2009-08-12 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

"Is Trevor your son?" the pharmacist inquired, when filling out a prescription written by my veterinarian. "No, he's my Afghan Hound," I replied with a chuckle.

This conversation happened several years ago. It's understandable that a druggist would ask such a question, probably more so now. According to a recent Associated Press-Petside.com poll of over 1,100 pet owners, about half of them had given at least one dog/cat a humanlike name.

Thepoll also showed that about half of all American owners consider their pets as much a part of the family as any other person in the household. Single women (66%) were most likely to feel this way, followed by 52% of single men; 46% of married women; and 43% of married men. No wonder we give our pets human names. They're our furry relatives.

I get the opportunity to christen numerous nameless shelter strays because of the column. Despite Shakespeare's claim in Romeo & Juliet-"that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet", there are plenty of motives behind showcasing homeless pets with people names. It's a Madison Avenue approach to pet adoptions.

First there are the pets named for a disability, coloration or a physical trait such as "Moise" (after the late Israeli leader) the one-eyed cat; "Cyrus" the kitten with two achy breaky fractured legs; "Berrigan" the kitten wearing a natural black and white cassock like the radical priest, or "Mia" for "Mama Mia" because she raised nine puppies at the pound. At times the title's intention is a bit more subtle. Another one-eyed cat was "Sandy" for actress "Sandy Duncan"; a dog with a severe imbedded collar wound-"Marie" after "Marie Antoinette".

Others are set up as reminders of when the animals needed help. "Clooney" a Lab who had hip surgery left the town shelter on same day as ER's finale, whereas "Jefferson" appeared there on the Fourth of July. "Natale" was a Retriever who had been hit by a car around Christmas, while "Jerry" my kitten with congenital liver disease was found the day the leader of The Grateful Dead died. At times the name denotes where the animal was found. My threelegged cat "Veto" was discovered outside Congressman Lazio's office but his hit man demeanor denotes The Godfather, Vito Corleone. Hence, the double entendre. Some have an uncanny resemblance to celebrities like "Lorre" a bug-eyed Pug; "Reynolds" the Giant Schnauzer who could have been a canine stand-in for the star of Deliverance; or aloof "Garbo" an Afghan who preferred to be alone. Somehow she was able to vaporize under the seat of my car while I drove her out of the shelter. I thought I had lost her.

Certain names help convey age. "Hazel", "Edna" and "Harriet" were all older shelter dogs. Often names chosen are matched with the breed's ethnicity such as "Bonaparte" a Standard Poodle; "Luigi" an Italian Greyhound; "Paco" a Chihuahua; "Mr. Miyagi" a Siamese kitten; and "Schweitzer" a German Shorthaired Pointer who needed orthopedic surgery. These may not be geographically precise. I learned later that the Pointer's doctor's namesake was really born in Alsace Lorraine, rather than Germany. Come to think of it, the Karate Kid's sensei wasn't from Thailand either.

There are times when certain pets must enter rescue's Witness Protection Program. In 1992 when I adopted an Afghan from Oyster Bay Shelter, we knew that someone was importing Afghans from Russia (or Poland) and dumping them. This majestic black Hound was found running on Southern State wearing a dirty bandanna that said "Cochise". Actually it was a great name, but I wanted the dog to have a new identity. At first he was going to be "Maurice" for the Barry Corbin character on the TV's Northern Exposure. Instead we decided on "Alan" because it was so atypical. "Alan" turned out to be a perfect choice because on his therapy dog visits, many nursing home residents would remark that their husband or brother had been named "Alan" too. (Keep this under your hat; "Clooney" the Lab above was a Witness Protection dog too.)

Finally, needy pets deserve a dash of panache. For example, literary names give down and out dogs class. My Toy Spaniel from an SPCA seizure is "Charlotte" in honor of Charlotte's Web; my "Edgar Afghan Poe" taken from a New Mexico hoarder with 67 Afghans and 25 parrots began by living on the dark side. Sorry, just one more Afghan story. The last Afghan to surface at Babylon Shelter showed up about a dozen years ago. I bailed him out on Good Friday and was annoyed that I hadn't thought to name him "Barabbas". Instead I called him "Raoul" because it sounded flamboyant. Ultimately Afghan Rescue placed him with a lady who had owned another Afghan named "Raoul". What's the chance of that?

For Adoption at Oyster Bay Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset: "Prudence" #529 is a gorgeous flame point Tonkinese type cat 1 year old. She would do well with someone used to the Oriental breeds. "Louie" #436 is a happy Pit mix pup, about 9 months old.

More cats: "Spanky" #453- tabby declaw; "Josie" #462- calico declaw; "Schroeder" #423-longhaired tuxedo.

Dogs: "Linus" #484-Beagle; "Ghost" #461-blue-eyed Pit mix; "Rusty" #322-handsome Lab.

Upcoming Last Hope Events (www. lasthopeanimalrescue.org):

•Cat/Kitten Adoption Day at Petco Syosset-Sun. Aug. 16 from 10 am to 5 pm. Call 516-297-5556.

•"Bella Notte" Lady & the Tramp style dinner at Sergio's' Restaurant Massapequa- Thurs. Sept. 3 from 6 to 9 pm. Tickets $45 in advance. Call 631-661-6164.

•Golf Outing at Bergen Point Golf Course W. Babylon Wed. Sept. 23- Tee off 10 am. Fees: $175 per golfer; $600 per foursome; $40 per person sit down dinner only. Call 631-839- 6643.

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