What's in a name?
Yesterday I received papers in the mail for my new Border Collie "Ted." Ted will be two years old in April. He is a "started dog" meaning he is trained in the basics and ready to trial (I may not be, but he is.) He will be my teacher, helping me with my handling, and helping me to get started in Border Collie trials while I continue to work with Jet, who has been in training with Scott Glen this winter.
This is a photo of "Ted" from Scott and Jenny Glen's website http://www.altapetestockdogs.com/ (under "Dogs for Sale.") Boy was I excited the day I saw that "Sold" sign on his photo! Ted is a son of Pleat. His mother is a working cattle dog, whose lines go back to Elvin Kopp's Jeff and Bliss, and Peter Gonnet's Jock a few generations back.
His registered name is Lakeview Ted, bred by Brad Brenchly of Alberta. I bought him from Scott Glen this winter and am really looking forward to meeting him this spring.
Since last Christmas, when we started to talk about bringing Ted home, Mark and I have been thinking about whether we will keep the name Ted or choose a new name for our new addition. Since I won't have that many dogs in my life time, I am thinking this through carefully - keep Ted, or rename him?There are two trains of thought on a dog's name, and both are compelling
The first is that a dog's name is something you should never change, because it is uniquely his; it will be confusing to him to have to learn a new name. The second is that when a dog moves into a new home or situation, changing his name gives him a new frame of reference: new home, new name. It is very common for rescue groups to suggest dogs be given a new name, so the dog can let go of it's past.
These trains of thought are from the dog's point of view. From the human point of view, choosing a name is much more complex! I have compiled lists of names over the years. I am talking about literally hundreds of names for the ten dogs I have owned in my lifetime. When I revisit the lists I am always fascinated to see what I was considering for some of my dogs. In hindsight, I can't imagine any of them with any name than the one they had, the name that crossed my lips so many times every day when they were alive, and still lives in my heart when they are gone.
They say that you will use your dog's name close to 40,000 times in its lifetime (Wikipedia). For that reason alone, it should be something you want to say! Look at this list of dog names (my other dogs were named before I got them, by my parents or the breeders)
Dog's name ....Top contenders
Hawk (GSD) ...Grizz, Nomad
Robin (GSD) ...Sage, Sadie
Kate (Collie) ...Cailun, Cinnamon
Thorn (GSD) ...Taiga, Scout
Shaman (Collie) ...Tristan, Cole
River ...Skye, Feather
Jet (BC) ...Skye, Holly
As for "Ted?"
First of all, Ted is a cute name. It is short for Theodore, which means gift from God. I love that meaning! It is one syllable, which is the tradition for a working Border Collie.
It looks like he is saying, "Howdy, I'm Ted!"
The MEANING OF A NAME is really important to me.
Hawk's name came from Mark's motorcycle - a Suzuki Knighthawk. His registered name was Lindau's Knight Hawk. The litter theme was "hawk." The "Knight" part was also a tribute to our first GSD who died unexpectedly.
Robin's original name was "Risa" short for Risky Venture, her registered name. When I inherited Robin from Sigrid (the only way to really explain how we got Robin), Sigrid's mother had been diagnosed with cancer. I remember visiting there once, and we all took turns climbing up to look at a robin's nest through a window in her home. Robin was a red sable, and it hit me that the name "Robin" was perfect and would always remind me of why Robin came into my life.
When Kate came home, I had decided her name would be Cailun. I announced it to Mark who said "That is so pretentious! Why not something more like Kate?" And Kate it was. I love that name. To this day, it is once of my favourite names. I wish I was named Kate!!! I would even consider using it again, I like it so much. Kate was a forthright, common sense dog. Kate was the perfect name.
Thorn is from a "flower litter" by Sigrid. This works for the girls, but the boys? When a biologist friend suggested Blackthorn (a bush) I was ecstatic! His brother, by the way, was named Forest. Who wants a GSD named Sweet William or Batchelor Button? We could have named Thorn anything we wanted no matter what the registered name was, but the word Blackthorn (his registered name) is one of my favourite names. If I had not registered Spiritdance as my kennel name, I would apply for Blackthorn. This winter I got a new shepherd's crook from Scotland, and it is made of Blackthorn, handcut in th Scottish Highlands. How cool is that?
Shaman came to me when I was quite ill. I thought that the name Shaman was perfect for a dog who would help me to heal physically and spiritually. He is a tricolour, so has a black mask that suits the name very nicely. His was one of the easiest names I have ever come up with. He was a Shaman. No fiddling around, no lists!
Mark wanted to call River Skye. There was a local collie named Skye, so it seemed like a conflict at the time, even though he still loves the name and hopes to have a "Skye" some day. Since she is registered as "Uncharted Course" for the "un" theme, River seemed to work. Mark likes to canoe and kayak, and River was his canoe dog. Now that we know her, we know she is not a Skye. River is an eclectic, self-assured dog. Skye doesn't sound like a grounded name in the same way. Plus, River is a BIG bitch (in many ways) and River is a grand name for this girl.
