Whole Dog Journal's Blog December 20, 2017

What's in a name?

Posted at 02:34PM - Comments: (30)

The breed rescue I’m fostering for has a policy that they use for naming the dogs in their care: All the dogs rescued in a given year are assigned a name that starts with a certain letter (or, in the case of the letters with few names, a few letters, like X, Y, or Z). In contrast, puppies in a litter (like the ones I have) are assigned names taken from songs from a favorite album. One of the rescue coordinators is a big Jimmy Buffett fan, so all the pups I’m fostering have been given names from a certain Jimmy Buffett record. These are generally temporary names, used just to market the dogs and pups on the rescue website and Facebook page. Most people end up re-naming the dogs once they are adopted.

Assign each one a name that uniquely fits each one! Ha ha ha!

Re-naming is in order, though, when someone brings home a newly adopted dog who has been assigned a name at random. The families who have adopted the first two of my foster puppies both asked: Is it okay if we change her name? Of course, please do! It’s not like I have spent enough time calling them by their individual Jimmy Buffett-themed names for them to recognize the sound. But it’s not just these families; when dogs in my local shelter have names, people always want to know if they can rename them. Unless it’s an older dog who super obviously recognizes his or her name and responds to it well, I think giving an animal a new name with his or her new home is appropriate – a clean slate!

I was glad to be given a list of temporary names to assign to the puppies, though, because I’m the most unoriginal namer in the world. I usually leave naming to my husband, who can be counted on for good names. When I asked him for a super friendly, happy name for our youngest dog, his first choice was perfect: Woody, after the cowboy in the Toy Story movies. Woody has just the right tone for our goofy, enthusiastic young dog. It would have been nice if it didn’t develop that Woody had a thing for chewing up anything and everything made of wood (an apple tree, a dog house, our deck, wooden picnic benches, our bamboo, etc., etc.) but that was surely a coincidence. It’s been suggested that perhaps a re-naming is in order – but I don’t truly think that will stop Woody’s fondness for chewing wood. That’s fading now, anyway, as he grows comfortable with his adult molars. He hardly ever chews up anything we really care about any more.

When Woody was getting his molars, he was desperate to chew on wood, any wood.

What’s your best re-naming story? 

Comments (30)

Our current two dogs were rescued one hour and three days of being put to sleep. Our first was given the name Java by the rescues because her coloring was like a cup of coffee. We decided on Merit because the game warden encouraged that she be saved by a rescue group. She road around with him in his vehicle for two weeks while he picked up strays. She was an hour from being put down when a husky rescue pulled her on the assistance of the warden. We renamed her Merit because we felt she was one worthy of saving. She proved us right, as she later became CGC and TDI certified and visited hospice patients and their families.
Our other dog was originally named White Cloud by the rescue because he was very fury and white. We did not feel like yelling that name every time we called him and chose Finnigan which means “small fair one”. When we bathed him, we found that he had not been brushed for a long time and most of the white was undercoat that came out. He ended up being more of a cream color. But the name fit as we often called him Finn or Finny for short. He has turned out to be our pickiest eater of all times. Even now after 7 years, we still never know from meal to meal if he is going to eat it or walk away. Now we call him Finiky Finn.

Posted by: Love My Rescues | December 30, 2017 7:32 PM    Report this comment

Years ago my rescue, AdoptABoxerRescue.com, got in a pair of boxers surrendered by their owners. They had names so we posted Sugar and Snaps on the website with their real names. Sadly, we were unable to place them as a pair. Sugar, the female, was adopted quickly. That left Snaps, the male, on the website for months. He was a good dog with no issues but I couldn't help think that his name did him a disservice. Although they had lived with children, what family wouldn't think twice about why a dog might have been named "Snaps". Names do matter.

Posted by: sandy@adoptaboxerrescue.com | December 29, 2017 6:22 PM    Report this comment

I worked at a shelter and was working with a small shar-pei mix the shelter had picked up as a stray and named Tuscon. She had to stay for several months due to health issues, and sort of responded to the name. One day I was walking her on leash and as she started pulling, I said, "Easy" to ask her to slow down. She whipped around and looked at me. This happened a couple more times so we changed her name to Edie, which must have been close to her original name because she always responded to it.

Posted by: hg | December 22, 2017 10:48 PM    Report this comment

Fostered a 6 month old brindle lab/Dane/mastiff/pit mix who became Galoot immediately. Ten years later, the clown shoes still fit.

