Friday, September 2, 2005

What's in a Name?

We have three dogs, all mutts (which is the way we like it), although they all have certain similarities to real breeds. The three dogs, all females, are, of course, spoiled to the extreme, even to the extent of having an embarrassing large number of names.

For example, there’s Emily, our Labrador Deceiver, known variously as Emmy, Wee, Wembley, Emmytoo, and Emmy Sue. Strangely, these names all came from adults, despite sounding like a two-year-old’s early language developmental phase. Then there’s our Rottenweiler, misnamed Tiny, also known as Beans (of which she is full) and Murphey (based on one of the sounds she makes: “murph, murph”). Finally, there’s Stinky, a Chihuahua, crossed with a terrier and a bio-terror device. She looks like a Chihuahua, is the size of a Jack Russell, and has breath that could stop a Panzer division. She answers to the aliases of Tinky and Stinkerbelle.

I blame this on my wife.

When I was first dating this woman whom I would marry, I became confused about the number of siblings she had. There was Judy, Curt, Helen, Carol, Chris, Lois, Dorn, and Dean. Now with eight brothers and sisters, you’d think there’d always be a crowd around, but somehow the number of people I was meeting didn’t add up. Clearly, either I was being misinformed, or someone was buried in the basement. As it turned out, there were only four: Judy Carol (who never uses her middle name), Lois Helen (who is only slightly crazy), Curtis Dorn (who never uses his first name), and Chris Dean (who doesn’t care what you call him as long as you call him for…oh, never mind). Oddly enough, my wife Faye is the only person in the entire family who lacks a middle name. If she were the youngest, that would be understandable; anyone could run out of names after by the fifth kid. But, no, Faye is the eldest. Evidently, her folks kind of picked up a naming momentum as the kids increased.

But back to the dogs.

I am not responsible for any of the dogs’ names (nor for the names of any of Faye’s siblings). If I were, they would have much more distinctive names. Names that I have supplied were so appropriate and catchy that the pets didn’t need a bunch of nicknames to confuse them. For example, there’s Hector. Hector was part sheepdog and part Shetland pony. He could shed hair clumps the size of a rat, which had us jumping when we came across some of these leavings lying around the house. I chose Hector because I had always wanted to use the phrase “since Hector was a pup) and then be able to point at the dog while nodding sagely.

Then there was Clyde. Clyde was a dog dog. He was as pure a mutt as we ever had. But there’s was just something about him when I first saw him that made me think, “That dog is a Clyde.” For years, my wife has said that Clyde was the most aptly named pet we ever had. Even my kids agree. No one can say why that is exactly, but everyone agrees that Clyde was a Clyde.

I also got to name a cat, a Siamese that managed to even try my wife’s cat-loving nature to the point that she gave him up. Personally, I hate cats, and cats know it. The feline mind immediately senses the animosity and determines that the only person in the room who should get attention is me. Ask any cat-hater. You can find us in any cat-infested house; we’re the ones pushing the creatures off our laps. The only person who gets more attention from a cat than a cat-hater is someone allergic to cats. These are truly evil creatures.

But I digress. My wife had lured this animal with food and milk. “He must be lost because he just keeps hanging around here.,” she’d insist. Listen, you offer me food and a warm place to sleep, and I won’t leave your house, either. Anyway, because it was Siamese, even I had to admit that it was a very classy critter, so I finally gave in but demanded the right name the devil. I called it Mishkin. My wife loved the name. It was several months before she asked me how I ever thought up such a cute name. It was then that I told her that the main character in Dostoevsky’s novel “The Idiot” was Prince Mishkin. 

Fortunately, I was younger and quicker then than I am now, for I would have surely received an injury had I not been able to bob and weave so successfully.

Unfortunately, my wit was my undoing. My family now names all animals before I can get at them. You’ll have to excuse me now, because Emmy and Beans are reading this and offering criticisms, and I think I caught a whiff of melted Panzer division behind them.

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