Friday, 27 August 2021 00:06

COLUMN: What's in a name — for a pet?

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There was something I saw on social media not long ago that at first struck me as odd or funny, but once I gave it a little thought, made perfect sense. 

There was this post on Facebook that said something to the effect that we have given all of our pets names and go to great lengths to remember them, but we never tell them our names. 

I guess over generations it just was assumed that they knew our names, but thinking about it now, I doubt the accuracy of that claim. I've known scores of dogs and cats and hamsters and rabbits and birds and such over the years that, even decades later, I can remember their names. I don't recall introducing myself to any of them.

It is generally accepted in our house that Cooper calls me “Dad.” Maine coon cats are not big speakers, so he has never once actually called me Dad or made much of a sound at all. When it comes down to it, I don't think I would care whether he calls me Dad or by my first name. 

In human years, he is in his early 40s and I know lots of humans in their early 40s who call me by my first name. My wife has referred to us as “Grandpa” and “Grammy” in regard to our other cat, which is actually our daughter's cat, but he lives with us. I don't care what Severus calls me either. 

I have decided from this point forward, I am going to tell every pet I meet my name. If I go to someone's house and they have a dog, I will tell him my name once I know his. It's only polite. Dogs seem to care about this kind of thing. I doubt cats would care, but I suppose I would introduce myself to them as well, so as not to be impolite. 

We cross paths with animals all day long and we know them by name. There's a dog down the street named Freya who seems to run away quite often. She likes to roam the neighborhood until my wife and I and her human chase her down and catch her. 

I don't know what Freya calls her person, but I am sure she doesn't know my wife's nor my name. She probably knows us as “loud people with the silver car.” I think the next time we apprehend her, we will introduce ourselves properly. This way, it won't be so impersonal when we scoop her up and drive her home. 

An old girlfriend of mine had a goldfish named Shlomo. I am pretty sure Shlomo didn't care what my name was. You don't spend a lot of time talking to goldfish, really, and as long as you sprinkle a little food and don't tap the glass, they are okay with you. Shlomo outlasted our relationship, and I imagine he and the ex-girlfriend had a happy life together. Maybe she introduced herself to him at some point. 

The argument can be made that this is humanizing animals. I think once we assign them a name, the slope becomes pretty slippery. Before long, you are signing their names on Christmas cards, getting them things with monograms on them, et cetera. 

I think Cooper likes his name. It suits him. He's mischievous and goofy with a bit of a rambunctious streak. One of my friends has a human son named Cooper and I often wonder if the personalities are similar. We went through a lot choosing a name for Cooper. I think we gave more thought to it than the names of our daughters. 

I like to give animals names they won't feel dumb having. I once met a dog named Butthead. He pretty much lived up to it, but I could tell he didn't really like it. I don't know what name I would have given him, but it certainly wouldn't have been Butthead. I wonder what name he gave his human. I'll wager it was less complimentary than Butthead. 

If you see me out and about and I introduce myself to your dog or cat or horse or alligator or whatever, don't think I'm a weirdo — I'm just being polite. There are a thousand other things you can use to call me a weirdo. 

Award-winning columnist Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.