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A rose by any other name

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THE kids have just got stick insects and we have been having fun naming them. And it set me thinking about how important the names of pets are to clients. The act of naming a pet engenders its own significance. Understanding the name or ‘getting the joke’ goes a long way in client bonding. So far as I am aware, people don't name their pets after deceased relatives, but I guess it's possible. I did have an elderly aunt who used to call all her German shepherd dogs Monty – a habit which frankly I found disturbing.

There are the amusing names. If someone has called their dog Deefa, it is important to laugh. How is he to know that one of the insurance companies is based at Ceefa Deefa house?

Clients love it when you get their obscure film references – I once gained a client on the basis that I realised her husky Nanook was named after the dog in the 1980s film ‘The Lost Boys’. However, I did once get it wrong when I hazarded a guess that the rabbits I was presented with, Jake and Ella, were named after the Blues Brothers. Our own pets were named on a ‘Top Gun’ theme for a while. That's why we had to get a scruffy terrier . . . because you can't call a labrador Goose.

When we were choosing the name of our eldest daughter (I've moved on to human offspring now), I was lent a ‘name the baby’ book by a practice receptionist. We dismissed anything which had a dot by it, as they were names she had been considering for her golden retriever puppy. I also had a look on the practice management system at work to make sure the names on our list were not ‘owned’ by any animals, which was a habit I had got into when naming our pets.

Has anyone else noticed the correlation between the names of children in National Trust playgrounds and certain breeds of dogs, with a time lag of three to four years? The boys tend to have cocker spaniel names and girls have black labrador or border collie names (pets not working dogs; I have to admit I have never met a six-year-old girl called Gyp!).

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After an incident when his attempts to retrieve his errant labrador with ‘Ted you bastard, come back’ caused a stir at the shoot, my dad's requirements in naming a dog are now that the name is staccato and not a human one.

Some names have predictable breeds attached. Roxys 95 per cent of the time are German shepherd dogs or rottweiler crosses. Storm is always a nervous long-haired German shepherd dog with a depressingly petit female owner.

As a new grad, I was unsure how to respond to a client who said about his Jack Russell, ‘I bet you've never seen a dog called Toby before’. Obviously I had – I checked later and we had 59 pets called Toby on the system, beaten only by Charlie at 72. That's when I started checking the practice management system. But obviously I smiled at his originality.

Animals named by the kids tend to be cute and descriptive: Fluffy, Socks, etc. One of my favourites was an elderly labrador cross called Twinkle who had be named by the client's daughter when she was six-years-old. She had now grown up and left home and left the parents to suffer embarrassment every time the dog's name was called in the waiting room.

I try to recommend that names are not paired – always a disaster! You are always left with a Gerbil called Tonic or a cat called Salt, and without their partner these are just a little odd. I'm all for themes though – our cats are currently named after feline versions of All Blacks rugby players. That was hours of fun. I am considering getting more cats just to get to use Kevin Meow Lamu and Richy McClaw.

The stick insects have fallen into the ‘named by kids’ bracket, so we have got Sunny, Brian, Sticky McStickface and Amelia. Unfortunately, my dad's called Brian . . . I'm not sure how to tell him!

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