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What’s in a Name?

Your dog’s name may say more about you than about him or her

We love our dogs. Forty-six million of us share our homes with 78 million dogs. So when the constellation Sirius brings us the Dog Days of summer, Bay Weekly goes to the dogs to pander to that audience.
    Chuck or Chester; Cheyenne or Cassie; Mack, Magic, Max or Moe; Nipper or Norman; Roscoe or Rusty; Winston or Whiskey; Brandy or Bourbon; Brown Dog or Bruno; Poncho, Polly, Peaches or Peanuts; Sandy or Sophie; Sugar or Scamp; Snuffy or Sparky; Dexter, Tucker, Cooper or Caper. Slip Mahoney or Snaps, as Allen Delaney called his first dog, here decked out in Delaney’s first wife’s wedding veil ...
    Whatever we call our pets, the names we give them reveal the roles we assign them in our lives, according to Veterinary Pet Insurance’s interpretation of its database of more than 485,000 insured pets.
    Max, Bella, Bailey, Buddy, Molly, Lucy, Maggie, Chloe, Daisy, Charlie and Oliver top the list of both dog and cat names.
    “Given that pets are considered family members, it makes sense that pet owners are selecting human-oriented names like Max or Charlie,” supposed company spokesman Curtis Steinhoff.
    Of course, their enrollment in a pet insurance company means those pets are more babied by their humanizing owners than your average come-what-may animal companions.
    Still, the Bay Weekly anthology of pet names bolsters the notion that our pets, especially our dogs, are part of the family. Most of our dogs bear human names, if not exactly the ones we’d give to our children.    Movie reviewer and calendar editor Diana Beechener, named for Princess Diana, bestowed the name of a favorite movie character on her wire-haired fox terrier. She might, she said, want to call a kid Soze (short for Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects), but she thought a dog might bear the name better.
    My Max and Moe are also family names, the beginning and end of Uncle Massimo Olivetti’s first name. Husband Bill Lambrecht would gladly have given either (or both) to kids, except we had dogs instead.
    I don’t know whether Uncle Max would have considered it an honor to share his name with dogs; he didn’t live to hear the connection. However, my mother Elsa couldn’t bear to name a pet after her brother Max, even when her beloved son-in-law Bill made the suggestion.
    Mother’s childless great friend Kay King, my godmother, named most of her dogs after girlfriends. There was always a Lindy and a Ginny, but somehow never an Elsa.
    Even sound-alikes can be too much to bear. Writer Sandy Anderson’s daughter changed a puppy’s name from Mandy to Nikki because her mother “was tired of thinking she was being yelled at.”
    Diana’s mother’s longtime friend Eve, on the other hand, probably thought it swell that a fox terrier she bred shared her name.
    All those Sophies, Chloes and Bellas — the names of girls both pretty and classy — must have alter-ego projections, don’t you think? Sporting Life columnist Dennis Doyle, companion of German shorthaired pointer Sophie, hasn’t answered me on that one.
    Before we started naming our dogs for people, we gave them the names of qualities we admire. Fido for fidelity; Lance for heroism; Lucky for a talisman; Phantom or Shadow for stealth; Trusty for dependability; Pal or Buddy for friendship.
    Bill Clinton named his chocolate Lab Buddy because, as President Harry Truman said, If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.
    Thinking of Bill Clinton reminds me that dogs’ virtues aren’t the only qualities we admire, judging by the names we give our dogs. Rascal, Scamp, Caper, Bandit are all part of the anthology, proving we like it when our dog has spunk (Spunky) and spark (Sparky).
    Comedy and irony are part of the inspiration for a good dog name, if not always a good dog’s name. Husband Bill gave Slip Mahoney the perfect moniker for a beagle-German shepherd mix whose joy in life was giving everybody the slip while generally behaving like a Bowery Boy.
    It wasn’t for good looks that mother named my beloved childhood pound-pooch Fuddy Duddy.
    The naming impulse also rises from qualities too pronounced to be overlooked. It doesn’t take much guessing to figure how Nipper got his name. Brown Dog is another of those clear giveaways. Like Spot. Except the last Spot I knew was an all-white bichon frise.
    Sometimes, we just want to have fun, and nobody knows better than a dog how to have fun.
    That must be the impulse behind the names Coconut and the loan shark Chili Palmer, coonhounds belonging to dear friends of new ad rep Anje Sand.
    Cat names? Now that’s another story and one we promise to tell you another day.
    Till then, send us your favorite dog names, with pictures, please: editor@bayweekly.com.