’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.”