Naming Animals: An Art Form

I and my family possess an uncanny ability to name animals. Allow me to persuade you. 

My tiny black dog was named Cricket (the name Hershey came in a solid second). I named the scruffy stray dog that found me, Scruffy. 

Cricket, 1995

Growing up we had Ginger Dog who was—not coincidentally—a ginger dog. Snowball was a white furry dog. There was a guinea pig named Guinea and after he went to the “farm” he was replaced without much pomp by his successor Guinea 2. There was also Rabbit 1 and Rabbit 2 (lest you think this uninventive please know the T was silent).

My Dad and Ginger, California circa 1970
Dad and Ginger Dog, Circa 1970

As descriptive as our pet names have been, we also love a good pet story. Following are titles to our most told pet stories:

  1. Get a Load of that Dog! A heartwarming story of a dead road-animal whose feline or canine status was never determined. 
  2. Stevie the Dog. A tale as old as time. Stevie shared all his toys and then he died. 
  3. Snowball, the Superdog. She could talk and flush toilets but the Landlord wouldn’t let us keep her. 
  4. Igor and Ginger—a May December Romance (Spoiler Alert: Ginger/December died first).
  5. Monkey’s Out! An epic thriller of a monkey who hated small children who also lived with 11 small children. 

On our recent trip to the Netherlands, Joan and I along with our husbands, met Doug and Sharon, from Australia. Both quiet, they were the perfect dinner guests for us each night because Piermans need an audience (Sidenote: Spellcheck changed that to Piermans need an Audi so now I’ve got to go shopping). We wielded our yarns night after night while Doug and Sharon mostly listened. 

One night we were telling Doug and Sharon an animal story when Doug mentioned that he and Sharon used to have a pet lamb. Silenced (by the lamb), we sat there—hands cupping our chins—listening to Doug and Sharon’s endearing stories of this pet lamb who requested attention by head butting Doug’s newspaper. A lamb who knocked on the door with her cloven hoof in order to retrieve a carrot from a basket they kept inside. They’d answer the door, she’d choose her carrot and then saunter away. 

Once they had to leave the lamb for a spell and checked her in to the local agricultural college for her “hotel” stay. When they returned a week or two later, Sharon went to retrieve her lamb amongst a thousand other lambs in a grass field, all heads extended downward so that only a wave of woolen backs in variant shades of white could be seen. Sharon bemoaned, “How in the world will I find her?” Feeling helpless, she did the only thing she knew to do and timidly called out over the flock,


In a sea of bodies only one head popped up and it preened toward the voice. The imposters began to part as Lamby made her way toward her owner. 

Lamby. (Lest you think this uninventive, please know the B is silent).  But for the uplifting ending to their story, Doug and Sharon could be Piermans. Because let’s face it, naming animals is an art form.

Grandma Nellie with Midnight
Great dog names span the generations. This is my grandma with Midnight
Jake’s 10th Birthday, His Pet Guinea Pig
My son names his white guinea pig Snowball. Genius is heredity.


Let me hear from you. What artful names did your pets have?

Follow me on  Instagram @alisonoshel or Facebook at Alison Oshel


  1. We were pet reminiscing not long ago and, believe it or not, their names came up. Actually, their patently non-animal-like names … Samantha, Bob, Roberta, Cinnamon, Shelly, Herman, and Elle Mae. I was not responsible for Cinnamon. But now that you mentioned them, I think there is a certain elegance to Rabbit 1 and Rabbit 2. (By the way, Roberta was a Rabbit. Great pet.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I literally have close family members named Samantha (niece), Bob (brother), Roberta (niece) and Shelly (niece). I guess that’s why we go with the names we do. Rabbit 1 (or Rabbit 2 for that matter) will never be confused with a person in my family! I do like Elle Mae btw.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We had a black dog named Inky.

    We had a male dog named Tramp. When a female dog decided to take up residence and have puppies, we had no choice but to name her Lady.

    I think it’s good that I never had any children to name.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was just thinking if I named children the way I name dogs I would have Screamy, Shitty and Puke as sons now. I do see your logic with Lady and maybe the name was corrective of her behavior.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pet names are such a joy. I have a dog name Ferguson after the flower shop he took refuge in when he wandered the streets a few months (or so I was told by the locals who couldn’t get near him) He chose me and his name. Actually I called him Spike at first but my sister nixed it. He weighs 4 lbs. so I thought Spike would have been ironic. Ashes and Smokey were grey cats, Bootsie had boots, Dandelion Montague the third of the house of something was my first pure bred with a title. He was the most incorrigible. Baby Doll was the ugliest, marbled something that was also the sweetest and most obedient dog ever. Duchess was a Doberman. Then there was Bingo, Jody, Samantha, Tinker, Sin Sin, Jumper & Gialo was a canary who sang like nobody’s business. I don’t recall the names of the many snakes, lizards, hermit crabs, parakeet’s and other kitty’s my kids had but that’ll give you an idea of why I can’t remember all their names.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We also had a Spike who was a cat (with a spike marking on his face). We got a lot of looks with that name for a cat. Dandelion Montague sounds like he might have gone to private school (while Smokey and Bootsie were homeschooled). I love Ferguson’s story. My neighbor has Brighton because her kitty was found in the dumpster of the Brighton store.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s actually a book about Ferguson called “Dog in the Wind” Many of us believed he was brought to us by a tornado that had hit Alabama and despite all efforts to find his owners, we couldn’t, so after several months we kept him knowing full well that some injured person would learn we had him and claim him.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I once had a pair of schnauzers named Willy Messerschmidt and the Baroness von Richthoven (aka Willy or WillyWillyWilly and Ricky – the latter was The Dog of Many Names – she was also called The Puffin, Wiggy, and a slew of others). Great post 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So far you get the first place ribbon for both dogs’ names because they are both brilliant. I currently have the dog of many names: Jersey, Jerze B Gerze, JB Golden, Jabes, Devil, Little Monster, Monny Monster… I can’t stop myself. He answers to them all poor odd fella.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This comment is belated, of course. About a decade ago, there was a long-haired tomcat who visited us from time to time we called Puff. I found out his real name was Larry. This blew my mind. Only a feline man’s man could be called Larry, and Puff lived up to that name.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s hysterical. Once an animal has a name, we assign a personality, don’t we? And then it’s impossible to see Puff as Larry or the other way around! I still call all male cats Spike after the only cat my husband and I ever had.


  6. I wanted to name our German Reich’s chickens Adi und Eva. My husband said no. Back in the days of Dog Three (with her hunting instincts), my daughter asked if we could get a rabbit. I said “Sure! We can name it Breakfast! – Or maybe Lunch.” (But maybe this story doesn’t count – we never got the rabbit.)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I just have pets. So he will wait to have a story to tell. I read all that they publish and they are very interesting, full of tenderness and memories that are not easily erased. Happy weekend

    Liked by 2 people

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