The Giving and Receiving of Animal Names
By Allen and Linda Anderson
When we do our workshops or book events, we always ask the participants to introduce themselves and tell us the names of their animal companions. This exercise gets a lot of laughs as people share the creative names they have given their furry friends. One of our favorites was a woman who named her two somewhat frantic cats, Schizo and Phrenia.
Diana, from Australia, says that her husband’s impulsive adoption of two pullet hens caused her to name these new members of their family, Spon and Taneous. They joined Diana’s other two hens, Little Red and Riding Hood.
Literature often provides the inspiration for animals’ names. Janice says that she and her husband named their five puppies after characters in THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, a book Janice had loved to read as a child. They called the pups Christian, Purity, Chastity, Tenacity, and Charity. Another woman recreated her childhood by naming her new kittens Papa Bear, Mamma Bear, and Baby Bear. They joined Bear, the adult cat, who already ruled their household.
Beverly says that Shana Punem, in Yiddish, means “beautiful face.” The name had special significance to her, because this is what her father used to call his niece when the girl was little. Beverly says, “He would cup her face in his hand and say, ‘Shana Punem.’ It was such a sweet gesture.” When Beverly adopted a dog nine years ago, she named her Shana Punem.
Lisa wrote to tell us about her dog, Trouble. He got that moniker because when Lisa adopted another dog in addition to the two she already had, her sister-in-law predicted that Lisa’s husband wouldn’t be very happy about it. “You’re going to get in trouble,” was her admonition. As it turned out, according to Lisa, “Trouble was never any trouble at all. My husband and I both adored him.” She says that Trouble was a dog who never did live up to his name.
An orphaned kitten named Gabriel was so sweet that his new human companions named him after the Archangel Gabriel. They write, “It backfired! We’ve found out that feline angels can be very mischievous!”
Along those same lines, a cat that had at first been named Daisy had her name changed to Dickens. It seemed the right thing to do after Judy had responded to the cat’s antics far too many times by saying, “You little dickens!”
Another woman named her cat Lucy. The cat’s huge eyes, long white whiskers that looked like eyelashes, and wide-eyed gaze, reminded the woman of Lucille Ball. On a more heavenly note, Carrie called her sweet dog, Francesco, after Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment.
The stars can play a role in naming animal companions. Gemini was born in May, but this cat got his name because he is white with one green and one blue eye. The two different colors make Gemini look as if he has gems in his eyes.
Leslie-Ann named her white male cat, Alistair. She hadn’t had any children yet, and Alistair is the name she’d always wanted to give to her firstborn son. She says that Alistair, with his distinctive appearance, deserved an unordinary name. Leslie-Ann will have to think of another sophisticated name if she has a human son.
We named our yellow Labrador retriever, Taylor, as a play on words. When we adopted Taylor as a puppy, she always wagged her tail so hard that often it knocked her off balance and she’d tip over. Our cat, Cuddles, got her name because on her first night at home, the kitten curled up into a little ball and slept in the palm of Linda’s hand.
Our late gray cat Feisty got his name because, well, can you guess why? After he matured, Feisty became one of the most serene creatures we’d ever met. We thought we should change his name from Feisty to Mellow. Sunshine and Sparkle, our two cockatiels, brought the qualities of shining and sparkling love into our home. The bright yellow Sunshine is still with us, saying, “I love you, sweet baby,” every morning when we take the cover off his cage.
Animals Who Tell You Their Names
Although people get very creative about giving names to their animal companions, some say that the animals have let their humans know what they want to be called. Melodie writes about the adoption of her tiny, juvenile green iguana. She says, “For a week, I tried many names that seemed perfect for her, but none of them were right for this little creature. During the second week of having her, a strange name was just in my mind. I truly believe that Eeghana-guana told me her name.”
After Butterfly brought home a calico kitten from an animal shelter, four weeks passed with her new feline friend not having a name. So Butterfly decided to ask the cat what he wanted to be called. After she made this request, the kitten began to show his royal and majestic personality, and Butterfly named him Prince. She says, “I am glad that I asked him; otherwise, Prince would have gotten some name like Morpheus or Malcom that would not have fit him at all.”
We had a similar experience with our sweet gray tabby cat. We adopted him from a family that had a toddler who had terrorized the kitten. On the way to his first visit to the veterinarian, we asked the kitten what he wanted to be named. We tried out many different names but the kitten just looked at us from where he sat on Linda’s lap as if to say, “You don’t have it right yet.”
Finally, Allen, thinking of how this kitten had needed to learn how to quickly keep out of the toddler’s way, said, “Would you like to be called Speedy?” Upon hearing this name, Speedy climbed up onto Linda’s shoulder, wrapped himself around the back of her neck, and purred like a freight train. He’s been Speedy ever since. And yes, he lives up to his name, especially at dinner-time when his food bowl is refilled.
Our beautiful golden retriever, Prana, chose us from a litter of adorable puppies by coming forward and untying Allen’s shoelace. On the way home, she seemed to whisper her name in Linda’s ear. Later, we found out that “prana” means “breath of life.” Prana surely was a breath of life for our family during the years we were blessed with her presence.
What name have you given your animal companion? Did you choose this name or did the animal choose it for you?
Allen and Linda Anderson are co-editors of “Angel Animals: Exploring Our Spiritual Connection with Animals” (A Plume Book, 1999), available in local and Internet bookstores and through One Spirit Book Club. Subscribe to their free online news-letter at www.angelanimals.net . Story submissions for their next book, website, and articles are grate-fully accepted at Angel Animals, P.O. Box 26354, Minneapolis, MN 55426 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information call (952) 925-3309.
Return to the May/June Index page