Posted by: DarylJ | December 22, 2017 10:42 PM    Report this comment

When we adopted our rescue in September......we weren't intending to adopt, just look at a litter of puppies. Well, of course, THAT was our first mistake. So, off the top of our heads we said BB8 after the Star Wars robot that we love. But, of course it didn't fit her. So, we thought seriously. We wanted a name that would BE what we wanted her to be......quiet, calm, peaceful. Kyrri means just that (in Norse). But it seemed difficult to pronounce for us and she wasn't really responding to it. So, we settled on KoKo (which means 'most important one' in native American, Japanese and a few other languages) and is also the name of the gorilla that was taught sign language. It fits her and she responds to it, BUT we say it is her middle name because we STILL want her to be quiet, calm and peaceful, which we have high hopes for.....she's only 5 months old and so smart and precious but for a couple of 70-year-old ladies can be quite trying at times. Our patience is not what it used to be and to be honest, I think she's smarter than we are!

Posted by: Cathie Carroll | December 22, 2017 9:49 AM    Report this comment

Dogs who come to rescue with a name should keep their name. A foster family changed one of our rescue's dog's names without telling us. She was lost for two days. We had a group of volunteers searching for her. When we'd see her we'd get down low and call what we thought was her name..."Ruby". Come to find out when she was moved to our foster home after being caught in a trap, her paperwork listed her name as "Star". Can't help but think she would not have spent 4 nights out in the cold had we used her real name. Also, a name is a dog's history. Often the only thing they bring to rescue. Amend if needed, but don't change.

Posted by: johnsonpat | December 22, 2017 8:20 AM    Report this comment

Years ago my rescue, AdoptABoxerRescue.com, got in a pair of boxers surrendered by their owners. They had names so we posted Sugar and Snaps on the website with their real names. Sadly, we were unable to place them as a pair. Sugar, the female, was adopted quickly. That left Snaps, the male, on the website for months. He was a good dog with no issues but I couldn't help think that his name did him a disservice. Although they had lived with children, what family wouldn't think twice about why a dog might have been named "Snaps". Names do matter.

Posted by: sandy@adoptaboxerrescue.com | December 22, 2017 8:13 AM    Report this comment

We have had dogs forever. We had a sweet havanese named Talia, but lost her at four years old, an incredibly devastating loss. We were done with dogs. We went to a puppy-petting event at The Eldorado Pet Club, the owner wants every puppy to be petted by 200 people before they are released for adoption. We met a special, white puppy, but she was already spoken for. A week later, we went to another event, and Kerry, the owner came running up to us and she said, 'Do you still like that white puppy?', we said yes, and she said 'She's yours', the adoption had fallen apart. The puppy came to us named 'Lola', and that name wouldn't stand. We took her to a favorite winery, we told the wine club manager, Sarah, that we were looking for a new name for the puppy. Sarah took the puppy, and walked around for about ten minutes, came back and said, 'How about Tallulah?' Perfect, done! Tallulah has been the light in our lives, she's 5 1/2 years old now, and has her 'boy toy' Walter as her canine best friend. Tallulah is a living experiment for us as she's the only dog we've fed raw food, home made diet to since she was a puppy.

Posted by: Cosby | December 22, 2017 1:19 AM    Report this comment

When I adopted one of my first dogs, a friend told me how to help an old dog get used to a new name. You just add the new name onto the old one. (In this case, “Scruffy” became “Scruffy Sido” for a couple of months.) Then, after the dog gets used to the dual name, you gradually fade out the old name. Worked like a charm! Have used this method successfully on two other pre-named dogs of various ages.

Posted by: califgrl | December 21, 2017 11:49 PM    Report this comment

I adopted my girl, a black chow mix at our local Humane Society five years ago. She had been a heartworm-positive stray from the next county over. Her sweet, gentle personality got her transferred to the Humane Society for treatment. She was about 2 years old and was named Raindrop by Animal Services. She is black except for faint brown patches on her back that look like rain "spots". By the time I adopted her, she had been through heartworm treatment, and her first adopters waited 6-8 months to decide their son was allergic to her fur and returned her to the Humane Society. I decided not to change her name as she had had it for almost a year. And "Raindrop" is so original - I never would have thought of it!

Posted by: Rainy's Mom | December 21, 2017 11:01 PM    Report this comment

Thank you Rottweiler " Bambi" for 10 wonderful years ! And yes, you were as sweet and gentle and calm and beautiful as the deer in Disney movie .... You accomplished 14 Obedience titles, and you passed the Therapy test at one year old, visited Nursing homes! You will be forever in my heart and forever missed!

