A Girl Named Dick

“Ok. I’ve got it. Condoleezza Rice!”

“You’re racist.”

“What? You’re racist for thinking I’m racist!”


“I have black friends!”


“Childhood. High school. College. Facebook. THE WORLD.”


“At least two of my sisters are black.”

“Fair enough. But no Condoleezza Rice.”

Fine. Janet Reno?”

No, this isn’t a discussion on why white people are weird. (Just read any post ever written on this blog, and swap the titles out for Point A, B, C- Z).This isn’t even a conversation about how one back porch conversation about naming a dog can convince your neighbors you are maybe racist and definitely dumb. This is about a search for puppy love. This is the story of a girl named Dick.

After losing our precious and slightly rabid dog, I yearned for the licky love of another canine child. We settled on a large breed as we have an abundance of yard and need a strong-backed, patient creature to withstand the brutal force of our son. Something told me that the boy’s eye-gauging and pile-driving would be completely lost on a smaller dog. It’s not a Sleeper Hold, Yorkie Poo, it’s toddler hug. I spent much time creeping through pet adoption sites, calling local shelters daily just in case they’d found a Newfoundland on their stoop in the night.

In the midst of this puppy stalking I decided our dog would just so happen to be a boy, and we’d just so happen to call him Richard. I pictured Richard stoically observing the frantic, sophomoric pups of lesser intelligence. He would wear argyle sweaters with elbow patches. Somehow these daydreams always culminated in Richard toting around a messenger bag of fine leather and smoking an ivory pipe brought back from his world travels and driving a restored Beetle and quoting Yeats and probably also retiring from his tenured position as a Harvard professor because he cannot tolerate such imbecilic students. Or Richard would just lick his balls and play fetch and do that weird butt scooting across the carpet and maybe chew some dirty underpants. Oh, Richard.

Finally a stranger from Mississippi returned my requests. While she seemed slightly surprised that I’d tried to adopt the dog within one minute of its being listed on-line, she wasn’t a local. She hadn’t learned of my growing reputation as a crazy cyber dog lady.  Before the kind woman could disclose the dog’s name or weight or nationality I told her we’d take it. I’d just need to drive back roads through Mississippi and transact money with an internet stranger to retrieve my new dog daughter. Daughter. Oh, Richard.

In my haste I accidentally adopted a girl dog. Also a girl dog with mostly unknown genetics. (When told that we believed her to be of Newfoundland persuasion, one vet would later respond, “Hmph. Maybe her stepdaddy was part Newfie, but I don’t know, y’all”.) Small details. Small details. I’d just forge ahead in the name of love. I’d call her Richard. People call human kids Apple and Hashtag. What harm is there in a girl named Dick? I’d make her little argyle sweaters purple in my mind’s eye. She’d lick her lady parts in lieu of balls. Same difference.

Summer 2013 015

I tried to explore other options. Unable to bring myself to bestow humiliation upon a real human,this was the perfect opportunity to get a little witty with it. I thought there was some humor in giving a young, playful pup the name of a 78-year-old, cat-lovin’ librarian. Something that just screams “I WORK IN SILENCE, ADD A BROOCH TO MY CARDIGAN WHEN I’M FEELING SASSY, AND AM CONTENT TO KNIT KITTY CARDIGANS AT NIGHT”.  I will not list examples here for fear all of you would suddenly have those exact names. My more reasonable half, Tom felt such meager names would not suit such a fine young piece of paw candy.

Birdie 012

And here we found ourselves on the back porch. After much studying of the dog’s one blurry website photo, I decided I shall call her Condoleezza H. Rice. Conde for short, I just knew the moniker fit her perfectly. My completely equal-rights reasoning was the dog’s big, silly mouth. What I love about Human Condoleezza is her irony. One might look at her big, gappy grin and think her something of a dufus. But then she’d speak with that funny mouth and you’d be the dufus for she is absolutely something of power and brilliance. It’s her silly face, you see? It’s an optical illusion. I pictured my pup, her floppy, slobbery mouth making you think “Yikes. I bet she’s not great at math” only to discover that Dog Condoleezza can jump obstacle hoops like a boss. She’s so smart she’ll fetch before you even realize you threw the tennis ball, moron.  Don’t judge a Condoleezza by her face, would be the moral of the story.

