Some thoughs about pets for a Tuesday night

I’ve written about my functional names for pets in my book, and on my blog. When I was younger, I had a beagle named Bugle. Now, you may wonder, why would a function-oriented kid like me name a beagle Bugle? Well, the simple answer is, I already had two other dogs. One was named Pug, and the other was Beagle. So this other beagle came along, and I had to name him something, and I picked Bugle.

My repertoire of words was limited at that time, more so than today, and Bugle was just the next similar-sounding word after Beagle in my internal dictionary, so Bugle he became. Now, today, with thousands of words at my command, who knows what that dog would have ended up as if I had to name him again?

Down in Georgia, on the farm, we always had a lot of dogs. Most farms, the dogs lived under the porch, but our porch was concrete, solid, so they just lived all around. We had peacocks, too, to kill the snakes. Those peacocks didn't come when you called them, but I named them anyway. One and Two. I didn't name the snakes.

By and by, my little brother (who I first named Snort, then renamed Varmint) was born, grew up and got himself a dog that you’ll meet again in my book. I say again because you're going to meet him right here, now. So when you read the book, it'll be "again," unless you're one of those that's already read the book. Getting back to the dog story, he named the animal Kitty Kitty. And you know what happened? My brother came all the way up here from New York to visit us hicks, and Kitty Kitty fell in a pool of road tar. And he went home with a new paint finish. And why did that happen? Because of the name.

I told you about the farm in Georgia, and then I said "come up, " when my brother was in New York. A few of you may wonder at the apparent incongruity of that seeming error. Well, the answer is simple. It's not an error. At some point prior to Kitty Kitty's visit, I relocated from the farm in Georgia to a house in rural Massachusetts. Still hicks, just northern ones instead of southern ones.

So he did indeed come up.

And shortly after, he gave that dog away, to some freaks. For all I know, they ate him. I never saw Kitty Kitty again. But I think of him, when I go to New York, and I pass those street vendors selling steaming meat snacks from beat-up silver carts at one in the morning, down by Times Square.

But up or down, my brother didn’t learn. He came up here again, and saw some of my old cars. He couldn’t see getting a car, but he liked the name, so he got an innocent animal and named him Bentley. And then he saw the dairy farms in Hadley, and he got another dog, and named him Cow. And that’s why he’s the way he is, right now. And the dogs are totally out of control, slobbering and running and jumping.

Those dogs remind me of something I’d tell Cubby, when he was little, and he got too disruptive. “Cubby,” I’d say, “when times get tough, it’s the noisiest kids that go in the stew pot first.” He wasn’t sure about that, but he’d generally quiet down, because you never know . . .

What about the alkies and the cokeheads? The ones that name dogs Panama Red or Michelob? I knew a guy with a dog named Michelob, and he’s in jail now. What a way to spend your fiftieth birthday, in the can for selling a bag of heroin to an undercover cop half your age.

When I was a kid, my neighbor had a brown dog they called Rusty. So I got some spray paint from our high school theatre department, the stuff you could paint kids with safely, and I painted the dog a nice shade of rust. And I put a racing stripe down the middle, to make him go faster.

My favorite dog was the old retriever, the one named Dog. But I'm sad to say Dog died a long time ago, and all we've got left is a crazy, blind, old poodle named Poodle.


Holly Kennedy said…
I had a neighbor who adopted a black lab puppy. He named him Licky because the dog licked his face when he bent down to pet him.

Hard to fathom, huh?
Stephen Parrish said…
For anyone who still doesn't understand what "distinctive voice" means, this post is a textbook example.
Polly Kahl said…
Between your post and Stephen Parrish's blog youtube video of cats that talk, I'm bustin' a gut here. 'Scuse me, got to go get a kleenex and wipe my eyes.
The stew pot? That's a parenting classic. Truly! We named our dachsund, Baron Von Bruno. The AKC alerted us that there were 23 others. Therefore he became Baron Von Bruno XXIV - long dog, long name. Until my Grandmother pointed out her Grandmother's maiden name was Bruno. Oops.