Posted by: Bambi's Mom | December 21, 2017 10:19 PM    Report this comment

My Labradoodle is named Cheyenne. Not my choice, named by my husband and at age 9, it fits her. I have two different elderly neighbors; one has repeatedly called her Dakota and the other has repeatedly called her Savannah. The neighbor who called her Savannah always kept treats on hand for Cheyenne and would call us over whenever he saw us out. He has recently passed and I have promised his widow that I would name my next dog Savannah.

Posted by: Cheyenne's Mom | December 21, 2017 6:26 PM    Report this comment

Many years ago I adopted a poodle/maltese mix female from my local humane society. The name on her paper was "Fifi". I decided to keep it, thinking that it had been her name for awhile (she was 1.5 yrs old). I later learned that this was a name that she had been given when she was turned in!!

So I stuck her with a name that she had had for a couple of hours!

To make it worse, I had always been a big dog person, so when I walked in to my training club with "Fifi" everyone had a good laugh.

Posted by: Amy E S | December 21, 2017 6:20 PM    Report this comment

I adopted a Rottweiler puppy from a local Animal Control office several years ago. She was only about 4 months old and that little girl had been put through the wringer...she had already been abused, neglected and starved. Both officers were really attached to her, and they had kept her for over a month just to try to put some weight on her - they had been calling her "Sheena" and both times I went to visit her, she responded well to the name. I wasn't fond of it (it was too close to "Sheba" - the name of a dear, beautiful Rough Collie I had when I was younger) but I was going to keep the name since she seemed accustomed to it.

When we got home, it was a completely different story. I might as well have been saying random words....I got thoroughly frustrated, and one day while taking her outside to potty, I tried again....and nothing. No response at all - not even an ear twitch in my direction. I let out an exasperated sigh and asked out loud: "What is your name, child? Because clearly it is NOT Sheena...."

She didn't react to my voice at all....but the name Sasha popped into my head, as clear as if someone had spoken it. It seemed weird, but what the heck...I asked her "Is your name Sasha?" The little stinker whipped her head around and looked at me. I said "Sasha" again, and she sat down with the most adorable head tilt.....so Sasha it was, from that point forward.

Posted by: TessB | December 21, 2017 5:18 PM    Report this comment

We have a small rescue & often do older, less coveted dogs. I like to hone in on any special or endearing skills for names. I named one "Doorbell Ringer" because when accidentally locked out at the backdoor he'd go to the front of the house & ring the doorbell to let them know he was stuck outside. He was an 8 year old coonhound who got adopted in one day because of his name. The guy said he wanted a smart dog & knew from his special skill that he was.

Posted by: Doberfish | December 21, 2017 3:55 PM    Report this comment

We've named 3 puppies in the last 11 years. Heidi got her name because my S.O. liked it best and it was his turn to name the puppy. Molly we brought home on St. Patrick's Day so we thought an Irish-themed name would be fitting. Both Heidi and Molly are golden retrievers. Our youngest dog is an English Springer Spaniel and we wanted an English name. The choice was Waldo or Rupert. The neighbors, and one girl in particular, voted for Rupert; many people since have said how much they like the name. Rupert is now almost 2 and charms everyone we meet.

Posted by: Sue 60 | December 21, 2017 3:53 PM    Report this comment

We rescued our German Shorthaired Pointer at 6 months from my in-laws when he got too big for them. They had named him Chris II, hoping for a reincarnation of their GSP from decades before, which annoyed me no end. From the beginning, my husband and I called him "Freckles" to each other (not to the in-laws) because of his plethora of ticking. When he came to us, there was no question his name would be Freckles and he learned it quickly. He never had responded to Chris. That one syllable just isn't distinct enough for a good call name, IMO

BTW, once when we went to the vet and checked Freckles in, the receptionist looked at him and said, in all seriousness, "You know those aren't really freckles, right?" LOL!

Posted by: kimsheard | December 21, 2017 3:38 PM    Report this comment

When I got a yellow Lab mix, it took me almost 2 months to name him. My vet, who I had come to know, was kidding me for not giving him a name other than puppy. I finally decided on Jackson, naming him after the Siberian I had lost a few months before, and whom the vet's office had fallen in love with. His name was Sam. The vet's office approved and he was immediately accepted, even when he had to inspect the paperwork on the counter, and the office cat. After losing Jackson, my next Lab came with a name that fit with my lineage of names, Kate (Jackson, duh). Or Princess Kate, long before the UK Kate. I have already picked out the name for my next Lab, hopefully it will be a few more years, since Kate is now 11. His name will be Hudson. Yes, named after Kate!

