Editor’s Note: Kate Conway is a contributor to Dogster’s sister SAY Media site, xojane.com. This article first ran on xoJane, but we’re rerunning it (with permission!) so you readers can comment on it. Please note that the opinions expressed below are just the author’s and not Dogster’s
I’m not ashamed to say it: I am straight-up obsessed with my dog, to the point where I make Tumblr galleries featuring nothing but her hairy face, and I will frequently talk about her at length to people who have zero interest in her. (Shocker, I know.)
I can’t count the number of times I’ve had conversations with strangers that go like this:
Me: “Hey, is that a Jack Russell?”
Stranger: “Uh, no. He’s a Corgi mix.”
Me, physically trying to restrain one hand with other hand: “CAN I–”
Stranger: “His name’s –”
Me, already seated on the ground: “CAN I–”
Stranger: “I guess?”
Me, head buried in dog: “This reminds me of MY Jack Russell! She’s terrible! She’s the worst! This guy’s not the worst!”
Me, to dog: “You’re not the worst, are you?”
Me, to stranger: “On the real, though. My dog is the best.”
This goes on for anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. Luckily, there are more dogs than children living in San Francisco, so people are mostly tolerant of my issues. It’s also why I know the names of five of the dogs who live on my street but zero of their owners’ names.
The worst part? My dog doesn’t even like me that much. I mean, she tolerates me fine, but I’ve always wanted her to be my soul twin, while she clearly regards me as a casual bro. She’s always been a little cool toward me, like I never waded into the three-Chow dogfight that she started or got bitten by a snake while crashing through blackberry bushes after her when my grandma let her out of the backyard.
I suddenly sort of know how all those Nice Guys feel, because I’ve been there for her time and time again, and I know she’d leave me in a heartbeat to go chase a cat or hang with my dad. I’ve been friend-zoned by my own Jack Russell.
In my heart of hearts, I’m afraid I know why: It’s because I gave her a dumb name.
I mean, “Kate’s Darling Dot.” Really? Really.
Sometimes I want to go back in time and smack my 9-year-old self in the face. If my mom had given me that name when I was smaller than a tennis shoe, I’d probably be a little cold toward her, too.
Lest you think this is overly dramatic, consider the amount of energy it takes to compile every year’s top 10 trendiest dog names, or how much kerfuffle there was over Bo Obama’s christening. People really care about this stuff.
I know I’m being ridiculous, but I still spend an undue amount of time fantasizing over future dog names — and obsessing over my 9-year-old failure — the way some people have their children’s nicknames decided two years before conception.
Frankly, pet names are an opportunity for the perfect storm of narcissism: They tell the world at large who we are and who we hope our dog-babies will become with our help. We want to be quirky, but not absurd — clever, but not pretentious.
The most “Dottie” says about me and my curmudgeonly, scrappy, precocious Terrier is that she has a dot on the end of her nose and I noticed it. Fan-freakin-tastic.
Knowing Dottie like I do now, of course, it’s hard to imagine calling her anything else. But here are a few options I wish I’d at least considered. Yes, derivatives of Kate are on this list twice, because I am nothing if not hugely narcissistic even when dealing with my favorite creature on the planet. (Sorry.)
In 1999, I was super into Le Tigre just like everyone else. I’d just figured out how to illegally download MP3s onto my desktop, so for hours I’d sit at my computer jamming to Deceptacon and scribbling moodily into my notebook about how I already hated my mom and dad. I always secretly thought Kathleen Hanna and I had a special same-name bond, and naming my dog after her would have totally solidified our sisterhood (me and the dog’s, not me and the singer’s).
Not only the name of the fearless elf protagonist in the Artemis Fowl series that I rubbed all over my face as a preteen, Holly is also one of the least popular dog names this year, effectively reducing the chances of any embarrassing dog-switching-Parent-Trap scenarios. Also, let’s be real: Nobody likes it when their dogs share names. It just feels weird, like you’re sharing a toothbrush.
At the time, I had a male guinea pig very cunningly named Sandy for his tan fur. We could have had a hilarious gender-swapped trans-species Grease recast in the works, except that Jack Russells hate rodents and it probably would have ended in tragedy.
I actually really did push for this one, because I had and probably always will have a giant crush on the whole “goddess of the moon, maiden of the hunt, forever badass” thing. But my mom thought it (and my other suggestion, Hera) would be “too hard to yell in the dog park,” even though that was an activity we partook in all of once before we realized we’d been saddled with an creep of a Terrier who thought she weighed 150 pounds. I’m still kind of mad about it, truth be told.
When I was 11 or so, I ruined my already shaky reputation in the neighborhood by chasing down some dudes with a baseball bat and threatening to beat them to a pulp if they ever shot another BB gun at my dog. I was already such a helicopter parent — I constantly worried that she’d get hit by a car or bitten by a rattlesnake or eaten by a red-tailed hawk — and the laughing, murderous contempt of the hard-mouthed older boys who lived up the street didn’t make that any better.
It’s not like calling her Killer would have made her safer, really, but it might have made me choke on my breath a little less every time we had to leave her at the dog kennel during away-game soccer tournaments. I know that’s total small-dog breed privilege speaking; I would have never taken the chance on calling a big dog, particularly one of the “scary breeds,” something like that. But it would have made me feel a little better with her.
6. Joanne and/or Kathleen and/or Rowling
Did you know J.K. Rowling and I share both a name and a favorite kind of dog? Don’t worry, my dog and I will remind you. Constantly. Forever.
Like I said, I would never actually retcon my dog’s name. She’s been Dottie for the past 14 years, and she’s perfect the way she is, including her mild derision for my existence.
But does anyone else feel deeply insecure about having doomed their pet to a stupid name for life? It’s not totally weird that I’m stockpiling names for pets 10 years in the future, is it? I guess I’ve done stranger things in the name of dog-love, but still.
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