A friend had a cat named "JC." Stood for "Just cat." Right up your alley, yes, John?

Colleen said…
After moving to Northern Quebec yet before learning French, my parents bought a dog of indeterminate parentage. All the French kids called him "Pitou" so that's what we named him. Turns out it was French slang for "dog." Our next dog was named Mutt after Farley Mowat's "Dog Who Wouldn't Be." Such a creative bunch we were.
I once had a psychotic cat named "Mouse" who had an identity crisis. I didn't name her---I adopted her and she came with the name. She was a psycho attack cat who bit me in my sleep. I think she was trying to prove she was indeed a cat and not a mouse.

As a kid, I had an Old English Sheepdog/terrier mix named Rover. Yes, Rover. People do actually call dogs Rover in real life, not just in 1950s sitcoms. We didn't name him, either---my parents adopted him after he was abandoned by a neighbor who moved away.

One of my dad's many ex-wives owned a dumb-as-rocks Irish Setter named Katy. Katy figures briefly in my upcoming memoir, WACKO. Katy was likely the dumbest dog who ever lived, and she was crazy, too. She thought she was a fashion model.

One of these days, I'll own a normal dog with a normal name, like Sport, or something.
Kanani said…
I had a black lab.
My son named him.
The dogs name was
Herb Spaghetti.
I have no idea.

So we just called him Herb.
Now the only problem was that we had an elderly neighbor named Herb.
So I'd go outside and say, "Herb, get back here!"

And sometimes my neighbor Herb would be in the yard and he'd hear his name. As in "WHAT is she shouting about now?"

Now, Chester and Louie are named because chester is chestnut color and Louie has one blue eye. So, Lou-eye, blue eye or so it was supposed to be.

And yes, I believe they liked you book VERY much. Each night they sit out on the top of the hill and bark into the valley about it to all their dog friends!
ssas said…
And I put a racing stripe down the middle, to make him go faster.

That there was friggin' brilliant.


My brother had a dog named Clark.

as in: Look what we found in the park in the dark we took him home and named him Clark.

Yes, they did indeed find him in a park in the dark. Damn tough dog, too; got shot and lived to tell about it.

Oh, and they had a runt goat they called Goatley.
Anonymous said…
My repertoire of words was limited at that time, more so than today, and Bugle was just the next similar-sounding word after Beagle in my internal dictionary, so Bugle he became. Now, today, with thousands of words at my command, who knows what that dog would have ended up as if I had to name him again?

The only similar-sounding word I can think of at the moment is Bagel. A dog named Bagel could be amusing.

I've had several pets, but named ony two of them (the others already had names). They were both cats, and I got them when I was 5; the first cat got named Milo, after the cat in the movie Milo and Otis. My parents tried to explain to me that Milo wasn't a suitable name for a female cat, but to no avail. The other cat got named Beigefur, even though he was more orange, because beige was my favorite color at the time.
The Anti-Wife said…
My first dog on my own was a birthday present so I named her Happy. I decided I liked positive names, so my next dog (now 14) was named Rosie. Belle was already named and it fits her because she's a ding-a-ling.
The Muse said…
Great post, John.

Yes you can tell a lot about a person by their pets, their choice of pets, and their naming of the animal. I currently have 3 dogs, one German shepherd named Sedona and 2 apricot colored Pomeranians called Cheyenne and Savannah. They are fluffy walking slippers. I have always liked toy breeds perhaps because I relate to their small stature and feistiness being only 5’1”. Most postmen will tell you though that it is the little yappy dogs that usually attack them. Nearly all toy breeds have been bred down from large dogs so they still think that they are large in their minds. They often have the courage of their ancestors. Although, I have nicknamed the little dogs my "kittens" so I kind of understand that idea of deviant names. I love to travel so I guess that is why I chose names of places. In the dog show world you can find some really interesting long names. My female Pom’s show name is "Bobbi's Gone with the Wind" Her sister’s names are Bobbi’s Breeze and Whisper. Hence we shortened it to Savannah.

