“How did she come to be named Bug?” asked our next-door neighbor, Becca, as Bug figure-eighted around Becca’s legs.
Becca also has a gray-striped cat, just like ours, who is also named Bug, although she calls hers June Bug most of the time.
“It was my former roommate who named her,” I said. “We tried several others, but none of them fit and we liked Bug better. Love Bug. Stink Bug. Cute as a Bug.”
Becca gestured toward her large, lounging cat. “I got her in June,” Becca said. “She was covered in bugs.”
I’ve always admired people who come up with creative names for their pets. A bulgy-eyed pug named Popeye. A slack-lipped cat named Gumdrop. We were never that creative and generally gave our pets people names.
Back when I was in high school, I had an unusually large hamster named Fred that I took with me most everywhere I went.
One evening, I was watching TV with Fred when my brand-new boyfriend called our house phone. Mom answered. He asked if I was around, and she replied, “She’s laying on the couch with Fred.”
He hung up and never called back.
When I was in my 20s, I had a German shepherd named Jade. She was my baby and I talked about her a lot. It never occurred to me someone might not realize she was a dog I was talking about, especially when it was someone with whom I’d worked closely for several years.
One day I was telling my boss how Jade had bitten someone, and I was obviously upset about it. He told me not to worry. “Lots of little ones do that,” he said. And followed with a story about how his daughter kept a running tally of those she had bitten.
“How old is Jade anyway?” he asked. “Three or four?”
“Three,” I said. “But that would make her 21 in dog years.”
He looked so confused.
I’m not alone in having had a pet name that caused some confusion. My old friend Dolly Withrow once told me about a dog they had when her children were young. It came into their family already dubbed with the unfortunate name of Whiskey. It was an odd name, but foreseeing no potential issues, rather than change it, they left it alone.
One summer day, Dolly was having a yard sale at their old townhouse in Nitro. While she worked the sale, her grade school-aged daughter played inside with the dog. After a while, she joined her mother at the crowded sale, fragrant with doggie odor.
“Whew!” Dolly said, “You smell like Whiskey.”
The crowd wasn’t amused.
Sometimes, both the dog and its name can cause some surprise. I have friends who own the tiniest dog, a teacup poodle hybrid. Super friendly. Light-footed. Capable of leaping straight up in the air.
I once stayed the night at their house, and although their guest bed is unusually high, sometime during the night, the dog sneaked in my room and joined me.
And I awakened the next morning, alarmed to find a three-pound Booger on my chest.