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What’s in a Name?
By Andi Godfrey
In one of Bruce Fogle’s early publications ‘Pets and their People’ he made the observation that pet names often told him a lot about the owner, their profession, their political persuasion or their choice in music. A pub landlord might name his dog after an alcoholic beverage such as Whisky, Guinness, or Vodka or an actor might name his pet after a character he has played on stage like Sir John Gielgud who famously called his Pekinese, Caesar. Political preferences might range from Winston, a popular name for the British bulldog, to Obama, Mao and Plato. Among the musical favourites, Beethoven, Mozart, Dylan and Elvis all rate quite highly!
Names can indicate the role that the owner would wish their dog to play such as Blossom, Precious, Rebel and Tinker. By the same token, owners that want their dogs to appear aggressive might choose ‘hard’ names such as Spike, Satan and Rambo. I am willing to bet that most vets would tremble at the sound of a ‘Tyson’ being called into his consultation room!
When picking your puppy’s name, it is always a good idea to try calling it out loud first. Somehow a name with two syllables such as Fido or Digger has a much more enticing sound when teaching recall than a monosyllabic moniker. But more than two syllables can be trying too. Once I had a Majorcan friend whose regular boast was that he “was the first man on points at the Lido (in Paris)”. Twice a year he would take care of a friend’s little mongrel with the name, 'Meecham Peacham Minnie Woots' and he would insist in calling for this dog in a loud, shrill voice in the middle of Kensington Gardens.....in his words “Imaageeeen!”
Once I heard a dog trainer recommend that one should always chose a name with a hard consonant at the beginning such as a T or a D, because he believed it had more impact when training. This may be well and good but it was nearly my downfall one December afternoon some years back. I was visiting friends in Hastings and for some reason or other did not have a car with me, which was just as well as it snowed heavily during the night and the next day, when I was due to depart, there was about a foot of snow on the ground. Earlier in the year I had had an unfortunate accident when I lost my front teeth and I was wearing a temporary plate until I could afford the bridgework. I was then in my twenties with all the arrogance of a reasonably attractive young woman. My German shepherd was walking with me and she was off the lead as we slid down a steep hill to the station. To a dog, there was no way of knowing where the road was and I saw her run out to the middle of where it roughly should have been. I had visions of a car swinging around the corner and being unable to brake in the ice so I shouted, “Tasha!” putting great emphasis on the T. My front teeth shot out and disappeared into the snow. I spent a frantic half an hour sifting through the flakes until I found them again. Think of my humiliation if I had had to travel back to London on the train without them!
Older but wiser, I now own a dog whose name begins with B. Still a hard consonant but a safer one as the teeth remain strongly guarded by the lips, however, I have been criticised for calling my current shepherd Berkeley. When she was a cute fluffy puppy, people would say,
“And what do you call her?”
“Berkeley.” I would reply.
“Barclay! What a horrid name for a dog!” or, “How can you call a female dog, Barclay?”
I had never thought that either Berkeley or Barclay was a male or female. It is true that the only human I have heard called by that name was male, but on the whole I see it as being fairly androgynous, so my stock reply is,
“Do you find it strange to call me Andi?”
If only my critics would wait and hear the real reason for me calling my dog Berkeley, then they might even think that the name is romantic.
During the war my father lived with his mother in a flat in Wanstead and a young woman called Brenda lived above. My father played the piano by ear and being aware that sound travelled through to the other flat, he attempted to woo the young lady with a song entitled “The Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” His method of ‘courting’ must have worked as Brenda became my mother. Many years later, I was to work on a show called “Three Men On A Horse” at the Vaudeville Theatre. During the scene drop and interval a jazz band would play songs of the ‘Thirties and Forties”. One day, one of the band members asked me if I had any requests, so I put forward ‘the Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’. What a strange coincidence that the leading man of the show became my husband!
Naturally, any name you call your dog is entirely up to you but I suggest you always think twice before finalising your decision. Will you still be a fan of Micha in a decade’s time? Will your allegiances remain with the liberal party if you call your dog Clegg? Do you really want to stand in the park shouting for Jerwood?
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