Monday, October 12, 2015

Good dog

To me, the most important part of owning a pet is naming it. (This is also true about having kids, and let me just say, I nailed those names.) 

Something about naming brings out the braggart in me, such that I have been known to refer -- not once, but many times -- to my "gift for naming."

To be honest, aside from the kids' names, my record is spotty. It began long ago with Twinkle (parakeet), hit an early high mark with Wallis (cat named for Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor), lost steam with Daisy and Oscar (short-term dogs), ventured into the literary with Seymour (parrot named after Seymour Glass in Salinger's Franny and Zooey), and finally achieved distinction with a couple of cats in my twenties, named Pick and Meter for no reason except that I was done with dull pet names, forever. 

In this, I was strongly influenced by a Dorothy Parker biopic that showed the authoress slinking around New York with a cigarette and a boozy drawl, having affairs (oddly this part had no influence on me at all) while carrying a terrier named Rags. This seemed like the best possible name for a dog.

The resulting Rags Theory of Animal Naming had two rules: 

1. No human names. To name a dog "Mabel" or a cat "Jack" was to insult its animal nature. Names like "Misty" were borderline, since no human being should have that name.

2. Names should be offbeat and poetic, with only a loose association with the pet. "Rags" was perfect because a hairy white dog looked, just a little, like a pile of rags. 

[Bonus rule #3: Ironic old-school names like Spot or Rover were better than human names, but marked you as a hipster with no real ideas of your own.]

These days, my kids and I can endlessly discuss naming the dog. We do not have a dog. We are just putting in the legwork for that day. 

(In much the same way, my mom used to sit around talking dog names with us. Her favorite name was Go Away, allowing the owner to say: "Go Away! Come here!" This not only met the Rags criteria, but suggested an entire model for human relationships. Though when we actually got a dog, we didn't name it Go Away. We named it Trouble.)  

So the kids and I kick names around. Because my son likes Asian culture, his choice is always something like Yin-Yang. Because my daughter is six years old, her choice could be anything: a random series of sounds, the name of her teacher's dog, a four-word catch phrase from a TV show, a food she ate for lunch, or she could simply say: "Let's name him . . . Puppy!"

Not to boast about it, but my dog names are much better than theirs. I am just operating on a "different level." 

While puttering around today, I thought of another good dog name. The kids' first dog(!), it would be Uno. Their second dog, Dos.  And so on.  

As we collected dogs over the years (the old ones dying off or running away), we would soon get to where we could say: "Quatro! Cinco! Sit!" That would be fun.

I have not poll-tested these ideas with the kids, but there is plenty of time for that. Till then I will just bide my time, inventing and stockpiling names . . . 

When we finally get a dog, I wonder who's going to take care of it? 


(Image: Franz Marc, "Dog Lying in the Snow" [c. 1910, public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

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