Whole Dog Journal Training Editor Pat Miller wrote an article for the January issue about why and how to teach your dog his or her name (“Say My Name”). She mentioned in the article how important it was to pick a good name for your dog, and shared the story of how she and her husband named a few of their dogs. She also challenged readers to share their dog-naming stories, and promised to award a signed copy of her latest book, Do-Over Dogs: Give Your Dog a Second Chance for a First Class Life, to the three readers who submitted the best dog-naming stories. (If you haven’t yet submitted your story, send it to WDJEditor@gmail.com or Whole Dog Journal, 1655 Robinson Street, Oroville, CA 95965, before January 31.)
My favorite dog name was one that confused everyone outside my family, but made perfect sense to us. I was the youngest child in my family and the last to leave home – and I took my two big dogs with me. This left our rural family home guarded by two yappy Yorkshire Terriers, and a small mixed-breed dog named Andy (although a boyfriend later dubbed the dog “Bob Newhart,” because his demeanor was just as determinedly milquetoast and comical as the comedian of that name). Feeling a bit lonely and vulnerable, my mom bought a German Shepherd Dog puppy from a friend who bred and trained protection dogs, and she told everyone that the pup was going to be a fierce watchdog. Not long after high school, my oldest sister had dated a beefy and intimidating Harley-riding Samoan man, and my mom named the dog after him. The idea was that the rapidly growing Shepherd would scare people the way my sister’s old boyfriend used to.
My mom’s plan backfired for a few reasons. One was the fact that the breeder, knowing what a marshmallow my mom was, sent her a particularly sweet, “soft” puppy – not a watchdog candidate at all. Also, out of loneliness perhaps, she allowed “the watchdog” to stay indoors most of the time . . . watching soap operas on the sofa with her and all the little dogs. The lanky puppy grew up feeling like a tiny terrier. And with none of the kids living at home, guests were infrequent, and the pup grew up into a shy and un-socialized dog who was more likely to hang behind the over-confident small dogs than to stride forth and guard the gates. This was ironic for our family members and close friends, who remembered the fearsome biker whose name the dog shared. But it was just plain confusing for everyone else. Why would you name a German Shepherd “Collie”? (Well, she didn’t. His name was pronounced like the Lassie type of dog, but it was spelled the Hawaiian way, “Kale.”) Oh well. My mom wouldn’t have known what to do with a guard dog, anyway.