The Art of Pet Names
We have a dog. The dog was a gift to my wife before she had the unfortunate distinction of being my wife (I hear self-deprecation is sexy these days). We had the dog three years prior having any kids.
I had the name for the dog already picked out. My wife put up no fight over it. It was a name I’d had in mind for quite some time. You see, my father loved dogs but was allergic to them, so I never had one growing up but dreamed of the day I would own my own home and be able to have a dog waiting for me when I returned. Of course, I may have felt differently had I known then that dogs don’t wait by the door to lavish you with affection so much as they wait for you to feed them, walk them and pick up their crap. When you really look at the whole relationship, it screams Stockholm Syndrome.
Regardless, whenever I call my dog’s name (his proper name, not the other names I sometimes call him) I’m proud of it. I like his name. It’s a quality pet name.
I tend to like naming pets regular human first names. Fred, Cletus, Jesse, Walter, Truman, Daisy, Elvis, Brutus and Ginger all work for me as pet names. Feel free to use them. I also like to use the name of a different animal. A dog named Bear or Snake, a goldfish named Jackal, a housecat named Gazelle or a hamster named Rhino (I stole that last one from Bolt, so sure me) (Note to Disney: Please don’t sue me). I suppose there’s a sort of ironic quality to it that I like. I feel that by being clever with your pet’s name you somehow transfer that cleverness over to the animal.
Recently, while at work, I found a Northern Brown Snake outside of a restaurant, about to be stepped on. I caught the snake and placed it in a bag, determined to bring it home to show my sons. To be clear, by “show” I mean cause them to be so enamored with it that my wife would have no recourse but to suddenly allow a writhing reptile, the likes of which she would never normally allow to set…stomach?...in her house, to establish permanent residency. So, as luck (and by luck I mean emotional manipulation) would have it, we now have a small pet snake.
Upon first capturing the beast, it had occurred to me that I should name it. By naming it, I would exert my dominion over it as master. But, a co-worker suggested that allowing my sons to name the snake would be half the fun. It would make them feel like the snake was theirs and that the experience of caring for a pet that they named would feel like real family time.
I felt like a heel for thinking I’d name the snake without them. How inappropriate would it be to show up with an already named animal from off the street? It would be like walking in with some vagrant and introducing him as your family waited for you at the dinner table.
“Hi honey. Hello, boys. This is Arthur. He was holding a sign along the expressway exit that said he was hungry and I thought it a strong coincidence that I was on my way home for dinner. Oh, and he’s going to be staying with us for awhile.”
Well, at least that’s how it suddenly seemed to me, like I would be placing an enormous, completely unexpected burden upon my family.
So, even though I doubted my boys would listen to any of my clever name suggestions, I decided to let them name the snake I was planning on introducing to the household. That’s not to say I didn’t try. Names like Thadeus, Elroy, Hector, Leonard and even cuter names like Sheds and The Incredible Mister Slithers were whispered by yours truly into my sons ears as they thought of what to name it. To my frustration, not a single one stuck.