My other dogs have done pretty well, except for Patsy. Patsy? Nope, that had to be changed to Maggie Mae, while looking at a Magnolia tree and singing the the Rod Stuart song. And we have Libby and Abby, who kept their names, and Roadie, whom we found in the road with sister Ally and brother Woody. We found them homes, since they were light colored dogs. Roadie is almost black, so no one wanted to adopt a dark colored dog. So names don't always matter, but sometimes you get lucky, and if not, you pick names that suit either you or them.

pkinpa, I think you hit the nail on the head for names. Pick-it and stick-it in their heads with some delicious wieners! Good Job!

Posted by: Randorita | December 21, 2017 2:30 PM    Report this comment

Most of the time I try to give great thought to a name for a new dog that comes into our household. When we adopted a six year old black Lab from a shelter years ago, the shelter had named her Tawanda. My first thought was that someone had been watching too much of the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. Clearly, that name was not going to remain. Since Labradors are from Newfoundland I went online to research common names were for women in that country. When I found the name Emma, it seemed to suit her. We had Miss Emma for seven wonderful years before she had to leave us last month to cross over the Rainbow Bridge. Princess Penny came to us also from the shelter. She had been there twice. We have no idea why she was relinquished by her first owner, but she had been adopted just before Christmas by some people who lived in an apartment complex. While the people had gotten permission from the landlord to have a dog, he neglected to mention there was a size limit and Penny was too big. She's a Shar-Pei/Samoyed/collie mix. So, the day after Christmas she was returned to the shelter. Even though we've had her for 11 years, she still can't ride in a car without thinking she's going to be back to the shelter. When she came to us her name was Foxy. Her name before that was Gigi. She didn't look like either of those. I arrived at her name because I had just finished watching the animated movie The Rescuers and there was an orphan girl in there named Penny. Since she's a copper color, the name and the fact that she was an orphan fit her perfectly. About four years ago a dog showed up at a church I was attending at the time. She had been hanging around the church for about a week. Someone from church took her home and had her for four months before they decided she just wasn't right for them, so we took her. They had named her Allie. I could never remember that name for some reason, so I decided to name her Annie. In Hebrew Annie means God has favored me and since she had survived on her own at the church for a week with no food or water, and since we had learned later that she had come from, a great distance to where the church is located, we figured God favored her because she was not hit by a car nor was she attacked or killed by some of the wildlife we have in the area. In Greek Ann means kindhearted and gentle with others. She loves people, especially children. The name fit her perfectly. Our newest adoptee came four months ago. He is a 12 to 17-year-old DEAF English Springer Spaniel who's name is Romeo. We have kept that name because it just suits him since he kisses our girls a lot. Even if we had decided to change his name, he wouldn't be able to hear it, so no matter.

Posted by: DonnaL | December 21, 2017 1:51 PM    Report this comment

I don't mean to be snarky or mean, but Linda Louise's comments gave me my best chuckle of the day. How she let a friend convince her that her adopted male lab was female is beyond me. And then a second friend had to convince her that it WAS indeed a male? I mean, wouldn't it be kind of obvious? Too cute! LOL!
That reminds me of a story that a friend of mine who's a groomer once told me. A client came in to have her Papillon groomed. She told her that there was a tick on the dogs stomach that she had been trying to remove all day with tweezers. My friend took one look and said "That's not a tick, it's a nipple", to which the owner said, "It can't be, it's a male dog." True story.
I'm curious, though, as to why she didn't call him by her original choice, "Chico".

Posted by: Bklyncowgirl | December 21, 2017 12:56 PM    Report this comment

I don't know which is most adorable - those PUPPIES (!!) or your own Woody. I adore Woody. SO glad you kept him. Know you will find good homes for the cute, cute puppies no matter what the name is or will be. Many blessings of the season to you and yours.

Posted by: jww | December 21, 2017 12:53 PM    Report this comment

I recently adopted a shepherd/golden mix who had a mystery background. All I knew was that she was found as a stray (which doesn't make sense, given her personality). She was adopted and named Sophie by one family for 3 months, then adopted (and renamed Nikki) by another family for 2 months. I knew she probably wasn't too attached to any of her many recent names so I came up with Penny Lane on the car ride home (Beatles music was on the radio, plus her coloring reminded me of an old penny). Within a couple of days I discovered she was almost deaf from chronic ear infections, so it's unlikely she had even been aware of her previous names. Now that she can hear again, she seems quite happy to respond to Penny!

Posted by: Kathi | December 21, 2017 12:20 PM    Report this comment

We foster sometimes failing. Our rule of thumb has been if the dog came from a difficult situation (neglect, abuse, etc.), we rename him/her. If the dog was loved by their previous owner but circumstances (death, Altzheimer's, etc.) put him/her in rescue, we keep their original name.

