Ah, spring! Puppy acquisition season! Puppy bonding season! But somewhere between acquiring a puppy and bonding with him is the puppy-naming process.
If you now have your first pup, or one of your first few, you probably selected a name before you picked him up. But if this is your Nth neophyte retriever, where "N" equals some finite number greater than five, you may be a bit puzzled about how you will refer to him formally (registered name) and address him informally (call name). You've already used all of your favorite names. What to do?
Rumrunner's Brandy*** -- the first half of a long-term project that failed (miserably!)\
Clearly, you need to get creative. To start you thinking along more imaginative lines, let me tell you how I've arrived at names for several of my beasties.
Duffy In 1968, because my wife and I had suffered through eight years with a seriously ill son (Johnny), who had just died, I had been without "canine support" for quite some time. Shortly after the funeral, my wife suggested that I should get another dog.
What breed? No question about that. It had to be a golden retriever. In the late 1950s I had helped the late Sim Bowles train his golden, Ch. Hilane's Sirocco, for a couple of years. Rocco impressed me greatly, so I gave no thought to the pointing breeds I had always had before and focused on getting a golden. Sim was dead, but another local man had taken over his kennel name, Duncan Dell. I contacted him and he had a litter coming soon. I reserved a male puppy -- and waited impatiently for the whelping.
It was a large litter, of eight to 10 puppies as I recall. When puppy-picking day arrived, I played with all the male pups that had not been taken by people who had earlier reservations. One little dark orange tyke really got to me, so I said I'd take him.
"One thing you should know," the breeder told me. "His delivery was quite difficult, requiring the help of our vet. He almost didn't make it for a few days. He's fine now, but I thought you should know about his slow start. As a matter of fact, we call him 'Sickie.'"
Sickie. Difficult birth. Hmm. I had a sudden inspiration, as if Shakespeare himself were whispering in my ear a line from MacBeth:
"MacDuff was from his mother's womb untimely ripped!"
Thusly inspired, I took Sickie home, named him "Duncan Dell's MacDuff," and called him Duffy. (Nota bene: Although David Michael Duffey was even then one of my favorite dog writers, the similarity between Mr. Duffey's family name and my new golden's call name didn't occur to me at that time.)
Duffy lived for 16 and a half years. Through the early years, he endured most patiently the learning process by which I discovered how, and how not, to train him. He worked out well, more in spite of me than because of me, and became a three-sport letterman (field, bench, and obedience).
Two Latin Names
Many puppies later, and out of inspirations, I had to become creative to find names with at least a little significance and character. Thus in naming a new puppy, I have twice played a bi-lingual game I invented specifically for that purpose. To "win" this game," the "player" must dream up a registered name in one language which has a related and fairly common call name in the other. You can play this game with any two languages with which you are familiar. Not surprisingly, I used Latin and English.
Dell's MacDuff** CD, VC — nee "Sickie"
I won't give the kennel names of either dog, both goldens, on which I used this technique because neither dog distinguished himself in the field and both came from outstanding kennels that produce a high percentage of excellent pups.
I registered the first of these two goldens as "Calidus Cannis Callidus." That's Latin for "Hot Dog Clever," or in the vernacular, "clever hot dog." The first and third Latin words in this name end with "'dus," which is pronounced "deuce." Since the "deuce" sound occurs, not just once, but twice in this registered name, I used "Deuce" as the call name. Clearly, that combination won the game.
I registered the second of these goldens as "Quidquid Requiratur." That's Latin for "Whatever May Be Required," or in the vernacular, "whatever it takes." The call name "Wrecker" flows quite naturally from the pronunciation of the two r's in Requiratur. Another winner.
Unfortunately, however, neither of these two pups worked out in the field. But then, every puppy, no matter how royally bred, is a gamble.
In both cases, the English call name is related to the Latin registered name but is so commonplace that no one hearing it would suspect it comes from a foreign language registered name.
Patton Manor's Benedictine -- the second half of a long term project that failed (miserably!)
Silly? Sure, but silly games like this can turn naming a puppy from drudgery into fun.
An After-Dinner Drink Many people name their dogs after favorite beverages.
By stretching creativity to the breaking point, I once turned this practice into a multi-generation fiasco.
In the early 1970s, I bred a litter of goldens under my "Rumrunner" kennel name. Our then teenaged son Bob selected a male puppy and named him "Rumrunner's Brandy." He trained him through the Derby and into the Qualifying before moving on to things of greater interest to high school youngsters. I continued training Brandy, and he became quite successful in Qualifying stakes. Unfortunately, he didn't live long enough to run in retriever hunting tests.
My favorite afte
r-dinner drink is a "B&B," which stands for Benedictine and Brandy.
Thus it occurred to me that, if I were to acquire a golden female, name her "Benedictine," and breed her to our Brandy, I could name a puppy "Rumrunner's B&B." What a great idea! (Or so I thought.)
I selected first a breeder, then a litter, and finally a bitch puppy -- all with great care. I named her "Patton Manor's Benedictine." Happily, she worked out satisfactorily in the field. After she was two years old, I bred her to Brandy and kept what I thought was the most promising female puppy. Of course, I named her "Rumrunner's B&B."
I had spent over two years working out the details leading up to that pup's name, but I figured it would be worth it. I could hear myself telling people who admired this wonder dog: "Oh, yes, I selected her sire and dam most carefully and she proudly carries parts of both their names. As you said, she's one of the truly great ones. Did I tell you that my favorite after-dinner drink is a B&B? As you can see, there is nothing of chance in this dog's breeding or name." Blah, blah, blah.
That never happened. Little BB was the worst retriever I've ever owned and a contender for the worst I've ever seen. She had little retrieving instinct, absolutely no style, and she didn't take well to any form of training. Eventually, one of our daughters took her as a pet. Unfortunately, she didn't work out in that capacity either. In fact, she started biting people! Our daughter finally had to have BB put down.
If there's a lesson in this story, I guess it's that a great name doesn't guarantee a great dog. Or even a mediocre one! (At least I didn't name her after my all-time "most-favoritest" drink, a slightly dirty martini!)
Use Your Imagination
If you're having difficulty naming your new puppy, maybe you're not using your imagination as you should. Reflect on your various interests.
Hunting? Do terms like "Magnum," or "Deke" or "Anchor" start you thinking?Fishing? Perhaps the most famous litter of Labradors in the history of the breed was Arden's "fish" litter. Each pup was named after a different species of fish: bass, trout, and so on. Unfortunately, a clerk at AKC loused up one of those names and turned "Shad of Arden" into "Shed of Arden" on the registration papers. Of course, once a pup is registered with AKC, its name cannot be changed. Thus, through this simple clerical error, the most illustrious member of that fish litter is still remembered as "Dual Champion Shed of Arden."
Golf? I once named a dog "Mulligan," after the "friendly" but illegal practice of re-doing a bad tee-shot.
Poker? How about "Blue-Chip" (Chipper), "Sandbag" (Sandy), or "Wild-Card" (Joker).Of course, you could always name your pup after your favorite beverage, but after my excruciating experience with B&B, I wouldn't recommend it!
Nota Bene: Jim Spencer's books can be ordered from the Gun Dog Bookshelf: Training Retrievers for Marshes & Meadows; Retriever Training Tests; Retriever Training Drills for Marking; Retriever Training Drills for Blind Retrieves; Retriever Hunt Tests; HUP! Training Flushing Spaniels the American Way; and POINT! Training the All'Seasons Bird Dog.