• What’s in a Name?

    Before you name your big retriever “Cuddles” or your wife’s miniature poodle “Chomper, think for a minute. Perhaps names really do mean something in the larger scheme of things. Certainly you shouldn’t let your wife or daughters name a new hunting dog unless you have a vote in the final choice. Imagine how you’ll feel standing in a duck blind trying to coax Peaches or Honey to finish a retrieve.

    We named our collie “Lucky” when we were kids, and I suppose he was. Certainly he was lucky we had a father willing to pay the veterinarian bills that resulted from his habit of chasing rabbits across the road but he wasn’t as lucky as the rabbits that were able to make it across unharmed.

    My sister used to keep a couple of horses and gave them names that seemed fairly appropriate. One gelding had a nasty biting and kicking tendency when I was around and I can remember using non-correct names on that mean animal.

    Some people name their pets or working animals after family members but discretion should be used in that practice. Despite all the fine qualities that Jim Merriam claims for mules, your mother-in-law may not consider it complimentary to have a mule or cow named after her.

    Sometimes long-living fish are named by anglers trying to catch them as trophies. Largemouth Bass that might live two decades and big muskellunge, both territorial fish, are better suited for becoming known and named than our short-lived salmon that seldom see a fifth year. Perhaps sturgeon in the Great Lakes, living a half-century or more would qualify to be named but because of their habit of wandering hundreds of miles they are known only by their numbered tags to biologists like Lloyd Mohr of the MNR’s Upper Lakes Management Unit.

    With the increase in the bear population in our area, some of the more troublesome bruins may well have earned some nick-names but none would be complimentary and few suitable to be published in a family newspaper. A bear called Old Snaggle-Tooth won’t earn a lot of friends if he keeps on tearing up garbage around Stokes Bay.

    Wiarton Willy seems to be quite an appropriate name for our Bruce County weather forecasting groundhog but in the interest of gender equality, it might be a good idea to have a Wiarton Wilma one day.

    The retriever that my kids grew up with was named by my wife. I asked her why she chose “Pat” for that big black dog and she said he just looked like a handsome Irish Patrick to her. As his talent for escaping from any type of restraint or supervision became obvious, my neighbors heard him called by many other names. Every time I was fined for “letting him run at large” I considered calling him to his final fate but by the time we got back from the pound I had always cooled off a bit. There was no way I could keep that dog at home. He could sense the moment your attention left him and would make a break for temporary freedom immediately. Although he always returned unless he was restrained by helpful neighbours or by the animal control officer, that dog was as lucky as any animal could be. In his last years, almost blind, he still managed to run all over town visiting his girlfriends, crossing roads at night in his coal-black coat unscathed by traffic.

    Looking back on Patrick’s 12 years of escaping custody, leashes, chains and personal supervision, I have to agree with my wife. She said that if she had known about his strongest talent, she would have picked a different name than Pat. He really deserved to be called Harry, in honour of the greatest illusionist, stage magician and escape artist of all time: Harry Houdini.

    Grant Ferris
    Grey/Bruce Outdoors
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