Thursday, June 17, 2010

Naming Puppy, or "Rules for Naming Dogs"

It is so difficult to name pets, I think.

The thing is, it's awkward when you give a pet a person-name. Jess and I had our cat Abby, and it seemed to just be kind of awkward because sometimes there are little girls named Abby, and I just think "Hey, I had a terrible cat named Abby!"

I would have liked to call our puppy "Gracie" because I think that's a cute name for a dog, but one of the girls in J and I's primary class is named Grace. How weird would that be to name our dog Gracie and then tell our primary kids about it.
Me: "Brother K and I got a puppy!"
J: "We did!"
Kids: "Oh!" "What did you name it?"
Me: ... "Gracie!"
Kids: "Like Grace in our class?"
Grace: "That's my name!"
Us: .... [?]

It's a little different if you're copying a person name for a person, because then it's just like you liked the name. Dogs are not people, though. Like, how would everyone I know feel if I named my chickens after them? Somehow it makes a weird association that doesn't belong. Like, if your name is Sam and I named a chicken after you, and I pretend it's actually named SAMantha, but I always call her Sam. Then I talk about Sam laying eggs, and maybe I share Sam's eggs with Sam, and eventually I have to eat Sam because she doesn't lay enough and it's time to have some fresh chicken. Like, do I invite my friend Sam to come eat dinner that day? (Because it was the bird named after him, so he should get to enjoy some?) Or do I especially, certainly, most definitely not invite him for dinner that day? (Because we're eating his namesake?) The whole thing is just a little weird. Dogs are different, because we're not eating our puppy, but still.*


So, people names that are uncommon are okay, because people name kids weird things anyway. You could name your dog "Comeheregirl!" and some lady in downtown New York could name her daughter "Comeheregirl!" too, anyway.

Tracy and Freddy named their dog Riley, and that seemed like an okay dog name. Dog names that are people names but also common dog names are okay, because if you're a lady who names your kid Riley, you've just got to know that your precious baby is going to share the name with slobbery dogs. Jake? Same thing. But you name your kid Jacob, usually, not Jake, and everyone calls him Jake, but nicknames are fair game for dogs, so your kid can still be dignified.

I kind of like old names for pets. It makes them charming, I think. I wanted to name our dog Betsy. J thought it sounded like a name for a cow. I said no, that's Bessy, not Betsy, but he still didn't like it. I also liked Dolley, because she's going to be a big dog that just kind of flops on the couch, like a doll. J said no, that's a sheep name. I guess it sometimes is.

For a few minutes J and I both liked 'Sadie.' But it turns out Jess likes that name for a kid, and it's not nice to use the name your sister actually really likes and specifically mentions when you're naming your dog.**

I also really like giving pets names that are somehow meaningful. Paley is named after something on purpose. When you're naming things, it does not matter what the actual definition of the word is.*** What I mean is, if the definition of the name 'Susan' is believed to come from Susanna which is believed to come from 'shoshan' in Hebrew, comes from the Egyptian word which means "lotus flower," who cares? Because your daughter Susan is not going to become a flower, and nobody else will know (or care) what the name meant**** hundreds of years ago.

What I mean is, I think the best names for dogs are ones that mean something to me. What I really wanted for Puppy was a name like 'Dewalt[e]' or 'Makita' ('Kita' for short?) since I like tools and want to be BUILDING THINGS. (Or 'Easa' for like Easement since that's a real estate word and I'm doing property management these days. Or 'Cara' to be short for Carolyn, who was our excellent real estate agent, and after Cara my stylist*****. Or 'Beck[a]' because I like Glen Beck. Eh. But people would think it was Becca, and that's too close to a people name, since there are SO many 'Becky's.)

None of those were quite right, though. So instead, we decided to go with a name that was inspired by this book:

We are calling our puppy Chalcy, after one of Kyra Sundance's dogs that co-author. The actual Chalcy even has an author page on

When I was buying puppy stuff, I saw this book and another book by Kyra Sundance, 51 Puppy Tricks. I bought the puppy one because it seemed more geared towards people with puppies. One of the reviews on Amazon says not to buy the puppy one because the dog one includes all of the puppy ones too, so I felt bad for a few minutes for buying the puppy one instead of the dog one. But actually, the puppy one uses a lot of clicker training, which I knew we wanted to do, and it has instructions and advice specific to puppies, which makes me feel more confident about doing this whole process.

So anyway, J and I both liked the way 'Chalcy' sounds and it is:
a) not a people name;
b) not too many syllables;
c) doesn't sound too much like 'Paley';
d) doesn't sound too much like "sit" or "stay" or "down" or other things we want her to know later; and
e) a good daily reminder for J and I of what we want our puppy to be like (and what she will be like, sort of, if we are Diligent Dog Owners and do what we need to to be Responsible and train her like Good Dog Owners do).

So far, the only problem with the name is that it sounds similar to 'Chelsea' so when people ask what her name is and I say 'Chalcy' they say "Oh, Chelsea? How nice!" But her name is Not Chelsea. But it really doesn't matter too much, because random friendly shoppers at PetSmart don't actually care what her name is and they are not going to see her again anyway. So it usually isn't worth correcting, and once she has her tag, people will read it and understand anyway.

* It almost seems a little bit to me like those dolls that people put pins in to cast spells or something. Like, you're here against your will, or something.
** When you're naming children, if you're pregnant first, you can use whatever name you want, even if your sister likes the name. But when you're naming dogs, that's not nice, and you're not supposed to, even if the person who likes the name is not expecting.
*** Unless unknown definitions mean something special to you.
**** (Supposedly, probably, people think)
***** Who also had (and loved!) a Dane when she was younger. We talked all about it when I had my hair done last week. She's fantastic.


Optimistic. said...

If you actually did name a chicken Sam, I'd be very pleased to be able to come up and eat it.

(Still love the footnotes!)

Jessica said...

Oh, you actually could/should have used Sadie.

1. I'm not pregnant.
2. I like the name but, we're not allowed to use it anyway because Mitch says it's a dog name.
3. If you had a dog named Sadie, maybe I'd agree with Mitch.
4. And then we wouldn't have to even discuss the name ever.

Shannon Mollie said...

Hehe, this reminds me of two things :)

1) When my grandma told me how glad she was that my parents didn't name me Morgan, because that was a dog's name, and I was horrified because that was also my best friend's name, and when you're 13 those things matter a lot.

2) When my family got our first dog (a SPOTTED spaniel/heeler mix), we made a list of possible names. 50 names. Among my sisters' suggestions were "Christmas" and "Stripes."

Heather said...

I am so glad you explained all the rules of naming. I might have made a complete fool of myself.

But really, you are so fun. :)

krebscout said...

Can I eat Sam too?

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