Jet was going to be Skye, for Mark. But it just didn't work for me (sorry Mark). I thought that Holly was a nice name, chosen to honour a relative (David Henry's Holly - Fieldstone kennels - is a littermate to Jet's grandfather Fieldstone Spook). I liked what David Henry wrote about Holly, and it made me like the name. But, when we got Jet home and watched her run in the yard at a dizzying speed, the name Holly wasn't right! Mark actually chose the name Jet, and that is exactly what she is - jet speed.
A name conveys an IMAGE
"Jet" sounds like a hard and fast working dog. Hawk sounds noble. Shaman sounds spiritual and magical. Thorn is masculine (and he is a big, handsome male). Most of my dogs have "nature" names or themes.
The image "Ted" conveys is one of a down-to-earth, friendly dog. Mark calls it a buddy name. It is one syllable, which is a good thing! He is supposed to be a laid-back, friendly dog, so Ted seems like it will fit him well.
On the other hand, is Ted a "noble" name? Possibly not. But don't tell the two men I know named Ted that I said that!
The sound of a name is important
I recently read an article about naming your dog by Patrica McConnell Ph.D (author of The Other End of the Leash) who is an animal behaviourist and a Border Collie owner. She talks about how a dog's name should be easy to say, have consonants for easy pick-up by the dog, especially from a distance and sound unique to each dog (in the Wisconsin Working Stockdog Association newsletter).
TED and JET sound too much alike to me. I am sure they would figure it out, but I might stumble over which one I am spitting out. I have practiced yelling "Ted!" in my backyard, and also "Jet! Ted!" All of my dogs gather around me with their ears up, wondering who I am calling!
McConnell also says that what you name a dog ends up describing or defining its personality in the years to come.
For example, she mentions a dog named Baby who is a big, dominant dog. The owners still see her as a puppy, probably because of the name. I have always felt that dogs with names like Chaos or Trouble might become self-fulfilling prophecies.
So, following this line of thinking, maybe Ted deserves a noble name, that defines him as a great dog, at least to me!
The name "Ted" has been registered 364 times in Great Britain
I looked up the name "Ted" on the Border Collie database of names in Great Britain - http://www.bcdb.info/dognamesT.htm
This database is amazing. It lists names from A - Z noting how many times the name has been used, and by males or females. There are no female Border Collies named Ted, but there is one female registered as Teddie. I also looked at the list of popular dogs on the Border Collie Database - http://www.bcdb.info/popdogs.htm and found that the well-known and highly respected trainer and handler John Templeton had a Border Collie named Ted that was one of the most popularly used dogs in 2002. I have his training book and love it - I bought it over 20 years ago, and now that I have Border Collies have been reading parts of it over and over.
Tradition and a little luck
The most popular registered names for Border Collie males registered in Great Britain can be determined from this database. People frequently joke that Border Collies all have the same names. I think tradition has a lot to do with this. Tradition, and perhaps a little superstition. If I name my dog after a successful dog, will it rub off? The Border Collie Museum website notes that a lot of names reflect the landscape and place names of Scotland, such as Craig, Tweed, Moss, Tam, Glen, Skye, Isla, Tarn and Bute - rivers and features of the land these dogs worked on.
So in looking for another name for Ted, I have cast back and forth between choosing something unique, something noble, something with one syllable and something traditional.
IT'S NOT EASY!!
Here is my list. After scouring the entire alphabet, pouring through books on Celtic history and the rural landscape of Britain, revisiting my old name lists and searching my own heart, here are my name ideas:
Tweed - registered 2055 times for males and 50 for females on the database
Llyr - after a mythical Welsh king - registered ONCE for a male
Moss - registered 7000 times for males and 427 times for females
Koda - Native American for "friend" (such as in "Dakota") - yup, someone else used it, once!
Cole or Coal - used 8 / 1 times only
I have always loved the name MOSS
I know, every second Border Collie is named Moss! Can I handle the ribbing from my friends? Back in the 1980s when I was going to get a Border Collie (but marriage brought a GSD into my life), the name I was going to use was Moss, for a male or Fly for a female. Fast forward to this winter, and I thought I should really look more into all of the potential names. I have circled back to Moss after months of going through lists of names. This tells me that it is the name in my heart. And, it fits well with the names of my other dogs. When I list the dogs I live with now, Moss rolls off the tongue very easily. Bouncing the names off friends, the name Llyr comes out on top most of the time. It is a noble name evoking a mystical image of ancient Celtic lore.
I suppose I will wait to meet Ted and see what suits him. Last night, Mark said "Let's call him Moss, and spell it T-E-D." Mark thinks it is silly to keep wondering what we will call "Ted" since he already has a great name.
Maybe I just love to think about names!