As the creator of DoggieNames.com, I’ve become an expert in the art and science of naming your pet. And despite what you might think, being an authority in this area is not all fun and games. Okay, it’s mostly fun and games. But I recently faced an unforeseen challenge that tested all of my knowledge and skill — naming my own new dog after an unexpected adoption.
How unexpected? Well, I was just gonna pop in to Petco to return a couple of holiday gifts (my family went a little overboard with the Star Wars toys this year). Here’s the problem, though. It was Saturday. And every weekend, both Petco and PetSmart host adoption events (which is awesome, and which is why I frequent both chains).
Though I’m devoted to promoting pet rescue, I’m not the kind of person who just goes around adopting dogs willy-nilly (Willie’s a great dog name, by the way). I have two wonderful, healthy rescue dogs: Daisy Jo, who’s 13, and Bud Earl, who’s 11. So getting a new member of the pack wasn’t anywhere on the agenda.
That said, I can’t help but glance at the adoptables if I happen upon an event. I mean, hello … cute dogs? Now, I’ve looked before, but I’ve never been tempted to even take a pup out of her kennel, much less consider taking one home. I usually give each dog a little friendly attention, donate to the cause, then go about my business.
But this one cold January morning, I happened to see a little guy in one of the cages. Bright eyed and bushy-tailed, he was small, with a short brown-and-white coat, and looked to be some kind of Chihuahua-Terrier mix. He was also hella adorable.
I spent a few seconds with all the others, then came back to him. He was wagging his tail, but he didn’t seem overly excited. I glanced at his kennel tag, which identified him as Milo, a young adult Terrier mix. We looked at each other. I swear I heard bells — or maybe that was just the chemical reaction I’d read about in an article on Dogster.
I began chatting with the rescue group’s owner, just casually inquiring as to Milo’s story. He told me that Milo was between the ages of 1 and 3 and had come from a county shelter with a high-kill rate. He got along well with other dogs and was just an all-around solid guy. He was also neutered, had all his shots, and was ready to go.
So I did what I never do, and said that I’d like to take him out for a walk. Milo was happy to get out of the kennel and immediately upon exiting the store, he went to a patch of grass and both peed and pooped. He was housebroken! I showered him with praise. He smiled and his whole butt wagged. More bells. It was another magic moment.
My mind was spinning. I couldn’t just bring home another dog on the spur of the moment, could I? Two pups are pretty normal, but would three make me a crazy dog lady? Well, so what if it did? I’m a single writer who works out of her house, with no kids, who has a steady job and can afford vet care. I knew Daisy and Buddy would tolerate the little guy, since they’ve had overnight visitors in the past, and it might even introduce some new excitement into the household.
I couldn’t sleep. I tried to put Milo out of my mind, but I kept coming back to that face, that eye contact — that “magic moment.”
The next day, I brought Daisy and Bud to the store so they could do a meet-and-greet. It went exactly as expected — everyone sniffed everyone else, and then they all ignored one another and tried to pluck the low-hanging treats from the store displays. So I trusted my gut and made the decision. Milo was going to officially become part of the pack.
He settled in pretty easily, and even though I didn’t have proper bowls or a bed for him, we managed just fine with tupperware and a towel. Then came the issue of the name. Being “the Doggie Namer,” I felt all kinds of pressure to make the right choice.
Now, Milo is a fine, adorable name and fits all the trainer-recommended standards: Two syllables, vowel at the end, not too popular, easy to say, and easy for him to understand.
Just one problem: It doesn’t have enough of a personal meaning for me. I adopted Daisy Jo as a puppy and chose the name because she resembled the dog from Blondie, one of my favorite comic strips, and because I had several close friends named Jo or Joe at the time. I also liked the flower and its significance. She represented a springtime rebirth for me, after getting over the grief of losing another beloved dog.
A couple of years later, I rescued another young guy. I’d racked my brain to come up with a male floral name to match Daisy (I do love me some theme names), but was batting zero when I remembered Bud. Flower bud! Plus, he was very affectionate and Bud-like. His middle name is Earl after my favorite show at the time, My Name Is Earl, and after the dog in another of my favorite comic strips, Mutts. He quickly became known as Bud E.
So there was Milo, very happy answering to “Little Boy,” until I could get to know a little more about his personality and make my choice. I soon pegged him as a smart, sweet guy with a tough little Terrier personality. As a pop-culture junkie, I always go to movies/TV/comics as my preferred category (searchable on DoggieNames.com, of course). Star Wars: The Force Awakens had just come out, and darned if this little guy’s ears weren’t a match for Master Yoda’s. And Chewbacca (Chewy) is always a solid choice.
But since my favorite TV show and movie series of all time is Charlie’s Angels (I so adore that butt-kicking trio), I went there first. Charlie was definitely a possibility. And there are some unisex Angel names — Kelly, Dylan, Alex, and Kris among them — but none really matched my new addition. But Bosley, their loyal sidekick, made it to the shortlist.
The only Angel with a current TV series on the air is the incomparable Lucy Liu, the actress and award-winning humanitarian who also happens to be a devoted dog mom to chocolate Lab Apple — and who co-created a line of cool designer dog products called Le Roar. If this little boy had been a little girl, then Lucy or Lulu would have been right up there.
Liu stars in CBS’ Elementary as Joan Watson, the crime-solving partner to Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes, and I’m a big fan of both their characters. So Watson and Sherlock also make it to my list. They’ve got a couple of interesting non-human costars on the show, too. One is their beloved tortoise Clyde, wearer of turtle cozies, and the other is Angus, a phrenology bust that Holmes sometimes uses as a sounding board and that Watson has smashed over the head of an intruder or two.
Now that I had gotten it narrowed down to a workable few, I started eliminating. Charlie is great, but it’s No. 2 in overall popularity right now, so that wasn’t ideal. Bosley is totally cute and tempting, but it’s too close to Buddy, and I wanted this new guy’s name to be different for training purposes. Sherlock doesn’t really roll off the tongue as a dog’s name, and Yoda didn’t really seem to fit this spunky bundle of energy I’d adopted either.
So it was down to Watson, Angus, and Clyde. I tried out all three over a period of a couple of days. And while it was fun to say, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you,” a la Alexander Graham Bell’s first words on his newly invented telephone, it wasn’t exactly clicking.
Clyde, on the other hand, was looking like a winner. One-syllable, strong vowel, and oozing attitude. That seemed to fit. But then there was Angus. The name just seemed to go so perfectly with this little tough guy’s Terrier beard. And it had other meaning to me too: One of my all-time favorite literary characters is Gus McCrae from Lonesome Dove, and one of my favorite SNL sketches is the hilariously NSFW “Colonel Angus.”
I decided to put the two names together, and now Angus Clyde eagerly answers to his new moniker. He seems to totally dig it. And, hopefully, my reputation as the best dog namer in the known universe remains intact.
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About the author: Toni Perling created the website DoggieNames.com, which features a database of dog names, a celebrity dog blog, Top 10 name lists and other fun stuff. Her co-editors are Daisy Jo, Bud Earl and Angus Clyde, her trio of beloved rescue dogs. She’s a longtime supporter of spay/neuter/rescue, and adopted her first dog, a sweet lovable mutt named Sophie, from an L.A. County shelter. Toni started out in Hollywood as a TV writer, with credits ranging from network drama to informational, including a boatload of episodes of a little Discovery Networks show named I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, before transitioning to the Web.