What’s In A Name?

December 31, 2010 · 14 comments

It turns out there’s a lot.

Remember how we gave such great thought to what we should name this little pootz before he came to us?

In their helpful book, “The Art of Raising a Puppy,” the monks of New Skete Monastery devote a full five paragraphs on the serious undertaking of naming your puppy, thus our grave deliberations in the weeks prior to picking up poocher from the rescue saints.

And I quoth: “We should select names that speak to a dog as a dog yet respect her own dignity and uniqueness.” They suggest short, two-syllable names that are easy for the pup to understand and for you to pronounce, and are clearly distinguishable from obedience commands. Also, they recommend avoiding “… excessively sweet or joke names totally inappropriate for a dog. Dogs are remarkably intuitive; they sense when they are being made fun of or when they are the objects of suffocating sentimentality.”

All right, then.

Given the breed, we anticipated our standard poodle puppy would, at minimum, grow into a big dog and would need a name that could carry the weight.


At five months, the dog weighs 45 pounds and–surprise!–is chin-level with the bathroom counter while on all fours. Because of Rick’s previous experience with the breed, however, we did have a few expectations beyond bulk.

He would be highly intelligent and constantly attuned to the presence and needs of his people, often going first (if permitted) on border patrol.

He would move through our lives with grace and a confident inquisitiveness…

… yet be companionable…

… good-natured…

… and noble with an air of natural authority.

We named him “Winston.”

And then we watched a few episodes of the TV show, “The Dog Whisperer” with Cesar Millan, noting the sharp hissing “sstt!” noise he makes when rebuking a dog. As in, “Hi there, good buddy WinSSTTon!”

Talk about your mixed messages.

Yup… Every time we called our dog by name, we were accidentally making a noise that, apparently, translates into “BAD DOG!”

Perhaps the monks and Cesar should hang out for an afternoon and share tips before they write their respective next books. Or maybe they could just co-host a TV show called, “The Dog N’ Chanters.”

Anyways, we’ve shifted to “Winnie,” which is more dog-friendly and an actual nick-name for those named “Winston.”

And, as it turns out, it’s perfectly apt for this incredible gift to our family: caught mid-hop, you can clearly see that we’ve been blessed with the living incarnation of the legendary Golden Bear of Kansas, Pooh-style.

scott christensen January 10, 2011 at 1:41 am

He is turning into the “Golden Bear” for sure…
fun writing!!
when might we see you in January?

rickandkathy January 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Soon and very soon!

farouk January 10, 2011 at 1:31 am

that dog is really cute, i love the pictures you put :))

Sandi Fentiman January 5, 2011 at 9:16 am

Just finished reading Kas. Did the monks in the book tell you that dogs live in packs; that having “ranking” order? You and Rick are the alphas and he’s the beta. He’ll test the fences at times. He’s a great dog and will certainly make a good guard dog. They hear things before we do.

Debra January 3, 2011 at 11:40 am

Cute! Looks like you’re having great fun being the campanion to Winnie!

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Nancy R. January 1, 2011 at 9:52 pm

He’s simply more beautiful each day.

Jane January 1, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Love the photos of Winnie – you’ve caught his essence. Having spent a few days with him, I, too, adore him.

Lisa December 31, 2010 at 9:25 pm

OK, simply the cutest thing ever!!!

Judy Nickells December 31, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Your new companion is just beautiful, I love him and I learned from your writing ,I want a dog but I am afraid that I am not home enough to keep a bright companion dog Happy. I will see how my life falls in the next year and than take the plunge.

Kathy P. December 31, 2010 at 6:33 pm


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