What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to our pets, a lot. Most of us put a lot of thought and time into picking out just the right name for our animal. Unlike with our children, it’s our chance to let our creative freak flag fly without fear of them one day being traumatized by the playground bully. Name your child something weird or silly and they’ll be paying for it for years to come. Name your dog or cat something off the wall and their playmates couldn’t care less. (Now, put them in sweaters or bows, and that’s a different story.) But as much work as we put into picking those names, have you noticed that many of us promptly stop using them in favor of crazy nicknames or even downright gibberish? I’ll give you an example. Actually, I’ll give you six of them.
The first cat I ever owned as an adult is Rhett. If you’re a ‘Gone with the Wind’ fan you know where that moniker came from. I had just discovered the dangerous, dashing character of Rhett Butler thanks to a boyfriend addicted to old movies. I was completely swept away by the rocky romance of Rhett and Scarlett and couldn’t wait to bestow that name on my cat. (On a side note, I was so enamored of the movie that I also named my hamster Scarlett. Unfortunately she passed away many years ago, and no, it wasn’t at the hands of Rhett.) But as much as I love that name, I found myself calling him almost anything but Rhett. It started with ‘Boots,’ thanks to his little white feet. Somehow that degenerated into ‘Booter’, then, ‘Bud’, then ‘Budrow’ and finally into ‘Bubba lou.’ Try following that chain of thought.
That trend continued when we got our second cat, Ally. I’m not ashamed to admit we named her after the character Ally McBeal. (Come on, it was a huge hit and you KNOW that dancing baby was hilarious!) Anyway, since she was such a sweet girly cat, so dainty and petite, I almost immediately started calling her ‘Girls.’ Then I added princess to it, as in ‘Princess Girls.’ She was also known to respond to ‘Princess feet’ or ‘Girly cat.’ Yeah, I know, clever nicknames are not my forte.
Now, those of you who know me from my time in television news may not believe this next one, but my third cat was named in honor of a boxing champion. I know I don’t look like the typical boxing fan, but trust me, put me in a bar with 100 men watching two men duke it out and I’ll be the one screaming for blood the loudest. Just about the time my favorite heavyweight, Lennox Lewis, was enjoying huge success, we got our Persian kitten and I decided to pay homage to the heavyweight great by naming the new kitty after him. I thought Lewis was a tad formal for the kitten’s silly, smushed face, so I shortened it a bit and voila! We had Louie. Over the years, Louie has turned into ‘Lou Lou’, ‘Lulu-belle’, Boo, Booie, Boozer and Booher. I’m just assuming that’s how they’re spelled since, as far as I know, gibberish cat nicknames are not included in a dictionary.
Next came Sweetie, who I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t actually name. One of my fellow crazy cat ladies at work named him that when she discovered him living in the woods behind the TV station. Since he was used to it and would actually respond to it when we’d call him, the name stuck. It turns out, it fits his sweet and loving personality perfectly. Even so, it wasn’t long after I took him home that I started in with the nicknames. ‘Sweets’ came first, then “Tweeter”, “Tweetie” and finally, just plain “Tweets.” (I’m wondering if I can claim some naming rights money from Twitter since I came up with that, like, six years ago??)
By the time I found our soon to be fifth cat, injured in a CVS parking lot, I was running a little low on creative name juice. But as I sat with her in our ‘cat rehab’ room while she recuperated from surgery on her foot, a light went off. I should skip a step and give her a name that’s already a nickname. My dad, who passed away many years ago, always called me ‘Lucy Jane’ when I was growing up, so I figured I would pass along my childhood moniker in his honor. Now, occasionally, I’ll call her ‘Lucy-cat’ or ‘Little girl’, but since her name means so much to me, I mostly stick to calling her Lucy Jane. (Ironically, the ONE cat I call by their given name the most is the deaf one, and can’t even hear her name!)
As for our dog, I gave her naming honors to my husband, and I must say he did quite well. He named her Maho, after our favorite little beach on the Caribbean island of St. John where we hope to retire someday. Not that it really matters, since I started calling her crazy nicknames right off the bat. Maho is, at various times, known by Mee-maw, Meems, Mi-mi and Mims. And like the good dog that she is, she responds to all of them. Especially when there’s cheese involved.
I know I’m not alone in my nickname-itis. What silly, bizarre nicknames have you bestowed upon your animals? I’d love to hear them and share them with our fans on SPCA Tampa Bay’s Adopt-a-human facebook page. Head over to our facebook page and leave us your thoughts in the comments section under the blog. And be sure to check back with my blog next week, when I’ll have details about how you and your animals can win some cool prizes and even a chance to strut your stuff on TV!