There was a recent article in the Washington Post titled The Name Game: For these pets, inspiration came in many forms, November 23, 2020. It got me thinking, what is the local take on naming your pets.
Dog walking turns out to be a very social activity, cats, not so much, and having walked dogs twice a day for 15 years, you kinda learn stuff. In my own circle of dog walking friends, I became curious as to how the dogs I know got their names.
Reflecting on my own experience, naming one’s pet evolves over time. If you think about it, at least personally, it’s a bit of a snapshot of contemporary pop culture.
First, a confession: before I got dogs we were dyed in the wool cat people. My mother had a habit of finding homes for cats in need. Many of those needs were met at our own house. My earliest cat I remember how it got its name was a kitten named Spike. It was the mid-70s and we had adopted a big old tough tomcat. He was tough, but also — cool. (it was the 70s). Cool was in, thanks to Happy Days and “The Fonz”.
For those fans of Happy Days, you may or may not remember that the Fonz had a little nephew called Spike. Our big tomcat took the new kitten under his wing, Spike seemed perfect. I named another cat named Kizzy, for those who remember Kizzy was the daughter of Kunta Kinte of the miniseries Roots. As I remembered it, Kizzy meant to stay put in Mandinkan, Kunta Kinte’s native language. We also had, and I’m not sure why, a cat we named Irving R Levine, NBC Washington.
Pet names also are a reflection of the owner, obviously. My mother-in-law had a cat named Puncy (pronounce Punky). He was a white cat with markings that resembled commas and an exclamation point. My mother-in-law was an English teacher, so… it made sense.
We moved on to dogs when I became an adult. Our first dog was named Milo. He was named after my wife’s grandfather.
As for the neighborhood, we have one dog named Sam Adams. It was never explained to me whether he was named after the beer or the historical figure. We have another dog named Bee. Bee got her name as a concession to her owner’s husband. It turns out the husband really didn’t want to get a dog and only acquiesced if he could name her. The name he chose was Bitch. Which is the correct term for a female dog, but still… Her name was eventually shortened to “B”, or Bee to her friends.
Some dogs from a different generation in the neighborhood were Cody, Jake, Kipper, Riley, Cooper. There was also a yellow lab in our neighborhood named Dallas. Believe it or not, Dallas’ owner was a bit of a football fan, and guess what his favorite team is?
I asked the current dog walkers how they named their friends and got some great stories.
Cali and Nessie, a Siberian Husky rescue and a Border Collie. Cali was named for California, which was interesting since at the time they were living in the Netherlands. Siberian Husky living in the Netherlands named for California, why not? Their other dog is named Nessie. Nessie came from a breeder in Belgium and there was a little confusion as to the registration of dogs. The year Nessie was born all dogs in Belgium needed an “N” name for the official registration. They settled on Nessie due to Scotland’s history with herding dogs and since the kids had been to Scotland, they thought they would name her after the Loch Ness monster. By the way, after our recent snowstorm it was revealed that Cali doesn’t like the snow. A husky that doesn’t like snow? I keep playing the song from Rudolph in my head. “The Island of Misfit Toys.”
Colby is a rescue from Mississippi and was named Colby by his rescue foster. They like the name, it reminds them of his southern roots, and thought they would keep it.
Our dog Dodge was named at the shelter too. He was from Tennessee. He’s a big lumbering black lab and Dodge just seemed to fit, so we also kept it. He also has a tendency to run into people when he’s playing. At 95 pounds getting run into by Dodge is not trivial, so “dodging” him is not an unwise strategy.
Not all rescues keep their names. In the neighborhood we have Skylar, which was changed from Romana.
Then there is Thor, who the shelter originally called Ian. Ian was a name that had to change.
Thor was chosen after the family was reading from a generic dog name book. He had big paws and it just seemed to fit. Ironically, Thor comes from Germanic mythology—Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with lightning, thunder, storms. For the record, Thor the dog, is frightened of thunder.
Lexi was named by a family who had adopted her from Mississippi. The family just moved to Bedford from Lexington and Lexi seemed to fit.
Mojo got his name just by adding a couple of “o’s”. Mojo came from a shelter that had called him MJ. His current family didn’t think MJ was much of a name for a dog and after time the name morphed into Mojo.
Digby, a large white golden doodle, was the family’s second doodle. Their first doodle was named after a certain hockey player, Gretzky. It was decided a second hockey player dog name would be too much. A family member knew of a dog named Digby, add to that they had recently visited Digby Pines in Nova Scotia and the name was picked.
Keeping with the hockey player theme my sister had a Sheltie named Sandy. Sandy’s full name was Sandis Ozolinsh, as you probably guessed, he was named after the Latvian hockey player and not the other one. The strange part of the story is my sister ran into another Sheltie named Sandis Ozolinsh. How many dogs originating from the Shetland Islands in Scotland are named after Latvian hockey players?
Romeo, an Australian Shepard was named because of his energy and his cuddly disposition.
Molly, a Bernadoodle, was originally named “Candy Corn”. She was born just before Halloween. The family could not wait to change her name to Molly.
Some people take the literary route while naming their pets. I know two dogs named, I assume, after favorite book characters. Harper and Scout seems like a good guess for a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird. My wife had a cat named Emily Dickinson when we first met.
We’d love to hear about how your pet got their name. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know and we will be glad to write a new version of this.