Pet names


Susan Peters '17

Susan’s dog Mango

When I was young, one of my favorite poems was “The Naming of Cats” by T.S. Eliot. It whimsically blends the appropriate procedure for cat naming with themes of identity and individuality. I look to my own pets and wonder if they are satisfied with their monikers. My first two dogs from my earliest years were Klaus and Greta. Klaus was so named due to his status as a Weimaraner, a breed that I have only just realized how to spell. My parents thought that a German breed deserved a German name. Usually when one pictures a Klaus, one sees a stately, civilized being. Our Klaus, on the other hand, was a troublemaking goofball who ran into things and was deathly afraid of water. Greta, with her keen eyes and mellow temperament, was the perfect balance to his frivolity. She always bore her name with great dignity, except in the presence of bread, which she obsessed over. Klaus and Greta’s names represent an era before my brother and I were allowed to name the pets. It was then that everything quickly slid downhill.

Around age four or five, I visited my great-aunt and uncle in a small town called Greensburg, Indiana. I quickly met their cat, who bore the sad, common name of Squeaker. Somehow, the cat and I glimpsed each other’s souls, and I immediately knew to call him Kirto. The name Kirto embodies eccentricity and to this day is probably the most original name I have ever created. Of course, Aunt Sandy and Uncle John still call him Squeaker, though they find Kirto to be a “darling nickname.” Wrong. So wrong. Kirto is not a nickname. Kirto is his core, his essence. The Kirto versus Squeaker debacle is reminiscent of the various cat names that Eliot mentions in his poem. He speaks of daily family names that cats are given and then contrasts them with the more original names of Jellylorum and Bombalurina. I could easily see Kirto fitting in with those strange titles. I like to think that T.S. Eliot would’ve loved to meet Kirto over cooled beverages and hors d’oeuvres, but time was not on their side.

Around ages six and eight, my brother and I somehow wormed our way into receiving pet lizards. He named his Skrifty, and I called mine Skittles. Everyone loved Skrifty. He had a certain brooding, James Dean quality, which we later discovered was due to his being deathly ill. He passed away soon after he arrived, and Skittles, the lively counterpart to Skrifty’s contemplative tendencies, promptly ran away. My brother teased me, saying that Mom let Skittles go because she didn’t like him as much as Skrifty. I believed him at first, but I now know that he was lying. Sometimes though, at night, I worry that it might be true, that the only Skittles my mom loved came in a package at the movie theater and that all other Skittles were irrelevant as far as she was concerned. No, Susan, relax. It’s okay. Mom loved Skittles just as much as she loved Skrifty. Breathe. Anyway, Skittles and Skrifty led chaotic lives, not unlike their names. Skittles was a lot to handle, as is his delicious, rainbow namesake, while Skrifty’s name was simply not a name. It does not exist. The best pet names never do.   

A few years ago, I received a Small Pod EcoSphere, which contains tiny shrimp who live off their own environment. The ecosystem arrived with four shrimp inside. The largest and reddest looked like a Frenchmen named Reginald, so I bequeathed upon him the name of Reginald Crevette. “Crevette” means shrimp in French according to Google. Two of the other shrimp died, leaving just Reginald and his trusted ally Bartholomew. I gave them both dynamic names that can be sophisticated one moment and casual the next. Reginald and Bartholomew can become Reggie and Bart in less than a second. I think they are glad to have that freedom.

Around the time when Skittles and Skrifty left our world, Tango and Mango joined it. They were two Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies that my brother and I received around 2005. My brother, having an innovative mind, named his dog Mango. A minute later, I, with perhaps even more originality, chose the name Tango. They were instantly a dynamic duo in our household. Wreaking havoc and growing enormous, Tango and Mango sought to learn many things about the outside world, but never quite got their names down. Because their titles sounded so similar, the two would operate as a unit, but still managed to maintain their individualities. Tango was the mastermind, and Mango was his devoted follower. It stayed that way for a long time. Then, the doggies began to age. They rested more frequently and did not seem to have the copious amounts of energy that they did in the past. One morning, Mango suddenly lost the ability to walk and he died the next day. Our poor baby Mango, a formerly vibrant and delicious piece of fruit, had rapidly passed away without warning. No one was more distraught than Tango, who had never known a life without his sidekick. He began to cry at night and would wistfully stare at the horizon during the day, as though he was waiting for Mango to return with some reconnaissance about a buried bone or a juicy-looking quail. That was in early September. Now, Tango has grown to be an only dog, and his name, like his looks, bears a resemblance to his brother. Tango and Mango’s names gave them unity, and they will always have that to bind them together. This blog post is dedicated to Mango, one of the best dogs named after one of the best fruits.

The point of this long and convoluted piece with a title that is supposed to be a Beach Boys reference is that the labels we give our pets are not to be treated lightly. A name holds a lot of power. Greta, Skittles and Skrifty were utterly defined by theirs, whereas Klaus’ name was full of contradictions. Reginald and Bartholomew’s monikers give them the freedom and control that a little glass case simply does not grant, while Kirto’s first name was a glass case in of itself. Meanwhile, Tango and Mango have names that will forever bind them together even after death. So, dear reader, name your pets wisely, because you will be using them as security questions until the end of time. Additionally, your homework is to read “The Naming of Cats.” You and your non-human companions will be better off because of it.