On a recent night, one dark without moon or stars, I stood in the backyard hollering, “Noodle! Noodle!”
But no Noodle.
I tried the front yard, then started prowling the streets of the neighborhood, repeating my plaintive and somewhat panicked call, “Noodle! Here, Noodle!”
A few lights in neighboring houses flashed in their windows. It would only be a matter of time, I suspected, before the men in white coats would come to take me away.
Suddenly there was Noodle, tail wagging and as relieved to find me as I was to bring him home. He had escaped the fenced yard and obviously was not enjoying the freedom he thought it would bring.
Once inside, I had time to reflect on how wacky it sounded to be standing outside late at night calling: “Noodle!”
But what are you going to do? That’s the miniature dachshund’s name. It fits him to a T.
Fitting or not, dog-naming is tricky and my night of Noodle-calling reminded me how careful we should be when making a choice that we – and the dog – will have to live with.
Days later I found some guidance on how to name a pet. I plan to use it going forward.
Author Scott Gould, writing in Garden and Gun magazine, my favorite source for fun and escapist reading, advised:
“… before you slap a name on an animal for life, you need to walk out on your back porch just after dark and practice hollering the name, like you are calling the dog or cat home for supper. Float the name out there on the air and see how it sounds in the real world. If you can sing out your dog’s name without being embarrassed at what the neighbors think of you, it’s a keeper.”
“Here, Noodle!” definitely flunks the dark-of-night holler test.
I blame my difficulty in naming dogs on my upbringing. My family had two dogs as I was growing up. Both were chows. When the first one died we got another. Chows are known for looking like small bears with purple tongues. Mother loved the breed.
Our chows did not need the bear look or menacing tongue color to be unique. They were both named “Honk.”
How we sounded as we called them home at night needs no explanation. Let your imagination take you away.
Occasionally, when folks at home were feeling warm and fuzzy, we called the dogs “Honkie.” That will not fly in today’s politically correct society.
But “Honk” was all I knew and it never seemed odd until, as I grew older and talked about my childhood pets, I would hear myself utter “Honk” and see the disbelief on people’s faces.
My mother always claimed the name came from a children’s book called Honk the Moose. Try as I might I could never find either a copy or anyone who had heard of it.
Mother was a librarian and knew her books but I had begun to wonder if she had weaved a tall tale about “Honk” – and if you can’t trust your mother who can you trust?
Then came Google, thankfully laying to rest any doubts I had about my mother’s veracity.
Honk the Moose, I discovered, has been republished after over 40 years of being out of print. It tells the true story of a starving Moose who wandered into a small Minnesota town and was rescued by two young boys. At one time Honk the Moose was named one of the best children’s books of the 20th century.
There is even a statue in Moose’s honor. It’s described on a Minnesota-boosting website called HighwayHighlights.com:
“Honk the Moose is a statue of a life-size moose in the Iron Range town of Biwabik, MN. The moose is a depiction of a real life moose who made his winter home in town during the winter of 1935. He stands in a city park in the middle of town, easily visible on the main drag.”
I’ve had two Jack Russell terriers – one named “Russell” and the other named “Jackie.” I make no claim to creativity when it comes to naming dogs.
And there’s always a new puppy out there for me, at least in my mind, so during these dog days of summer why not think about dogs and their monikers? The unearthed story about Honk, particularly the real Honk’s adopted hometown, has given me inspiration.
I hope the neighbors don’t mind when some moonless night they hear me calling, “Here, Biwabik!”
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at email@example.com