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One Ruggy Year

In our family, animals have names, and animals have names. All our dogs acquire nicknames at an astonishing pace. Many names, and some of them come and some of them go, but some stick 'cause they're just so right and true to the nature of the beast.

Kirby has been with us for 1 year, now. When Kirby first came to live with us, we weren't even sure he was going to stay. (For the first couple days, I wasn't sure he was going to live.) But we named him fairly quickly, because 'he' 'it' and 'here, boy' got boring quick.

We'd never named one of our dogs before. Dozer's given name is 'Captain Dozer' and he was named by Doug & Marcie, in San Jose years before we ever dreamt of such a wonderful dog. Polly was... god knows what, for ~3 years of her life. She became “Polly” by virtue of some kind soul at Franklin County Animal Shelter after she arrived there as a stray.

Imagine what a heartbreaking job it must be to name dogs and cats at animal intake at a busy public shelter. Many them bound for euthanasia. Whoever named our Polly, we thank you, because the name fits her like a glove. She's a lady, in the classic sense, but she's a good-time gal.

So naming Kirby was not a task I took lightly. I've always had a theory about quality dog naming, and my theory is this: the best, most classic dog names share a common formula. 2 syllables, with the emphasis on the first syllable. That's it.

Lassie, Benjy, Boomer, Dozer, Polly, Hoagie, Brodie.

A friend once told me that they believed the same thing and they believe that it has some foundation in dog psychology as well: something about shorter names being easier for the dog to remember/differentiate from other words. Whatever. I just know what I like. (And my apologies if your dog is named 'Sir Wentworth Duckbutter' or something. I'm not saying you have a lame dog... just a lame name.)

So, following my simple formula, I started playing around with names for our big new arrival. Aside from the construction of the name, it also had to fit his personality. Or at least what we'd been able to observe of his personality after ~48 hours (most of which he spent sleeping.)

So I briefly flirted with the idea of 'Cody.' It fit my formula, and it reminded me of a Kodiak bear. Kirby has always looked to us like a cross between a friendly bear and a wookie. I think he even spent a couple of hours as Cody, but.. strangely enough, two things happened. The first is that I started to feel like Cody sounded like some precocious child actor from a failed early-90s sitcome. (Like, the kid who wasn't good enough to be the next Joey Lawrence.)

The second, more remarkable, thing is that I couldn't remember the damn name. Every time I went to call it out to him, something else entirely came out. And.. 8 times out of 10, that name that came out was Kirby. Ah... Kirby. Perfect. I retroactively invented the rationale: “We named him Curb-ey because we found him on the side of the road!” (groan.) But that's not true at all.

We named him Kirby because that's his name.

I liked the name for other pleasant associations as well. Of course, there's Jack Kirby, who's arguably the most influential comics artist of the late-20th century. And then there's that other big friendly guy that kids love at first sight.

But, with a full, given, formal (and soon after, legal) name in place, we could commence with the truly important task. Giving him a good nickname. Or several.

An early one that stuck around for quite a while (it still makes the odd appearance now and again) is 'Galumphagus' (pronounced gal-UMF-a-gus.) I dubbed him this after seeing the odd dipsy-doodle way that he gets up from a lying stance and mopes around a room. Kinda like a big galumph. (It was also inspired by Aloysius Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street.) For a good long while, it fit him to a 'T'. Plus I liked saying it, even though it's a mouthful. It makes me feel like I've got my very own imaginary muppet.

But, of course, Kirby's a real dog, not an imaginary one. And, for the longest time, he had real problems. With his ears, and his balance. And the healthier he got, and the more the infection cleared from his ears, the better his balance got, too. At some point, he stopped galumphing across the room, and started gliding. (Okay, he's still semi-blind, but he's surprisingly graceful if you'd known the oaf that he was a year ago.)

So Galumphagus just started feeling less and less 'right' for him. (And.. to be honest.. once I'd realized what was causing his clumsy ways, it started to feel a little mean to me.)

So Kirby didn't get his real real name until about 4 months ago. And it was LeeAnn that finally struck gold. In fact, I was away on a business trip when it happened. Somehow.. while I was away, LeeAnn and Kirby really hit it off. She's always loved Kirby, but she takes a little longer than I do to firmly bond with a dog. I'm an instant sap... she usually likes to just let the dog's charm win her over.

I came home to find her calling him 'Ruggy' and - once again - it was like a lightbulb going off. Of course he's Ruggy! Early in his stay with us, she used to joke that he looks 'like a Flokati Rug', especially when he does his 'special move' about once a night.

Usually in the early evening, after his dinner, Kirby likes to lie on his back in the living room, all four paws in the air and swing from side to side while snapping his jaws and making the funniest grunting noise. I call this move 'The Snappy Joe.' But he does look like a small area-rug when he does this, with his long and luxurious chest-hair waving to and fro with the motion of his snappy gesticulations.

And he sure does like to lie around a lot, too. In fact, he's lying at my feet as I write this. (Unfortunately, breaking the foulest of winds from the rawhide chew that we gave him earlier tonight.)

So he's been Ruggy ever since. And always will be. J. Kirbicus Galumphagus Rugg-Montague Glass. Or 'Kirby.' Whatta Ruggy.




This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 13, 2006 1:54 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Heart Attack.

The next post in this blog is The Decemberists at Promowest.

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