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What’s in A Name?

Because I am living in Charleston, S.C. for the season (I could not take another blizzardy winter in NYC), I am meeting many new dogs. Southern dogs. This past week I had to take my spaniel Chloe to the vet (ruptured cruciate ligament and meniscus?)  and was amused to learn that many of the dogs were named Savannah, Rhett, Ashley and even General Lee (the latter, a Schnauzer, even resembled the general with his generous grey beard). I had never thought of the concept of place-specific dog names before, but this week I realized it’s quite common. In New York City, our dog friends had such names as Madison, Brooklyn and Hudson. In Woodstock, there was Marley (after Bob), Cassidy (after Jack Kerouac’s muse) and Dylan (the other Bob). Even I named my dog Chlothilde, because she is part French spaniel, and I wanted to give her a French old-lady name. After a few days I shortened that to Chloe (because it’s an easier name to call across fields, and because she looked more like a Chloe than a French old lady).


What does this mean, I wonder, to name a dog based on place? Are we trying to ground them to a particular setting? One more bit of proof that we are providing our dogs a home?


It might be interesting to note that more often rescue dogs have these “place names.” Those show dogs have names like Champion Sea Breeze – Covered Bridge de Pillowcase Oswageon. (If that’s not enough to confuse a dog I don’t know what is!)


This is a rambling blog, but I like to believe that Chloe takes comfort in the fact that she is Chloe. That her place is with me. What are the stories behind your dogs’ names?

Lee Harrington is the author of the best-selling memoir, Rex and the City: A Woman, a Man, and a Dysfunctional Dog (Random House, 2006), and of the forthcoming novel, Nothing Keeps a Frenchman from His Lunch. emharrington.com

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