In my case it explains why I celebrate Frankie’s birthday on the 4th of July.
Frankie is a rescue and he came prenamed, after the golf partner of his rescuer’s husband. Frankie’s not a duffer-type pup — although he has been known to pee on the greens at resort courses — but the name nevertheless suited the little guy to a tee. So I kept it.
But of course it turned out to just be the base for the riffs I play on it. Frankie soon became Frankie Doodle, a spin on Yankee Doodle, because I thought he was dandy. And, as the chorus of the George M. Cohan song goes,
I‘m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle, do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam’s,
Born on the Fourth of July.
Not everyone comes with prenamed dogs, however, which leads me to dispense some advice (adapted from Chapter 2 of AM I BORING MY DOG).
Entire books have been devoted to dog names, replete with etymologies. According to a Dogster.com survey, the most common labels for today’s trendy pup are:
For girls: Lucy, Bella, Daisy, Molly, Maggie, Chloe, Sophie, Lola, Bailey, Roxy.
For boys: Buddy, Max, Jake, Charlie, Rocky, Jack, Bailey, Toby, Buster, Bear
But it’s best to find a name that fits the personality and appearance of the actual dog who has taken up residence with you.
Along with sussing out the suitability of a name to your dog’s looks and personality, other factors to consider are:
- You will be using the name in public.
Although Sweetcheeks might be endearing at home, you run the risk of humiliation — and of having unsavory strangers respond — if you use it when you’re shopping with your Maltese in Home Depot.
Be careful, too, of sound-a-likes. My friend Clare had always liked the name Venus, which suggested both strength and beauty — until, that is, she heard it used on the beach. It took a while for her to realize that the dog’s owner wasn’t attempting to summon a male sex organ.
The converse holds true, too — that is, you might regret choosing a name primarily for its public effect. I’d always wanted to call a dog “Stella” no matter what the gender — so I could bellow down the street a la Stanley Kowalski. Never mind that I’m not generally a bellower and that not everyone has seen A Streetcar Named Desire. I was convinced it would be an endless source of amusement for me and everyone I encountered.
Luckily, I was saved from my worst instincts when I got a prenamed dog.
- Irony gets old quickly.
Lots of people think it’s funny to call their Chihuahuas “Tiger” or their Great Danes “Tiny.” One man I pass while walking Frankie always says “Hi, Killer” to my shy, pint-sized guy. I was amused maybe the first 10 times he did it, not so much after that.
- Pop culture references also get dated, fast.
Except in the case of Elvis. I personally know two canine Elvises (Elvi?) whose owners are generations apart.
- A name shouldn’t be too long or complex.
Dogs have fairly short attention spans when it comes to language (as opposed to food; your dog’s gaze might remain fixed on your plate for the entire duration of your dinner). By the time you’re done saying “Titus Andronicus” or “Princess Grace,” your dog will have stopped looking at you and returned to licking his or her privates. One or two syllables — anything you can shout quickly in an emergency — should suffice.
- A name should not sound too similar to a command.
If you name a dog Don, for example, he will either spend a lot of time in a down stay position or look at you quizzically whenever you try to put him in one.
- A name should not sound too much like that of a noncanine member of your family.
Unless, of course, you discover that the similarity helps resolve a child’s discipline issues.
- A name shouldn’t be chosen as a tribute to someone who’s still alive.
What might seem like a good idea in puppyhood can turn dicey if the dog becomes fat and flatulent. It’s also a good idea to steer clear of the recently departed, lest relatives feel their kin has been disrespected.