Condoleezza H. Rice For President
Condoleezza H. Rice For President

When Condoleezza was poo-pooed I turned to a handy list of other, less-thrilling-yet-decent names for the orphan pooch. Here are a few:

Tina (Turner, Fey, etc.)


Janet Reno

Nancy Drew


Bone Thugs N. Harmony



Ah! The dreaded full circle. I drove with my dad & very large brother (insurance against possible internet murder) on rickety roads through parts of Tennessee and Mississippi and, later, some undisclosed foreign land of trailers with appliances in the front yard. We picked up Miss Richard with little trouble and had the long, long, long ride home to get to know her.

And here is the part where it makes no sense, this system of naming, how we give a newborn thing a title right when it arrives in the world. How do you know Tori or Hashtag or Richard or Apple Inspector will suit this tiny being in years to come? As I rubbed her belly and she chewed my hands I felt both in love and certain that I could not possibly give the girl a name to perfectly match a personality I’d yet to get to know.


The pressure! I went back and forth and upside down as mile markers ticked by.  I looked to passenger seat to see a small bundle of fur with a face. BEAR, I thought I’d call her. But then she made this little whiny sound, the prepubescent bark, and she was in no way ferocious enough to hang with such a name. She’s never even been to prison. The whiny bark continued, a little chirp, a little squawk. I pulled into the driveway to meet an anxious husband and son and when asked what her name was panicked, as I figure most of you Apple & Hashtag parents did, shrugged my shoulders and offered “Birdie?”.

party & fall 13 016

We started out seeking a very specific Richard, tried to reconcile the weirdness in a girl  Dick, wound up with a mysterious Mississippi mutt & now we love a dog named Bird.

What are your pets’ names?

How’d you settle on the name?


45 thoughts on “A Girl Named Dick

  1. What a beautiful girl! And I love surprising names for pets. We have a pug named Maurice, because my husband had a vision of tiny berets and striped sailor jerseys and French cigarettes…) and a Golden named Amelie (after the film character, bien sur!). After all that? Pretty sure the pug thinks his name is “Quit Humping Your Sister,” and the Golden answers to anything.

    1. Cameron, your pet names put the biggest smile on my face. Also LOVE Amelie (movie and name). Excellent point about them answering to anything. For as much emphasis as I put on trying to find a perfect pet name, Birdie only listens to me when I say “Treat!”.

  2. Bird is absolutely perfect. I’m actually convinced that animals (and babies to some extent) name themselves. When our older dog, Lizzy, adopted us at the humane society, her name was Lily. I took one look at her lying there (after she ran over to us and told us she wanted to come home, legs elegantly crossed in front of her with this look that said “I am the queen” and realized she was Queen Lizzy. As a matter of fact, as I was typing this comment she lay down in front of me in the exact posture. Of course, by the time I caught the photo she had turned her royal gaze upon Sarah’s breakfast but . . .

    Well, I tried to share the picture here, but I’ll have to do it on Facebook.

    We got our second dog when he was older, so he came with the name Jasper. I think he might have changed it if he found us earlier.

    1. Saw Queen Lizzy’s photo and she is most definitely regal & running things. Precious! Birdie’s name was supposed to be Sadie, but she didn’t answer to it so we changed things up a bit. For completely panicking and pulling a name out of thin air, Birdie seems to suit her perfectly. She has a little sass and spunk about her 🙂

  3. Weirdest dog name we ever had: Vern. A female Vern. My dad went looking at puppies during his Ernest Saves Everything phase of movie love. He said “Hey, Vern” to the crowd and she waddled over. She was a good, sweet girl and I miss her terribly.

  4. A dog named Bird! I love it. Bird and Reggie will have to get together someday and chase after small Tennessee vermin.

