real life

KATE: "A stranger shamed my dog's name and I didn't even realise that was possible."

My relationship with my dog has never been easy. It has been fraught at times. Weighed down by misunderstanding. But time and therapy have helped and I’m not even joking.

(You can read about our relationship counselling session here.)

So you can imagine my distress when a woman, unknown to us both, judged me for giving my dog a non-human name.

‘Oh, he’s lovely,’ she said, so innocuously,  lulling me into thinking all I was in for was inane dog-park small talk. ‘What kind is he?’

Again, entirely predictable. Most people think he’s a poodle of some kind.

‘He’s what’s called a Lagotto,’ I said, ‘He’s an Italian truffle digger.’ Most people look at me like I’m a dickhead when I say that. But she didn’t, and that should have given me a clue about what was to come. She was clearly a dog person, one who knows all about the exotic breeds. I glanced at her pooch — an Afghan hound. Groomed like a Kardashian at Elton John’s post Oscar party.

‘What’s his name?’

‘Tiger,’ I said.

‘What kind of a name is that for such a beautiful boy?’ she asked.

‘Well,’ I stammered,  ‘He looked like the dog on the Brady Bunch. It was called Tiger too.’

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He may not be stripey but we think Tiger's name is perfect. 

‘Well, I guess I’m different,’ said the lady. ‘Our dogs are like our children to us. That’s Victoria over there, and we have Albert at home.’

Victoria looked like she was sniffing a dead lizard, with a view to rolling in it, but I didn’t say anything. I thought about telling her that these days there are children with names like Buster and Rover and Banjo – traditionally thought of as ‘dog names’ but luckily, Tiger chose that moment to poo, so I took my bag and retired graciously from the conversation.

On our podcast, we debate whether dogs are actually like kids. (Post continues after audio.)

On the way home I thought, like you do, about things I could have said to judgey dog lady. My previous dog had a human name: Jonah.

The dog I grew up with was Ben. I adored him and may or may not be a co-incidence our son is also named Ben. We’ve had a Jasper and a Spot.

So I don’t think there’s a malicious dog-ist pattern to my pet naming. But who knows? I might need to get the dog therapist back.

Do your pets have ‘human’ names? Or pet names? 

If you're obsessed with dogs, like us, then keep on reading!

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