The Naming of Puppies
With apologies to TS Elliot:
The naming of puppies is a difficult matter
It’s not just one of your holiday games …
A puppy will drive you as mad as a hatter,
His needle teeth rend you,
And house training’s a pain!
On March 10th (2015) a rather chubby concoction of fur and the aforementioned needle teeth was handed out a car window and into my arms. The puppy was about the size of a smallish cat, but more robust and less svelte. He slept most of the way home, an hour’s drive, and I now realize he was stoking up energy.
Finding a name for this animal child was hard; he didn’t look like anything we had experience with. The dogs at home were mostly Dobermans and German Shepherds, all rather large. We started by calling him Puppy, and then switched to Hugo. I thought Hugo might work because he was a typical underfoot pup, following me everywhere. Thus:
“Wherever I go, Hu-go!”
Get it? Yeah, well it kinda worked, but only kinda. I continued to shuffle around the house in the puppy walk trying to figure out what to call this young animal. (You know the puppy walk: never lift your feet from the floor because as soon as you do some part of the puppy is under it.)
The name Hugo lasted barely a day. In truth, whenever I think of a Hugo I envision some enormous Hoss-like human male. That just doesn’t fit an energetic Blue Heeler, or as the breed is now more correctly called, an Australian Cattle Dog. They’re a compact, smallish, feisty bundle of energy, a breed based on British herding dogs, Australian aboriginal dogs, and dingoes. They’re bred to work cattle. I have heard it claimed that the Australian cattle industry would never have been as successful without these dogs. They’re also one of the most intelligent breeds … too smart some say. Talk to any owner and you’ll hear stories!
Smart made me think of Albert Einstein. ut the name Einstein wouldn’t work. He’d end up being called Steiny or Einey. And I couldn’t call him Albert, because Al is the name of a good friend, and I doubt this sophisticated man would appreciate me appropriating his name for my dog.
I was in a quandary. A friend, Marlene, told me to just wait, that the dog would eventually tell me his name. This one, however, for an intelligent species, was taking his time … or perhaps I was just being obtuse? I am sorry to admit, but it was probably the latter.
I looked up an Australian aborigine language dictionary online to see if I could discover some words to describe my puppy. He was an interesting color, not the steely blackish agouti of most Heelers, but a soft smoky white with red, almost pinkish undertones. Add to this his dark mask, a black spot on his back, and light sienna-colored legs … Well, his color was a complicated mix!
As I perused the dictionary I remember reading that you had to be careful what you called an animal because they would often live up to their name. Eagle and Holy Terror (although somewhat apt) was out. Tasmanian Devil, or Taz was appropriate, but I didn’t want it living in my house. I was also facing the necessity of picking a name that I could pronounce. The word for smoke, for example, Kuthu, was a tongue twister as well as sounding like something Lovecraft would have used. But, the romantic in me, liked Kyeema, the word for dawn. You could say his main color was reminiscent of a sunrise. And I added the word for dog, Ku’a. And so he became Kyeema Ku’a, the Dawn Dog. (Say it out loud and it sounds Polynesian, doesn’t it? It made me wonder about the origin of the Australian aboriginal people. I know the Polynesians were intrepid sailors, making terrifyingly long journeys in tiny boats. They could read the waves and currents, and used them to navigate. Sorry about the aside. I’m fascinated with the origins of language, and my mind tends to go off on tangents.)
ANYWAY! Back to Kyeema. A good name, but not what he wanted. Remember, the dog was supposed to tell me his name?
I had to sweep the computer workroom a couple times a day because little Kyeema Ku’a had found the dog door and decided it amusing to bring dried sycamore leaves into the workroom and shred them all over the floor. He also brought in sticks, logs, flower pots, plants — one of them complete with a root ball full of potting soil — and a broom … and boy, did he have fun getting that through the doggy door! He was quite industrious about all of this. It only took me about ten days to realize what he was trying to tell me. (Like, duh.)
My vet thinks I’m nuts. Every time I brought the puppy in, he had a different name. Thank heavens his records are in the computer or I’d have to pay for all the white-out! But the name Shredder only worked for a couple of days, before I realized it didn’t really work either. Even though he was quite efficient at shredding leaves and sticks, there was so much more to him. His name had to be based on his personality, no matter what I thought.
So what was his personality like. He was a bit atypical, according to the vet, because he really liked people. He was affectionate, which, I was told, was not something you could attribute to a Heeler. He did have the typical Heeler energy. In fact this young dog didn’t need puppy vitamins, he needed puppy valium. He alternated a death-like sleep with frenetic activity. Despite my misgivings, one name kept coming back into my mind. (Okay, I’m not completely dense!) The puppy was telling me something, that his real name is Taz!
Welcome, young Mr. Taz Red Dog Underfoot!