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How did she get her name?

  • Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What’s in a name? For your pet, it could be a lot. PROVIDED

If you are reading this then you have likely named a dog, cat, horse, fish or guinea pig at some point in your life. Naming a pet can be as simple as proclaiming your dog, “Dog,” or dramatically more difficult than naming a child. But either way, it is a significant decision because you are likely to say that name thousands of times throughout the life of the pet. So, as a veterinarian, I feel it would be beneficial for me to shed some light on naming your pet; although I really have no more expertise on the matter than you do!

Firstly, many pets already have names when you adopt them, so the big question there is: do you keep the name the volunteer at the rescue gave them or do you get creative and rename your new family member yourself? Now, as you surely know, many of the volunteers at rescues have developed an amazing ability to give just the perfect name to your soon to be pet. And these names tend to be original or else the volunteers will end up with multiple animals of the same name at once in the facility, and that makes for some complicated communication. Secondly, you can end up with a nameless puppy or kitten. In this instance, it may take a few days to get to know your new family member before you feel qualified to stamp a lifelong name on the little one. So with these points discussed, we can get into the nitty gritty of naming your pet.

You first must decide on whether your pet is a boy or a girl. You may be thinking this is simple but not so fast. It can be very difficult to tell if a young kitten is a male or female and you would be amazed at how many kittens named Princess turn into Bob after their first visit to the vet. Or the sweet, little orange tabby that the five-year-old daughter named Barbie, who then becomes Ken after I inform them of my findings. And of course, there are those people who really like the name Bubba for their tough, macho Siamese that ends up being a female. In that last circumstance, rather than alter the name, the owners just stick with what they like and call “her” a “him” for the rest of “its” life.

Please don’t do this to your veterinarian. We work so hard to be sure we call your pet the proper sex and although we are a fairly smart bunch in general, this we can’t handle!!

You can also simply avoid the male/female thing altogether and use a unisex name. The first one that comes to mind is Bailey. I helped my best friend name his Pug Bailey, so I love the name, but I admit it is fairly common. With a quick data search on our office software, I found that we have 110 patients with the name Bailey. Additionally, some people like to name their pet after a favorite sports team or athlete. One of our technicians just recently named her Lab Eli, after the N.Y. Giants star quarterback. There’s a sweet Cocker Spaniel with the name Spiller, which is one of my favorite dog monikers and I’m not even a Clemson fan! I also see some great names of movie stars or characters such as the two shorthair cats, Padme and Leia, from Star Wars. Toto from Wizard of Oz is a classic name. Of course, we live in the South so it is important for some people to give their pets double names like Lucy Grace or Sadie Mae, and don’t think those names are only reserved for Yorkies with bows in their hair! No, even German Shepherds and Rottweilers are given these names; bless their hearts (spoken in true Southern fashion). From time to time, I have clients bring in pets with names that I can’t pronounce, and I suspect some clients may even change the pronunciation of their pet’s name each visit just for flare.

To be honest, my favorite names are those that I could have never come up with on my own. One of the best is Houdini, the one-eyed escape dog, who I believe I have mentioned before. His name fits perfectly. A chocolate Lab named Mud and her sibling yellow Lab named Salt own beautiful names. The oh-so-classy, long-haired cat named Mr. Waterford I will never forget and my own dog I named Grits!

You must first know yourself before you are ready to name your new pet. Are you serious, silly, a little redneck or a lot snobbish? Will you name them for their appearance, their personality or just because you like the name? The great news is that no matter what you name them, they will be themselves. And whether you go with Bo or Princess Penelope Flowerpot, your pet will think you are the best thing that ever lived.

So every time I enter an exam room to meet a new pet, I am always eager to ask, “Now tell me, how did she get her name?”


Dr. Jay Goldsmith is a veterinarian and owner of Park West Veterinary Associates, a Mount Pleasant veterinary hospital.

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