Getting involved in the name game
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Getting involved in the name game

Just last week, I received a phone call from the breeder who sold me my English Springer Spaniel, Rosie.

He asked me what I would like to call her for the purposes of her pedigree papers. He suggested Narvin’s (the kennel’s name) plus whatever other fancy epithet I would like to add.

Typically, a registered kennel name is a descriptive variation of the dog’s day-to-day call name, so I suggested Narvin’s White Rose, since Rosie has a predominantly white body splotched with liver patches.

When the phone call was over, however, my mind wandered a little, and I realized that I had missed a golden opportunity. After all this was intended to be a descriptive name and I might have done better had I given it a little more thought.

A few names immediately came to mind based on Rosie’s past and present behaviour. Chief among those was Narvin’s Counter Surfer. Narvin’s Couch Warmer would have been another viable option. There would have been nothing inaccurate about Narvin’s Puddle Finder either. And, had he asked me this several months ago, I might have even replied with, “Narvin’s Puddle Maker.”

This also got me thinking about our 12-year-old Labrador retriever Millie. She never came from a fancy kennel like Rosie did, so she never did get a registered kennel name. That’s not to say I don’t call her quite a few descriptive names on occasion, however.

Nonetheless, if I was ever asked to declare a kennel name for her, Rug Scooter, Bacon Thief, Dinner Drooler or Minefield Maker would have all been in the running. Any of those would paint an accurate picture of what Millie is about.

When you think about it, this might not be a bad system for people either. I know we are complex beings, but a brief name that would hint at our more important characteristics would be extremely helpful in a lot of cases.

For instance, you might avoid people with a kennel names like Smith’s Conspiracy Theorist, Melville’s Flatulent Gasbag or Myrtle’s Personal Space Invader. Likewise, you might seek out people with more pleasant kennel names such as Gray’s Drinks on Me, William’s Gullible Listener or Miller’s Fishing Spot Sharer.

Having said all this, I understand these kennel names on dogs mean essentially nothing. At best, they make for an interesting ice-breaker when talking to other dog owners. But they cannot begin to convey the character of a dog, especially one that has purpose.

Rosie, for instance, is a flushing dog – that, despite the name, is not toilet trained. Her sole purpose in life is to run free through the uplands looking for birds, squirrels and hares to flush and retrieve. She will also become a waterfowl dog come fall.

These are different tasks, but the central theme is that she uses her exquisite nose to find edible things. It doesn’t even have to be an animal. The other day, I made myself a peanut butter and honey sandwich and some honey dripped onto the kitchen floor.

Rosie, immediately smelled it from several feet away, investigated and lapped it up. Later, I sat on the sofa and she jumped up and sniffed my face. I was expecting dog breath. Instead, I smelled honey.

It suddenly occurred to me that it didn’t matter what I called her. For a Rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

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