Show names must only be 30 characters long to fit into the AKC form and must state the kennel or breeder first. Wouldn't that be interesting if we humans were required to name our children with our kennel or our breeding line as a prefix? Most show names are witty and mischievous. Savannah's line of Poms come from "Starfire's Wicked Mean and Nasty" aka "Luther" He sounds like a real "Bad Dog." Also it is against the AKC rules to name a poodle, "Poodle". (I know you Aspies don’t like to conform.) No breed names. No obscenities. No Male, Stud, Sire, Bitch, Dam, or Female in the prefixes of names. No use of Champion, Champ, or Sieger or any other show term. And lastly no Roman Numerals can be included in a dog’s name.

Now John, if you were a dog and we had to register your AKC name, what would your parents have named you??? What kind of dog would you be? (I know this sounds like a question from Barbara Walters.) People are supposed to resemble their pets. You don't look at all like a poodle. Don't tell me that you would be some kind of crazy mixed breed that wouldn't fit into a specific category and that you would be out wondering loose in the wild, scavenging for scraps of food. I know this is difficult to categorize yourself as a pampered pedigree with papers; and I’m sure that you are against in line breeding. But, perhaps you are registered with the UKC, which has newer more exotic breeds. Moreover, imagine that you were truly domesticated and could choose a breed of dog to be...

The Muse said…
This is my "kitten" Savannah.
John Robison said…
I have considered what 35-letter name I would choose, with Robison's up front, and it is:

Robison’s Resplendent Eater of Cats

And I would be one of those big wolly dogs, Samoyeds I think they are called.
Kelley said…
Our cat is named "Sir", just because I get a cheap kick out of saying "Yes, Sir" or "No, Sir."
Tena Russ said…
John, I have three dogs in my novel. The first is a German shepherd who only has one ear that stands up. His name is Tonto. Another is a canister-shaped Dachshund named Chutzpah. The third is a Cairn terrier named Lug Nut.

Anonymous said…
I have to agree with Polly about needing the kleenex from laughing so hard! Great post John.

And muse, I almost fell off my chair when you mentioned using breeder names for children because I used to work with family names on a regular basis. Would you believe that this country is infested with families whose surnames are: Turnipseed; Lettuce; Onion. And the horrible habit we have of giving our offspring the title of Jr, etc., when our own name was one bandied all over the playground in childish rhymes. How someone can saddle a perfectly innocent child with some of the names I've seen I'll never understand! If you hated your name why in Goddess's name would you pass it on??!!
The Muse said…
Interesting question, Polly's friend. In the dog show world breeders select names that use their kennel as a way of advertising their offspring in the show ring so that they can breed more puppies. It is pride of ownership. Sometimes 2 kennels will combines their kennel names when they name a litter, such as my male Pom's name is "Char's Finch's Li'l Cheyenne." But the breeders do choose their own kennel names. There is so much opportunity for playful wordplay and use of puns in selecting a show title. That’s why I challenged John.

Moreover, there is SO much in a name. The use of surnames is really an ownership thing. When I got married I did not change my last name or hyphenate it for this reason. Although I did agree to give my son his father’s last name. In this patriarchal society the male of the species finds it necessary to stake claim in its offspring and needs confirmation of who sired the child. (After all Motherhood is irrefutable fact and Fatherhood is fiction.) Furthermore, in the olden days women were considered a man's property, simply chattel. (I told my husband who is from the Deep South that I would take his name- if he would take mine! Well, that settled that.) I have one of those very distinctive last names that people never, ever forget; but I still did not want to change it. I have grown fond of its uniqueness. I’m glad that I was saddled with it. Kids had loads of fun mocking me when I was a child. But alas, adversity builds character.

Nevertheless when I was attacked, because I am one of those feisty toy breeds I barked back clever comebacks, circled their feet, nipped at their ankles, leaped in the air, and made them lose their balance, stumble, trip,... and eventually retreat in bewilderment. Evolution has given toy breeds with odd names other defensive traits for survival such as the courage of their ancestors, very sharp teeth, and a quick wit to survive in this dog eat dog world!


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