What's in a Name?

Trump/Goofy with his new owner


What's in a name? Apparently a lot when it comes to dogs. Think about it. There's a world of difference between Fido and Brutus, Rover and Killer. A name defines a dog, as it does any other creature, and sets it on the path of how it will be perceived forever after.

When I first visited Pugdom to pick out Vader, I already had his name in mind. A sci fi fan, I thought Vader, was the perfect name for an all black dog who snorted and breathed deeply like Star Wars' Darth behind his black mask and cloak. Joan, however, had already named Vader Zag and his brother Zig and I unfortunately did not grasp the importance of that.

When it came time to take him home, she handed me the paperwork, which included his AKC registration that she had already filled out as "Waltham's Zag," (Waltham being her kennel name).

"You can call him what you want, but I already put Zag done here," she said. Not fully understanding when I went to send his papers in I completed the form by adding "Vader." Waltham's Zag Vader, however, did not sound right  and since I was already calling him "Little Man" by that that time, I decided to officially dub him "Waltham's Zag Vaderman." I may have been one of the few people to receive a dog from Pugdom who got away with changing their pug's name on the official paperwork, but I am not the only one to give her pug a new moniker.

Now that I have known Joan for 14 years and helped her name and find homes for many litters of new puppies, I realize how many people want to give their dogs their own names. I also realize how unsettling it can be on the other end to see the puppies we have so meticulously dubbed and cared for receive new titles.

Although we have tried to give various litters themed names in recent years, the naming of the pugs frequently occurs haphazardly. Take Batman for instance, I looked at this tiny creature with the small pointed ears a day after he was born and exclaimed, "Joan, he looks like a bat. He's a little Batman." And, the name just stuck.

His brother resembled their mother Griffles so much that I kept fiddling with names that had Griffles in it, arriving finally at Gryffindoor. Our friend Jane though Margot fit the elegant little girl and Joan combed through a name book another night, choosing Kensington and Trump. We fell in love with the name Waltham's Little Trump from the getgo. It just seemed to fit this strange and petite little fellow. It was short and sweet like him, but also had an air of aristocracy to it -- it was at once a cute and gentlemanly name. And, it endeared him to me even more.

When our friends from Massachusetts approached us about taking one of the puppies, they said they wanted one with lots of personality and Trump sprang readily to mind. Kensington is a sweetheart, just a lump of a pug who will cuddle with you endlessly, but Trump, he's a character, I noted. So, they called Joan and decided on Trump and we were happy. Our friends already owned two of Joan's other pugs and while they had changed Connie's name to Jerry to go along with Ben (as in both the icecream and the other pug they owned), they had kept the name of Truffles. I think we just assumed they'd keep the name Trump as well.

We were wrong. Joan called me one night and announced they were changing Trump's name to Critter. Crittter? If Trump is the name of a gentleman, Critter may be just the opposite. We might as well change the rest to Jethro, Bubba and Ellie May I complained. "How Redneck," Joan expressed to them.

I think our friends may have been hurt. Critter had special meaning and I felt bad, even if none of us at Pugdom could quite make the adjustment in our head. Well, I changed Vader's name, I reasoned, and we could call him Little Trump Critter, I said, trying to placate Joan. It had started to sound a little cuter, I thought. "We better be careful because we'll probably get used to Critter and they'll come up with something else," I prophesied and sure enough I was right.

We gave Trump to his new owners on Monday and Tuesday I received a call from Joan saying, "Guess what? They took a look at his funny face and floppy ears and changed his name to Goofy!"

Goofy? Not exactly the vision I have of little Trump. Yes, he has some peculiar physical features -- too big ears and some funny behaviors -- but our sweet, dignified comical little character was evolving into someone else. Comparing Trump to Goofy was like trying to compare Charlie Chaplin to Jeff Foxworthy and yet, I knew our friends loved the little guy and the name Goofy was given out of pure affection and the joy of watching the fella play and making them laugh. They have the right to recast him in a new light and I  honor that, but I have a feeling Joan may be picking on them, just as she did me, for the rest of Trump/Goofy's life and in her head and heart, Goofy just won't stick.

On the other hand, I think Trump/Goofy doesn't care at all. The name he carries will not change his looks, character or little pug heart, whatever our perceptions of him. He will run to his owners whenever they call, whatever they call.