiler “Mini” or a teacup Chihuahua “Killer.” Your dog deserves better from you. 

Otherwise, have as much fun as you can stand when it comes to naming your pet! And to those who want to make fun of our Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special, our friend Ben can only say: BWAAAAHHH!!!

The naming of dogs. July 10, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
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3 comments

Silence Dogood here. T.S. Eliot may have cornered the market on the naming of cats, but from our point of view, we’ve all got a shot at great dog names. We named our black German Shepherd puppy Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh because we got her from Pioneer German Shepherds, our home is Hawk’s Haven, and I knew that Shiloh was going to be her name because… well, I just knew.

As it turned out, this proved to be, well, prophetic, since a number of her ancestors also have Shiloh in their names and heritage. But their names are so wonderful it puts us to shame in the naming category: Lucas Von Shiloh Special, for example. Or how about Lady from Hades, Job for Job Selah, Big-Big Bethsheba Selah, or Amor Jah (doubtless a reggae fan)?

Wow. If I’d only known. Maybe we’d have named our puppy Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh Von Shiloh Special. She’s certainly “special” to us!

What are your favorite dog names?

           ‘Til next time,

                        Silence

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