Louise’s back toes are all white on the left and mostly white on the right. She has what we call here at the zoo: “Milky Toes.” I am not exactly sure where the name came from, I only know that K8 has a stuffed dog toy ever since she was a little girl that she named “Milky-Toe.” No one knows, or remembers, why. We thought about naming Louise that when we first adopted her, but the name ‘Louise’ just seemed to fit her so well, so we kept it. (Note: They also wanted to name her ‘Harlo,’ which would really not have fit now that I know her.)
Names are funny things. I used to name Peanut’s stuffed animals (of which she had a zillion) either after the person or state that they came from. She has a rabbit named Carolina, a lamb named Larry… you get the idea. It not only made it easier to name things but it also helped my old brain remember, who or where. But ‘Milky-Toe?’ Well, it kind of makes sense if you think that Lulu’s back paws were dunked in a vat of milk or white paint, but, I just didn’t want to run around the dog park calling for ‘Milky-Toe.’
Names are really powerful things. “A common concept in history is that knowing the name of something or someone gives one power over that thing or person. This concept occurs in many different forms, in numerous cultures—in ancient and primitive tribes, as well as in Islamic, Jewish, Egyptian, Vedic, Hindu, and Christian tradition,” – Loren Graham, MIT and Harvard University. The act of naming, a religious ritual for many, is important on many levels. Think about what it means when you know someone’s, or something’s name. In the human world, knowing someone’s name gives you the ability to contact them, to interact personally. You can’t find someone’s phone number if you don’t know their name and you definitely can’t Google them (that was a blog joke – LOL).
But is it the same with a dog? If you know a dog’s name, will it respond differently if it does not know you? Is it more likely to come to you if you call it. Does “Here, Lulu” from a stranger work any better than “Here, doggie?” In humans you have to fear this knowledge (especially people calling your children by name who they do not know), but I am not so sure in animals.
I used to just accept the name of an animal when I adopted it, not realizing that it was probably given to it just yesterday by the rescuer, or when it was picked up from the street or at the shelter. They know the sound of their name, but of course not what their name means in human language. All they understand is ‘Oh, they are referring to me. That is my sound (Luluuuuu).’ That is why you can name a Bull Mastiff ‘Tinker Bell’ or a Yorkie ‘Killer,’ what you name him or her is not really important. The fact that you can call the animal by name, now that is everything. That is the power of connection, of knowing, of intimate knowledge. Since I turned this whole name thing around and am looking at it from the animals point of view, I realize that the names I pick for them are more important for me than for them: I guess I could have called her ‘Milky-Toe’ after all.
How do you decide what to name your pets?