Posted by: Furrykids | December 21, 2017 12:11 PM    Report this comment

My best re-name was my lab that I adopted from Friends of the Animals. They named him Chico. Then someone said that wasn’t a good name because my new dog was a girl. So, I named her Marie. Some days later I took her to a friend’s house to introduce Marie to my friend. She immediately said Marie was a boy. Once she convinced me I re-named him again, Jackson Charles. I love him so much. I have to admit he has been my most challenging dog. He’s three and starting to settle down A LITTLE. LOL.

Posted by: Linda Louise | December 21, 2017 11:57 AM    Report this comment

My first rescue, was supposed to only be a foster. Spectacular fail. I drove with the local Newfoundland breed rescue 2 hrs to get this boy who we’d been told was scheduled to be put down at the end of the day. He was literally hrs from death and he sadly looked it. As we drove we listened to news as our troops took Baghdad. They had no name for him when we got there so he had to have a new name. I decided on Rumsfeld, Rummy to his friends. I couldn’t believe how quick he picked up on it. I had him for 9 and a half amazing years. My first experience with the gratitude and appreciation of a dog rescued from a hellish life. Had always heard people talk about that but didn’t understand how a dog showed gratitude -until Rummy. 30 lbs underweight and clearly beaten regularly by a man. Took my husband a full year to gain his trust and eventually he became Rummy’s “person”. No one ever lifted a hand in our house to that boy, but until the day he died, you couldn’t pick up a paper towel roll or any cylindrical shaped object suddenly, without him cowering.(wth is wrong with some people?)
One Newfy breeder I knew required all registered names begin with letter assigned to that particular litter. I had already named my boy to be-Atticus. Of course, he was the X litter. Registered name -Hugybears XAtticus Lee

Posted by: Raji | December 21, 2017 11:26 AM    Report this comment

We adopted a Border Collie/English Springer Spaniel/Sheltie mix from a local rescue organisation. Her name was Holly (born in December). To me, she just wasn't her name. Since I was a Lord of the Rings fan at the time, I changed it to Hollyn (originally Hollin, "place of Holly" in the books). We added Danielle to go along with our older son's name (Colin Daniel). She started responding to it before we even left the fosterer's home.

Posted by: DreamWeaver | December 21, 2017 10:59 AM    Report this comment

I foster Cairn Terriers for a Col. Potter Cairn Rescue and I always tell prospective adopters that it takes only one hot dog to teach a dog his/her new name - and of course they should pick a name that will help them bond with the new member of their family! One hot dog? Dice a hot dog into tiny pieces, then say the new name, treat with a piece or two. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until the hot dog is gone. After the first few pieces the dog will be responding to the sound of their new name with delight. By the time the hot dog is gone that sound will be fixed in their brain as the indicator of good things!

Posted by: pkinpa | December 21, 2017 10:59 AM    Report this comment

I kept the name one of my rescues was given. He was 10 years old and the name his original owners called him by was "Reefer." You could immediately imagine what his life had been like. They took him to the vet to be put down and the vet wouldn't do it. The rescue group I got him through called him "Keifer." The same sound for this older dog but a much nicer name. Keifer lived with me for two and a half years until he succumbed to congestive heart failure. He LOVED routine and structure. I don't think he had had a lot of it.

Posted by: Doro | December 21, 2017 10:56 AM    Report this comment

We had a Boston Terrier that came to us ( my wife's grandmother's fog, who was hospitalized and couldn't take care of him) with the name Tippy........yes his nails did make a tipping sound when he walked....but I took one look at this little boy's face and antics and named him Muggsy....this was back in the late 1980s..,.and to this day our friends tell us they saw a Muggsy when they saw a Boston Terrier

Posted by: Dogman | December 21, 2017 10:35 AM    Report this comment

I was heavily volunteering for a local shelter, and kind of fell in love with a black shepherd mix named Hank. This dog was gorgeous, but AWFUL! He'd been to 3 homes already, at only a year old, and was back at the shelter. Turned out no one wanted to spend any time on him, including one of my fellow volunteers (owner # 3) - Every owner had chained him up outside. The dog was NUTS! I spent time with him, and started training him, and the bond stuck. Still had problems with him when I got him home, until I suddenly, for no reason, changed his name to Henry. He responded to that immediately, and went on to become a very easily trained dog!

Posted by: JodiG | December 21, 2017 10:22 AM    Report this comment

New to Whole Dog Journal? Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In