    Well, to be honest, even though Reggie’s breed is supposed to chase small birds (Bird!) he has no interest in them. Though if you have any cows nearby he is happy to commune with them for a while. He’s fascinated by the cows that live across the street from my mom’s house.

    1. Oddly enough, Birdie HATES birds. Our neighborhood sits on old farm land, so she gets her wilderness fill watching deer and beavers and bunnies. She hasn’t met a cow yet, but I’m sure she’d dig it 🙂

  5. She’s a beautiful girl and the two of them will be besties for a long while. I hate naming pets. (kids too actually) and tend to delegate the responsibility whenever possible. Of course there are sometimes when you just KNOW what their name is. Clearly Birdie had an opinion on the matter.

    1. She’s definitely not a Richard, that’s for sure. We actually had a MUCH easier time picking a name for our son. my first idea was to name him after his dad, so the whole decision was made in about 1 minute. The dog, though? Weeks and weeks of deliberation!

  6. Hilarious! I can’t tell the whole story yet, as I’m gonna blog about it, but we got a new pet yesterday we are naming Anderson–after Anderson Cooper, of course. And of course it has white hair. We only allow blonde pets in our home. The species will be announced next week.

    To be continued . . .

    Hugs from Ecuador,

  7. I once had a parakeet named J.R. after J.R. Ewing on Dallas because I swore he had a Texas accent when he chirped……………… Since having kids, we always let the kids name the pets……. and they come up with real doozies like naming the baby kitten……”Baby Kitty”……………… 🙂

  8. Our office mascot is a Yorkie named Joe Montana. Point is: you could do worse.

    I always said if I ever got a dog, I’d name him (or her) Rover. Because cliches aside, how many dogs are actually named Rover?! I’ve never met one…

    1. This is true. Nowadays we are all trying to be so creative that using a plain name is actually pretty cutting edge. I can’t tell you how many people think Thomas is such a neat name for a kid. Thomas doesn’t seem that unique… unless he’s in a crowd of Miley, Kiley, Riley, and Smiley’s.

  9. I have had so many pets over the years. Now I am down to three.

    Merlin the escape artist Cockatoo
    Beau the Beautiful, my Singaporean short tailed cat
    Cleo the Singaporean Persian

    Previous to this there was;

    Scarlet the Rot / Shep mix, she had the best smile in the world
    Miles the Giant British Mastiff, he of 236 lbs and perfect patience
    Linnett the Chow / Lab, who loved no one but me and growled constantly at my ex
    Fancy the great great grandmother of my cat family who I found on my stoop at 15
    Latte’, Fancy’s daughter who lived to be 25, just one year younger than her mother
    Trix and Treat, Latte’s only kittens from the same litter, who both lived to be 26 and passed within 2 months of each other and 2 years of their mother.

    Sir Lucy, my 7 foot boa who we called Sir because what else would you call her?
    Whome, my iguana who was my birthday present from my sons because I told them they couldn’t have one, I would end up taking care of it.

    There were others over the years. Other snakes, lizards, foundlings. But those were the highlights. The ones that stuck around for years.

  10. Aw, your dog is adorable. (The gender thing can be hard…my dad ID’d a stray my grandma took in as a female…on the first vet visit, my grandma got lots of strange looks when she carted in a male cat named Rachel Sue 🙂 No one asks my dad to determine pet gender anymore!)

    Names are hard. We had a couple of Yorkie Poo dogs named Rockie and Bulwinquel. (Rockie, because she liked to chew on rocks in the yard…Bulwinquel because we’re dorks and thought it would be fun to use names from the old cartoon.) I have a cat named Cybil (named after she attacked me on the first day we had her. She goes from sweet and docile to biting with little warning. Full name is Cybil the Psycho Cat.) Our kids named their cats, Samantha and Elizabeth (but my older son swears Samantha isn’t a girl he had a crush on!) Josie and Sally were names that other people gave them before we adopted them. We decided not to confuse them by giving them new names they could ignore 🙂

  11. As you know, I have a Yorkie-Poo who Thomas loves to chase or loves to chase Thomas. It is hard to tell at times. His name is Rhett Butler. I decided if I was going to let another man in my bed it was going to be the man of my dreams. And frankly dear, he doesn’t give a damn.

