If I call my dog an average of five times a day for the next 16 years (that’s about how long my dogs live), then I will use the name 29,200 times. Do I really want to be shouting “Tallulah, come get your biscuit!” or “Sir Winston, time for your walk”?
Let me back up. As many readers know, my sweet old Zoe died last August at the reasonably good age of 16. Zoe was a purebred. Our first dog, Sheba, lived to 18. She was a mixed-breed adopted from the North Shore Animal League.
After Sheba, my husband became allergic, so we had to find a breed that didn’t shed or produce dander. Zoe was our darling girl, and I think about her every day, especially when her shadow sweeps along the edges of the room, just out of sight.
Shortly after she died, I began discussions with a new breeder with the idea that I would be ready to welcome a new dog this spring. The puppies were born in February, and we hope to have our girl in our arms by the end of May.
Let me back up. Whether or not to get another puppy prompted a serious but brief discussion. We are not puppies ourselves anymore. Walking a dog in the snow is not terribly inviting. We travel often. Training a pup takes time and commitment and patience.
Fair enough. But give up one of the greatest joys in human life because it may be inconvenient at times? Life isn’t worth living without a dog friend. If that’s your motto, and it is ours, fear of long walks on snowy nights does not compute. Poop on the Persian rug is not a deal-breaker.
So, back to the puppies. I found a congenial and highly professional breeder who lives out West and raises only one litter every couple of years. She subscribes to “puppy culture,” which is a method of raising puppies with special attention to neurological and social development. Puppies are raised in the home, exposed to all kinds of real-life stimuli, including regular outings to noisy, busy places like supermarkets and parks. They have playpens and toys and are challenged with a variety of noises and moving objects.
The breeder takes prospective owners’ requests and then makes her decision about placement depending on personalities and lifestyle (both the pups’ and the people). The owners state preferences but do not get the final say. The puppies are released to their new homes when they’re 12 weeks old.
If you aren’t cool with this, then you don’t work with this breeder.
Now we’re just a couple of weeks away. We’re getting the girl from the litter of five puppies, and it seems like she’ll be a great match for our household.
My problem is a name. The breeder has named all the puppies, but I assume she knows that new owners will want to confer a name of their own. She understands that naming is a profound act. It connects the new dog to its new family.
And then there’s nominative determinism. If you call a new pup Sunshine, it colors his future in a different way than Killer would. Do you want an ordinary-person name, like Alice, or a pet name, like Whiskers? Should we go for a famous-person name, like Cher or Golda?
In our family, we don’t object to naming dogs in honor of people we know. My daughter’s family named their dog Grandma. She’s a great girl, and smart, and quite beautiful. Her teeth are whiter than mine, and she can run like the wind. Go, Grandma.
I have been mulling this decision for months and am down to a few special names for considering. I beg your indulgence and your input. Help me choose from among these. I have looked up the provenance of all the names and feel comfortable with their origins and implications.
Perhaps it would help if I added a brief description of the new girlfriend. She is a Malagasy Coton de Tulear, about 11 pounds when fully grown, fluffy white hair with tawny striations. She is growing up in the West so yes, I’ve gone through all the Western flowers and trees for possible names. I’ve considered all the spices appropriate to her coloring: (Cinnamon? Saffron? Curry?)
You haven’t seen this obsessive side of me before, have you? Well, we all have our quirks.
Back to the names. I’m down to the following choices and welcome your opinions. Dovey, Juno, Maya, Kashi, Savannah, Honey Bee, Honey Bear, Miranda, Lilly Bell, Lily Bee, Remi, Cally, Willa, Simone, Garbo, Bella, Rosebud, Poppy, Rumi, Pearl, Sundance, Saffron, Quito, Mambo, Camille, Luna, Ava, Jasmine, Yoshi, Cameo, Lucia, Raffaella, Trixie, Tally, Gaia, Lotus, Petunia, Annabelle, Davey or Dixie.
Copyright © 2017 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.