Canine Column: The name’s Chan – Charlie Chan

goldenretrieverBy Marti Benson

In my line of work, I often brush elbows with a lot of well-known names. Johnny Cash, Coco Chanel, Stevie Nicks and Charlie Chan are a few that readily come to mind. But, believe me, there have been many others.

Aside from Mr. Chan (who was neither benevolent nor amiable like he was in the movies), these notables have routinely been congenial, welcoming—and even very affectionate. I’m not one to normally kiss and tell, however Sam Elliott routinely bussed me directly on the lips in front of a room full of people. But, then again, Golden Retrievers are famous for their unbridled affection.

Anybody who has worked with dogs—from veterinary staffs to kennels to groomers to pet sitters—knows that owners love to give their furry family members famous monikers. I’ve done it myself. Gus— the first dog I owned as a young adult—was a sickly Terrier mix adoptee from a Phoenix animal shelter. Named after a character in a popular mini-series that I loved (Gus McCrae in “Lonesome Dove”) and Apollo 1 astronaut, Gus Grissom, I hoped their heroic names would imbue my frail little adoptee with the strength and courage he needed to thrive.  Thirteen years ago, when our three male puppies made their unexpected debut into this world, we bestowed upon them names familiar to a certain generation of TV viewers—Robby, Chip and Ernie. Brothers forever!

Just in case you think I hobnob only with celebrities, I am friends with Bella, Luna, Max and Cooper, too—all amongst 2019’s most popular dog names in the United States, as published recently by Rounding out that roster for the lady dogs are: Lucy, Daisy, Lily, Zoe, Lola, Molly, Sadie and Bailey. For the gentlemen: Charlie (but not Charlie Chan), Buddy, Rocky, Milo, Jack, Bear, Duke and Teddy.

When I worked at the veterinary clinic, I loved guessing a new dog’s breed by its name. After 14-plus years at the front desk, there were some things I knew for sure. Cujo and Killer were always Chihuahuas; Brownie, Blackie, and Hershey signified Labradors; Ethel was nearly always a Rottweiler, and Aspen was certainly a Malamute or Husky. Lady and Jake, however, always threw a Frisbee into my little name game. Lady could run the gamut from Yorkie to Great Dane; Jake covered everything from a Heeler to an English Bulldog. You just could never tell.

After all of my years working with dogs, I still have some sentimental favorites when it comes to names. Handsome Dude (or HD, for those of us who knew him well), Chicken Man and Twinkle Toes still make me smile. I won’t tell you what breed they were—I’ll leave that to your own imagination. However, at the end of the day, I’m willing to bet that all of our fur babies answer to the same name—“good dog!”

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