      1. AMEN! I’ve thought about Rhett in the bed every day since she commented and I can’t stop smiling. I’m getting a Ryan Gosling dog whether Tom approves or not.

  12. Love your dog! So cute. Many of our pets are named after characters in Across The Universe (coolest movie ever-Beatles songs but not sung by the Beatles) Sadie is our Cat and then there are Lucy and Prudence our chinese dwarf hamsters. Maggie our dog and Meeka our White Russian dwarf hamster. Then there are Big Kahuna and Zippy our goldfish. Names are a funny thing and can take a while to appear. I think things name themselves…and ya just have to wait it out…get to know them a while. My daughter named herself before gestation and at 9.5 months my son still wasn’t sure…it was a close call or No Name Boy(NB for short? Idk), but he finally decided on Justin which is clearly better.

    1. Um, coolest naming source ever. So creative! I’ve been calling Birdie Bernice Matice like Hope Floats, mostly because it irritates her and she’ll bark all cute until I cut it out 🙂

  13. Gah! That’s awesome. We have a 22 month old golden retriever. We had no idea what we were going to name her until the day that we got her. We just couldn’t decide. Everyone wanted different names, so finally we did what anyone would do…we put names into a hat and drew one. With the possibilities being Sam, Piper, Billy Jean(BJ), Suni, and April, we had our hopes on a few different names. April was pulled, and to this day, I have my Ape. She’s my monkey. Love her to death!(:

  14. I laughed out loud several times. Birdie is perfect, but she should still probably wear the purple argyle because argyle. Also, if you could train her to wear glasses and read Yeats, all the better.

    We have two dogs—a gigantic German Shepherd mixed with something else (Great Dane?) named Scarlette. She is high strung and loud and stubborn and clumsy and very sweet. Then we also have the slightly smaller, but equally loud, Ava who is a husky mix. Other than being loud, she is the opposite of Scarlette—calm, delicate, obedient, and gentle. Of course, they’re named after movie stars. 😉

    1. Awww, see? I should’ve given her a pretty, respectable lady-name. She runs into walls and barks at her own reflection, though, so something as borderline dumb as Birdie kind of works 🙂

  15. I love this story…and I love her name! I named my first baby, my dog who is now over 14 and aging quickly, Elli because I got her in Ellijay, Ga. Then, after our crazy Italian Greyhound named Grey passed 7 yrs ago, we adopted our current crazy big mutt and named her Gracie in honor of Grey. She does not fit the description of grace whatsoever 😉

  16. Aww! I love this post- the part about not judging Condoleezza by her face was hilarious and spot on.

    We have one dog- a lab mix- that we named Captain Morgan. This is often misunderstood to be evidence that we are alcoholics (further confirmed when we named our cat Jack but that’s beside the point). However we picked his name because when we got him I wanted a name and a dog that sounded authoritative, hence Captain, and I was obsessed with Criminal Minds, and S.S.A. Derek Morgan in particular, at the time. So we ended up with Captain Morgan. He is a rather goofy dog, and not particularly intimidating or authoritative so we generally call him Cappy, Bear, or Roo (short for Kangaroo because he is a crazy jumper).

    It’s so true that you name a dog and then after getting to know them realize a thousand different names that would have suited them.

    1. I love Criminal Minds! What’s the nerdy guy’s name? And when I can I start dating him?
      I’m just Tennessee-backwoods enough that I might name our next pet Jim Beam or Moonshine 🙂

  17. We give our finches names from a Greek lexicon: Aphto & Aphtee (this & that), Ena, Thyo, Tria (one, two, three), Pi, Nike, Psyche, etc.
    I was in a world music orchestra in need of a name. We held a lengthy democratic process that boiled down to “Porto D’Image” and “Sepulchre” or some such nonsense. When the graphic designer told the band leader “Time’s up, I need to know what to put on the album cover RIGHT NOW”, he replied, out of absolutely nowhere, “The band is called Busker Kibbutznik”.

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