I've had three dogs in my life: one named Toby, one named Pal and a mentally challenged bassett named Wilbur.
I named them all.But thanks to the new "Complete Book of Pet Names" by George Greenfield (Andrews and McMeel; $12.95), I now know I named them badly.
I've found that people have a lot more range when it comes to naming pets than they do naming kids. You can name your cat Mindy, for instance, but probably couldn't name a daughter Meow Tse Tongue, not a daughter you loved, anyway. And after reading Greenfield, I can see I barely got off the ground when it comes to imaginative leaps for names.
Greenfield has a section of dog names for opera lovers (Pooch-ini, Turan-dog, Tan-schnauzer), for pairs of pets (Frankie and Annette, Lewis and Clark, Siskel and Ebert.) There are even names for star-struck dog owners (Cyble Sheepherd, Bob Barker, Ellen Barkin and Betty Poop.)
My favorite is George St. Bernard Shaw, though I'd have to buy a St. Bernard to use it,and I can't afford the feed.
Greenfield also includes stories from proud masters who tell us about their flashes of brilliance with "pet-name poetry."
Linda Nagelberg of Lousiana writes: "When I was a music major in college, we got a dog who, in the family tradition of career names, was dubbed Johann Sebastian Bark. . . . We later got a hamster we named Clawed Debussy, and then another we called Pachy because of his packrat-ishness, and after Pachelbel the composer. My husband, being a professor teaching radio and television classes, named a third hamster Philo T. Farnsworth after the inventor of the television."
Such stories of rampant creativity soon had me searching my own memory bank for pet pet-names. And I've decided the award for most unfortunate pet-name goes to my boyhood neighbor. Without thinking, the guy named his dog Gino, which happened to be the same name as our city dogcatcher. The two men had never met, but - as you might expect - fate brought them together one grim afternoon.
Gino the Dog, it seems, ran off, and that left our neighbor fuming. But dutiful Gino the Catcher found the mutt and toted him home. As Gino the Catcher rolled up with the animal in the back of his truck, our neighbor burst through his screen door like a man fleeing a fire: "Gino, you blankety, blank, blank!" he called. Then he grabbed the dog by the collar and hauled it away, leaving his wife to handle the niceties.
The dogcatcher bristled.
"What did your husband say?" he said. Gino the Catcher was a fiery Italian, but the woman stepped up and looked him square in the eye.
"What he said was Jingles," she said. "That's our dog's name, Jingles."
This, of course, wasn't true. Jingles was the name of our other neighbor's dog - a springer spaniel that had whelped so many pups it looked like a brood sow. On Sundays the dog would trail the neighbor's stylish daughters to church and wait for them, completely ruining their classy image.
Come to think of it, Jingles also bit my younger brother on the lip one day, sending him to bed for a spell and turning our neighbor into a repentant milkshake delivery man for a week or so.
As for Gino the Dog, he took off and was never seen again.
Seems to me Gino the Dog Catcher did the same.
Looking back at all this now, I see that our neighborhood was a treasure chest of inventive people giving inventive names to clever pets - much too colorful a place, I'm afraid, for a kid who thought the names Toby and Pal were flashes of pure genius.