AWARD-WINNING WRITER & EDITOR

  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Susan Fleming Morgans

What's in a Name?


A new acquaintance mentioned her daughter’s name was Zoe. “Oh, that was my favorite dog’s name,” I said. Her expression suggested she didn’t take that as a compliment. But I meant it as one—my family always names our pets after favorite real or fictional characters.


When I first got married many years ago, we set out to adopt two kittens. I was teaching 9th grade English at the time, and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was a highlight of the year (for me, not the boys in the class). I planned to name one kitten Tybalt, after Romeo’s rival, mockingly called “The Prince of Cats.” The other would be Juliet. But we adopted two females, so we named them Margaret, after an quirky aunt, and Juliet.


Later, when my daughter was born, I regretted giving my favorite girl’s name, Juliet, to a cat. Turned out it didn’t matter, because my then husband announced he always had thought his daughter’s name would be Elizabeth. This astounded me. Girls, I knew, made lists of their future children’s names, but did guys think about such things? If so, how could I deprive this man of his wish? So Elizabeth she became. “I’ll name the next one,” I conceded. But there were only more pets in my future.

This "antique" photo is of Juliet, the cat, with Elizabeth, who lost out on that beautiful name.

Elizabeth named our first German shepherd Zoe, her favorite name, and unusual at the time (like Caitlin, ha, ha, ha). Next came Joe, a feisty orange tomcat who simply suited that name. He soon was joined by a pair of feline littermates named Spin and Marty, after characters on my childhood favorite Mickey Mouse Club series. (Like normal sibs, they rarely got along).


That was the last time I picked a name. We rescued our grandchildren and agreed to give a peaceful home to their dog, Wally, a gorgeous but incorrigible golden retriever, who devoured everything from the kids' Cheerios and birthday cakes to Brillo pads and nuts and bolts from the workroom floor. (He should have been named Bluto, after John Belushi’s subversive fratty boy character in Animal House.


I didn't name Navajo or Wally—they came with names. But Wally, right, should have been "Bluto."

We also adopted two German shepherds who flunked out of Seeing Eye guide dog school, but at 14-months, they came with names. Norris was first. Norris? We debated changing his name to something he would still answer to, but what? Boris? Norbert? We should have pretended he was female and called him Doris, after my husband’s mother. But he became our beloved “Norrie.” Our current shepherd came with a cool name— “Navajo.” A proud beauty, he deserves a $350 silver and turquoise collar handcrafted by a member of his Native American tribe. Crowd funding anyone?


Cheap version of beautiful collar Navajo needs

There are no current naming rights available for either people or pets in our immediate family. We are patiently waiting, however, for someone in Hal’s extended family, which number more than 100, to choose a very special name: Gomer. That was Hal’s father’s name and a perfectly nice Biblical name, by the way, before Gomer Pyle went and ruined it. That fine Welsh name has yet to be claimed, even though we remind every expectant niece or nephew that, “Gomer’s still available.”


I’m seeing a Pembroke welsh corgi in our future.

This is our next dog. We'll be naming him Gomer, if it's still available.