What goes into a name?
SUMMIT COUNTY – If Turbo were human, he would have worn tight T-shirts and jeans, smoked cigarettes and driven fast. Somehow, the cat lived up to his name – energetic and rebellious.
Choosing a name for a pet can be easy. It can be difficult, too.
Some people name their pets after people they’ve loved, lost or respected.
“It seems like (most) people in Summit County name their pets after people,” said Meg Jimenez, a technician at Alpine Veterinary Practice in Dillon.
“Sometimes you just look at an animal and say, “He’s a Charlie,'” said Nancy Ring, department manager at the Summit County Animal Shelter.
Jimenez found one of her dogs on Chapel Avenue and named it Chapel. Many owners, like Jimenez, name their animal companions after places, according to Wayne Bryant Eldridge, author of “The Best Pet Name Book Ever.” In Summit County, some of the popular “places’ names are Dakota, Dillon, Summit and Frisco.
It’s not uncommon for male animals to have female names and vice versa, Jimenez said, as owners sometimes mistake their pets’ genders. Barneys become Bernices, Igs become Figs.
In his book, Eldridge suggests a number of ways to name a pet – after its appearance, such as Blackie, Fluffy, Honey or Agate, or after its personality, like Scout, Motor or Chase.
“We had an orange cat named Marmalade,” said Amy Jacobson, also a technician at Alpine.
Eldridge warns owners to consider that their pet’s appearance or personality may change as it gets older; after a few years, Fluffy or Frisky might not be so anymore.
“My favorite thing to do when I’m looking for a pet name (is) look through the phone book,” said Julie Blevins, a tech at Alpine Veterinary Practice. “People have some interesting last names.”
The staff at the Summit County Animal Shelter is good at naming pets. They have to be – they name about 500 animals each year. Sometimes they use themes, such as movie stars or cartoon characters. They named one litter after rock stars – Cher, Madonna, Blondie, Bon Jovi S
Susan Tucker, who works as a kennel technician at the shelter, said she likes to give animals names to enhance their confidence or personality.
“If they’re timid, I try to give them a strong name,” Tucker said. One very timid pit bull needed some masculine energy, so she named him “Spike Lee.”
Some people use a little humor when naming their pets.
“I knew a rat named Rhatt Butler (and) a 12-foot boa named Famine,” Jimenez said.
Among the more common local names for dogs are Blackie, Bear, Max, Abby and Sadie; Cali, for calico cats; Peter, Bugs and Thumper for rabbits; Iggy for iguanas; and Godzilla for lizards, local pet professionals said.
In fact, the staff at the shelter often must rename animals because there already is another one in residence by the same name.
Sometimes they rename animals because the original owner used a derogatory name, such as Trash or S**thead or named their pet after drugs or cults.
“Young kids will name them almost obscene names just to get away with it,” Tucker said.
It’s fairly easy to change an animal’s name and help it learn its new name, Tucker and Ring said. Simply add the new name onto the old name and use both when calling your pet.
Eventually, he or she will learn to respond to both names, and you can simply drop the old name and use the new one.
When choosing a name for your animal companion, Eldridge suggests the following tips:
Pick a name your pet can easily recognize – cats and dogs respond more readily to names with only one or two syllables – and avoid giving your dog a name that sounds like basic commands, like “no,” “sit” or “stay.” Star may have difficulty differentiating her name from the command “stay,’ for example.
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