Wed | May 25, 2022

Give a dog a bad name

Published:Saturday | April 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Tony Deyal, Contributor

Our friend Tricia, with whom we had left our dog 'Crix' when we went away for a few days, dropped the bombshell on my wife Indranie, "Congratulations, you are now a grandmother!" Then Tricia looked at me, "What do you have to say to that, Grandpa?" Fortunately, this was said in the presence of our 12-year-old daughter, Jasmine, and 11-year-old son, Zubin, so that after a quizzical and fortunately 'not guilty' look from them, we worked out that Crix, named after the biscuit that constitutes the vital supplies of the average Trini family, and given to us as a pup by Tricia, had put something in the oven. Because we still saw Crix as the baby, he was when he came to us, or at best half-baked, we did not anticipate becoming grandparents from that particular source.

Tricia eventually brought the full litter for us to see. They are what in Trinidad are called 'pompeks' - supposedly crosses between Pomeranians and Pekinese with mongrel and other mixes like (in the case of Crix) chihuahua and Bichon Frise They were all curious, furry and very active except for one that slept through the visit, eyes blurred and legs wobbly. Jasmine, Zubin and Indranie wanted to keep all of them. Eventually, since Jasmine's 13th birthday was fast approaching, Indranie decided that we would ask Tricia for the little one that seemed least likely to succeed without some serious individual attention and constant care. He arrived last Sunday and took up quarters in the kitchen until we can work out a more permanent arrangement.

It was clear that we had either got a ringer or a dog that understood women and was able to prey on their weaknesses, selling himself as needy when, in fact, he is more than able to cope. Among his earliest actions was to invade Crix's space and growl several times at him causing the mystified and slightly terrified Crix to retreat without any insistence on his larger size or the paternal respect due to him.

Then the pressure shifted to me. "What shall we call him," Indranie asked me and being the namer of names or onomastician in the family, I had to come up with something that was acceptable to all.

Enormous responsibility

Naming dogs, or anyone in fact, is an enormous responsibility. Many cultures use dogs to make a more general point, "Give a dog a bad name and hang him." In other words, once a person's name is blackened his plight is hopeless. A dog-naming website warns, "The name you choose says as much about you as it does about your dog. It shows how you view your dog and your relationship with it. Some names can cause people to judge a dog and react positively or negatively/fearfully when meeting it. Depending on whether the dog is a pet, therapy dog, search & rescue dog, tracking dog or any other dog that works with the public, it is important to use a name that conveys the proper image." Another site said, "Choosing a name for your dog is one of the most researched topics on the Internet."

What does the research say? The most popular dog name in North America is Sam, Sammie or Samantha (which means "listener"). The second most popular is Max, Maxie, Maxwell or Maxine (which means "the greatest" in Latin). Third is Lady, followed by Bear, Maggie, Buddy, Tasha, Chelsea (or Chelsie), Holly and Shasta. Other very popular names are Brandy, Ginger and Taffy. The dog most likely to bite someone is named 'Rocky' although there are other named 'Spike', 'Felony' and even 'Gangsta'. Interestingly, we had two dogs that bit people - one was named 'Devil' (after the Phantom's dog/wolf) and the other 'Blacks' (because of his colour). Whether it was his inferiority complex or even complexion, Blacks bit as often as Devil except that Devil bit you when you were entering our yard and Blacks when you were leaving. Two bites of the cherry or whatever other part of the anatomy was handy, so to speak.

Crix was an easy name because when we got him, he looked like the famous biscuit - brown globs and beige. This little pup was not as easy since he looked like a lump of walking wool, mostly white but with gold flaps for ears, hind-legs and paws, with two little black buttons for eyes. He is no Lassie (who was a male German shepherd with an identity complex) or Rin-Tin-Tin; no Devil and certainly no Blacks; no Buster or Max. The BBC's Newsnight had a contest inviting readers to name an imaginary dog. The consensus was 'Amooga' which, according to the Urban Dictionary, means "of and or relating to sex and or sexual intercourse; comes from the sound of the horn of an old studenbaker". Examples given were, "I haven't got any awooga from her yet" and "I heard that they awooga". No way would I do that to the poor pup.

After rejecting several names as not being appropriate, I took a second look at the pup. He is the colour of an egret standing in a muddy field and silhouetted against the late evening sun. We call an egret a 'garlin'. My favourite soca artiste is Bunji Garlin from Trinidad whose 'Fireman' is one of the best in what is called the 'ragga-soca' genre. The pup stretches from butterball to lion cub when he wakes up or goes into tracking mode. And so the name evolved, emerged full blown - Bungee Darling or Bungee for short. It seems appropriate, the children and Indranie like it, and I have not insulted Bunji Garlin. More than anything else, the name strikes a chord.

Tony Deyal was last seen saying that there are a lot of variations in the lapdog breeds - a cross between a Pekingese and a Lhasa Apso produces a Peekasso or abstract dog, and mating a Bull Terrier with a Shih Tzu can create a Bull Shih Tzu which replicates wildly during election time.