What’s in a name?

’Tis but thy name that is mine enemy:
What’s Montague? It is not hand nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.


So sayeth Juliette, from her balcony, fully aware of the power behind a name as she poses this question to Romeo.  I can say, all these years later, her question of what’s in a name? remains.  And if she and Romeo had lived long enough to have a puppy, would they have struggled as we did to agree upon a name?

Nearly a year ago, April 2018, Roger and I brought home a puppy to join our Crockern family.  He is now fully grown into a beautiful, strong, affectionate and silly dog.


But for weeks, we struggled to agree upon a name.   Dale Carnegie famously said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  Now, I don’t know about that, but I do know names are powerful stuff, including a dog’s. It reflects personality.  It needs to be easy to shout across a field for recall.  But more, it says a lot about you.   Consider Fang v. Fluffy.

As a dedicated list maker, I was more than happy to create pages of name ideas in the weeks before bringing our puff ball home (no that’s not his name).   Roger and I considered each and promptly rejected most, and then all by the next day.  Hoping for some manner of inspiration we sought lists for dog names.  We dug deeper and consulted books on our shelves with Latin or local names for trees, plants, animals and birds.  One afternoon, I ran through an on-line list of baby names.  When that bore no fruit, I started looking at the names of authors, musicians, actors, you name it.  Briefly, each idea seemed pretty good until we thought about saying something like, “Sit (fill-in-the-blank-using-anything-from-our-really-endless-list-of-ideas)”.

How do people who have children do this?  How do they come up with names that will shape a personality, or certainly affect first impressions?  It is an onerous task.

Days before Roger and I picked up our puppy, I had returned from a visit to see my Dad.  My sister extended her visit as we were both increasingly concerned about Dad’s health and safety.  My Dad, known to many as Tom, knew Roger and I were going to pick up a puppy and had yet to select a name.   While chatting over the phone one night with my sister, our Dad proudly chimed in with the suggestion, “Name him Tommy!”  What could I say but, “Great Idea.  But Dad, do you really want a dog named after you?”  “Of course I do!”

But how could I? Roger and I have a Bantam cockerel named Tommy.  How could I name two animals in our lives the same thing?  That shows a complete lack of imagination.  Still, how could I let my Dad down?  Facing this dilemma I did the only thing I could, I lied.

Every time we spoke, my Dad would ask, “How’s Tommy?”  And I would say, “He’s great, Dad.  You’d love him.”  I couldn’t tell my Dad we didn’t have a name for the puppy yet. Our hope of inspiration upon bringing him home failed us.  With an energetic puppy with no name, I continued to tell my father “Tommy” was cute as could be and sent photos to prove the point.

We made an initial vet appointment and began to feel the pressure of not yet having a name for our young puppy.   The vet would want to know what to call him.  Puppy socialisation and training would need to begin soon.  We needed a name.

Our vet is a tall man and relatively young.  He worked for many years on farms with large animals before making the shift to the world of domestic animals (standing on a dry floor rather than in mud was a driving force as I see it).  He has an easy-going demeanour, floppy, curly hair, and a gentle giant way with animals. Roger and I both like and trust him with our dogs.  At this first appointment, he asked, “What’s this lad’s name?”  We confessed our inability to come up with anything. Without any hesitation he says, “I’d name him Brock.  He’s going to be a big boy.”

And just like that, we had a name:  Brock. It felt right, inspired in fact.  We didn’t need several lists, we just needed someone else to have an excellent idea.  I’d like to say Brock perked up his little ears and wagged his tail with delight with his new found identity.  Instead, he was blissfully unaware and tried to chew my zipper.

When we selected Brock, we thought he’d be a similar size to Millie.  And this is where the differences begin.  Millie never chewed.  Brock chews everything.  Millie loves to chase toys.  Brock loves to chase Millie’s tail.  Millie rushes out the door at night, barking away any evening predators.  Brock doesn’t bark at night, seeming cautious and a little uncertain; instead, he reserves his voice for the daylight hours when he tells every dog who passes the house to go away.  We have two very different dogs.

Turns out Brock (brocc, broc, broc’h) is Old English of Celtic origin.  I like that.  It also means Badger, and our Brock has a broad white strip up his nose.  He’s strong and, like a badger,  he has powerful legs and paws and loves to dig as evidenced by the state of our garden.  Millie chases balls and Brock chases the scent of all the subterranean life in the yard.

Up until my Dad died in August, he would ask after “Tommy.”  I gave all the training updates, and also included the truth.  I told my Dad we had given the puppy a longer name,  like a stage name for a cabaret performer:  Mr. Tommy Brock.  To keep it easy, we were calling him Brock for short.  My Dad gave a smile and said, “I like that name.”






14 comments on “What’s in a name?

  1. jllevitan says:

    So sweet about your Dad.

  2. Brenda Skinner says:

    What a grand name for your dog, and I feel quite certain that, every time you say it, it will be accompanied by a bracketed Tommy in your head. Such a nice thing to do for your dad, Catherine.

  3. codemanbc says:

    My current boy, MAGIC, had a different name (Reade) coming into rescue/foster. But after my initial meeting, I knew immediately the name would have to change. His personality and sweetness level were AMAZING. Merlin, Wizard, Wizz, were all candidates until I got my thesaurus out. MAGIC was a very easy choice and everyone says that it fits him perfectly – so smart, empathic and focused. My prior Border collie, CODY, was given the name of a beach dog I met in Hawaii, a name I’ve always thought of as a great dog name. Brock is a handsome dude!

  4. Carol H Assmann says:

    Several years back, we had our first foster dog: we called Remi. He was a 7 year old 3-legged miniature poodle with attitude to spare. Bill was none to keen on the idea of fostering (assuming we’d fail) but agreed to go with me to pick him up. The little dude didn’t look like much with his wiry black hair, shot through with gray, but when he wandered over to a telephone pole to relieve himself, he popped a handstand (paw-stand?) to make sure he marked that pole as far up as he could. Bill was sold!
    Remi was with us for 6 weeks before he was adopted. A lovely special ed teacher from Vermont drove all the way down to DC to pick him up. For the better part of a year she would send me updates at least weekly. She renamed him Ira (after Ira Allen of the Green Mountain Boys). All the Ira’s I know are Jewish. In the end, with his wild hair & no shortage of personality, it fits him to a T.

  5. Mrs Mud says:

    It’s a pity some celebrity parents didn’t adopt your cautious and considered approach to name choosing.

    I love the name Brock – brings back memories of my childhood, hours with my nose in various Joyce Stranger books such as ‘Rex’, ‘Flash’ and ‘A Breed of Giants’. Your Brock is a handsome looking lad – a fitting companion to the elegant and beautiful looking Millie 🙂 x

  6. Ann Dawney says:

    What fabulous dogs – I love ‘em,

    Oh dear, we wordsmiths do make a meal of it! Before we got Merlin, I listed 101 names, including Euphrosyne… Mmmm Is this overthinking??

  7. Don’t we all Ann, don’t we all…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s