“Do you ever wonder, when looking in your dogs’ eyes, what name they’ve selected for us?”
The announcer posed this question during the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving 2015. It’s one I hear often from curious pet owners who wonder just what their pets think of them. So let’s go to the source and let the animals tell us.
Mickey is a lesson horse who lives at a small riding school. “We (horses) assign you two names – one in our head and one we use when you’re around us.” The first name is more like an idea snapshot than an actual word, and represents all they know about us. Each horse has a different idea-name for an individual because it’s based on that horse’s unique perceptions.
The other name they give us is descriptive and tends to be shared among the herd. This herd calls their barn owner Working Mare because she’s always doing chores. Her husband is Little Rocky to them since he’s always working the soil, planting and fixing things around the farm. The farrier is called The Class by some and The Clash by others, both versions referring to the hammering combined with the orange-hot metal shoes as they’re heated to be shaped.
Story is a riding horse who’s had the same owner for many years. He’s given her a few names: “Mare, The Loving One, The Princess. All these work for her because that’s what she is.” He knows her ‘real’ name but feels it’s meaningless since it doesn’t suit her.
He refers to each of the barn staff as Helper without assigning a specific name to each. In other instances, he uses a person’s human-assigned name when he doesn’t know them well enough to assign a more specific name.
One of his barn cats also uses generic terms. “We don’t know what to call you so we call you Friends.” He says it isn’t necessary to assign names anyway because the cats identify people by their footprints- the sound of them, the physical tracks left behind, as well as the energetic footprint that remains where we’ve walked. He and the other barn cats are aware of the names people call each other but don’t care to use them.
House cat Lola likes assigning names. “When we’re little you give us names and we give ‘em right back!” When she first met her mom years ago she named her Too-loo which means ‘my little friend’. She still uses that name but also calls her My Super Mom because “now she’s my super friend!”
Lola named her dad My-Tom meaning ‘my little broken boy’ because “he has a little crack in him like a broken vase”, a very endearing quality that she loves.
Dog King named his mom “Mary-Sweet, because she wants to walk with me”, share a life, be companions. The Sweet refers to ‘my sweet butter girl’ and Mary because it means ‘a tolerant soul’. “On many levels, she’s one.”
Dog Dex says “We (pets) give names to the pleasanter people we want to work with” but not to other people. When he met his mom when he was a puppy he named her Ory to represent her round, smooth, soft energy. Her nickname is My Honey.
His grandma has very different energy, she gives instructions and teaches him a lot. He refers to her as Tory. The T added to the name represents to him the energy of concise instructions.
They have a baby girl he calls Angel or Heaven-Baby since “she has our hearts melting in her hands”.
Dogs George and Wally are brothers, very close, almost of one mind. When they met their dad they knew nothing about him so weren’t sure what to name him. They settled on a name based on what they think he likes, judged by the only thing they knew about him which was his physical appearance. They named him The Pork-een which seems a cross between pork and porcupine. They gave this name “because he looks like one. He’s fat and he wobbles a little when he walks. We saw his belly is full” which they think means he’s full of food because he likes to eat “so we named him after food”. They wanted him to have a name he liked.
Their mom got a seemingly more flattering name. The first things they noticed about her were pretty blond hair and golden fingernails so she was named Tace meaning ‘the golden one’.
Each of these names and descriptors was assigned and used with the deepest love and regard. Even the generic title of Helper was given to acknowledge the loving care shown to the animals. And while we might consider it disrespectful to call someone a pig, the dogs meant it as a caring gift to their new dad. So when you’re looking in your dogs’ eyes wondering what they call you, know it’s probably something pretty darn good.