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I Named My New Dog After My Late Uncle Bud

I was estranged from my uncle for many years, but we made peace before he died -- and I kept his name in my family.

Kezia Willingham  |  Jan 27th 2016


I don’t know about you, but naming a new pet is always one of my favorite parts of the adoption process. My kids enjoy the brainstorm sessions as much as I do. Occasionally, we keep the names our pets had before they came to live with us, but more often we choose new ones.

Our newest canine family member, brought home recently, ended up being named in honor of my Uncle Bud, a veteran who passed away a few years ago.

Even though I had been sure I wasn’t going to bring any new pets home, something happened right after I’d written an article about judging people who buy dogs from breeders. In that article, I talked about how much I like Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs. Wouldn’t you know it that a cute little Boston Terrier mix showed up for adoption right after at one of my favorite shelters, Yakima Humane Society?

Buddy on adoption day! Photo by Zinnia Willingham.

Buddy on adoption day! (Photo by Zinnia Willingham)

The cute little Boston Terrier mix was listed under the name of Spud. I suppose he did look kind of like a little potato. I started thinking, well, maybe one more dog wouldn’t hurt.

Veteran’s Day was coming up, so I decided that if Spud was still available on my day off, I would drive over there and apply to adopt him if it felt like a match.

The afternoon before, I called to see if he was still there.

“Actually, someone called and said they think it’s their dog, so he he’ll probably be going home tonight,” the adoption coordinator said.

“What if they don’t get him? Is there a way you can let me know?”

“If he’s still listed on the website in the morning, that will mean he is still here,” she replied.

First thing in the morning, I checked. Indeed, the little guy was still listed.

“Are we going to get the puppy today?” my son asked.

“I don’t know, we already have enough dogs. I’m not sure it’s a good idea.”

“But he needs a home!”

With that, we packed our dogs into the minivan and departed. My kids and I always enjoy the drive from Seattle to Yakima. We decided the adventure to see if we could adopt Spud would be worth it, regardless of the outcome.

Driving from Seattle to Yakima. Photo by Zinnia Willingham.

Driving from Seattle to Yakima. (Photo by Zinnia Willingham)

As we got close to Yakima, we decided to place a hold on Spud so that we’d for sure get a chance to meet him.

While there are always many gorgeous dogs available at this shelter, we made a beeline for Spud as soon as we got there.

Of course it was love at first sight. He cuddled right up to me upon meeting me. It was a done deal.

Buddy with my son Justin during our meet and greet. Photo by Zinnia Willingham.

Buddy with my son, Justin, during our meet and greet. (Photo by Zinnia Willingham)

On the drive home, my kids and I discussed what we should name the new dog.

“What about Bud? Like Uncle Bud?”

My Uncle Bud passed away a few years ago. His real name was John Wayne Willingham, and I didn’t have contact with him for most of my life, due to family estrangement, but we reconnected after my dad died in 2005.

Uncle Bud lived down South. He spoke with a southern drawl and had a rough early life but found redemption in Christianity near the end. Uncle Bud served in the military before working his entire career as both a police officer and a security guard. There were family stories about him wrestling alligators in Florida as a young man. But what I loved most about Uncle Bud was his sensitivity.

Buddy cuddles. Photo by Kezia Willingham.

Buddy cuddles. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

Both of my children are of mixed ethnicity. At the time I was talking with Uncle Bud, I was married to an undocumented immigrant originally from Honduras. As most people know, there is a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment in this country. Uncle Bud sometimes shared things on Facebook and in emails that were not exactly pro-immigrant or pro-mixed race. However, the thing I will remember most about him is his apology for doing so and his realization that it might bother me.

One day he sent an email message saying he was sorry if he’d said or shared anything that offended me or my family. I appreciated his thoughtfulness. In a time when families become alienated due to racism or other oppressive beliefs, Uncle Bud — this old, Southern white man — apologized to me, his city-living tattooed-niece raising mixed-ethnicity kids and married to an undocumented immigrant. That took balls.

Just like Uncle Bud, my dog Buddy has balls, too (not literally). He has swagger that none of my other dogs have. He’d take on a semi-truck if he could. He’s the most brazen of our pack, but he’s also sensitive, too, cuddling up with his mama, so sweet, every night.

Selfie with Buddy. Photo by Kezia Willingham.

Selfie with Buddy. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

Have you ever named a dog to commemorate a family member who has passed? Tell us about it in the comments!

Read more by Kezia Willingham:

About the author: Also known as the Breadwinning Laundry Queen, Kezia Willingham lives in Seattle with her family, which includes a pack of rescued cats and dogs. By day she works for an urban Head Start program as the Health Coordinator.  She writes for Catster and Dogster at night and on weekends. You can follow her on Twitter.