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Knock Knock Door or Oblique Punch?

By the time you read this, we'll be dog owners again. Thursday night, we visited the home of a wonderful young family and their dogs, including a nine-week old puppy, the last of her litter to be given away. I'd had several offers during the week, after mentioning last Saturday that we were in the market, but

this was the first one that met all of our criteria. A mixture of retriever, pointer and a Border Collie, she possesses the overwhelmingly kid-friendly traits of each breed. She won't be too big or too small or too rowdy (unless they slipped a mickey into her Puppy Chow before we got there) and she won't, now, be headed for death row at the animal shelter.

The next dilemma is her name. Naming a pet is almost a ritual in our household – the right name has to be found.

Although the pup is coming with a very good name, the guys have this compulsion to pick out one of their own. It's got something to do with ownership, I think, like branding cattle. A guy thing.

As we started running through the names, I started thinking about previous pets and their monikers. They range from the obvious and boring – the pony named Black Beauty and the goldfish named Goldie, to the truly bizarre, like the ugly dog Topsy and the cat Kliban.

Of course, even the obvious ones have

a story behind them. Both my pony and my horse were named when I got them. Black Beauty was a cantankerous, foul tempered, cannibalistic Walking Horse-Shetland cross who got absolutely nothing from her Walking Horse side except a long, beautiful tail and a running flatwalk. The personality was pure Shetland. My father's name for her (he had his own naming system, if you recall Leftovers) was Daughter of Satan. She was the perfect horse to learn on, since she had more dirty tricks in her repertoire than a sidewalk con artist. I learned about ducking branches, bucking broncos, and to always, always grab the reins when I got tossed off, or

face a long walk home.

My second was a purebred Walking Horse and as sweet natured as Beauty was mean, and as stupid as Beauty was clever. She had the highly unimaginative name of Shadow's Bay Girl, but Shadow fit her well.

We've always taken turns naming pets, which probably explains the range of names. Mom named the cat Kliban after the comic strip artist who drew cats. I named Topsy after the little girl in Uncle Tom's Cabin who"never was borned" and Dad named all the Bonnies. What my mother never knew, was that they were named after his grade school sweetheart.

I've carried that tradition over to my own family now, where Terry had his little red Dachsie, Jellybean. Silver was our Rottweiler-Spitz mix. She had silver-tipped hair when she was a pup, like a silver-back grizzly. Of course, as soon as I named her that, it all fell out and grew in black.

My kids like human names for their pets, bringing them into the family circle. Scott named our previous cat KrisKitty and Ben named the last pup Rachel. The other Dachsie, the one with the grudge against my husband, I named Beauregard, simply because I've always wanted to stand on the porch like the character in the Warner Bros. cartoon and shout "Beauregard! Ohhhh, Beauuuuuregard!" Tasha, the current cat, was named after a college classmate who had the same tilted green eyes and tendency to hide in corners and eat raw fish.

One of my best friends back in Tennessee, shortly into her marriage, brought home a third dog, a German Short Haired Pointer, while her husband was traveling. Afraid he'd be angry, she tried to appease him by appealing to his love of military history by naming the dog Hannibal. I love to hear about unusual pet names. Send them in, and the reasons behind the names and I'll try to use them in another column. This time, it's Buzz's turn to name the pet, which poses a problem. Buzz is only a recent inductee into the English speaking fraternity and his grasp of the rules of reason – not to mention pronunciation – is still shaky. He will try desperately to tell us something

and get frustrated when we don't understand him. Then he whispers it in my ear, which, of course, only makes it harder to understand. The usual response is "Sure, Buzz, whatever." I'm afraid I may have promised this child many, many things I don't have a clue about.

I was afraid he'd pick something blah and ordinary, like Pup or Blacky.

Instead, it looks like we are now the proud owners of either Knock Knock Door or Oblique Punch.

At least, that's what I think he said.