Should you change a dog’s name? If you’ve had your dog from puppyhood it’s unlikely you’ve been faced with this dilemma. Your pup will likely have been known merely as “White Tail Tip” or “Orange Collar” and you will get to choose your dog’s first and only proper name.
But if you’ve ever adopted an older dog you may well have come across this issue – the name you simply cannot live with. Our first rescue dogs were all blessed with very sweet names. Who could fail to love a greyhound called Jasmine, or an Arrow, or a Robbie?
Given a blank slate, we quite like Victorian parlour maids’ names for girl dogs. So when we adopted our lurcher Pollyanna, or Polly as she is known, her name was as perfect as she and it stayed.
Our little lurcher Lindy was a different matter. The name just didn’t seem to suit this cheeky little girl and I couldn’t face yelling “Lindy” across a dog park or signing our Christmas cards with a Lindy. But she already knew the name Lindy, even though she’d only had it since she was rescued. We compromised and she became Lindy Lou, or Lulu for short.
The more I ponder the question of changing names, the more complex I think the issue is.
As a sailing sort, I’d always been told it can be bad luck to change a boat’s name. You can do so if you really need to, but a careful process needs to be followed to avert any bad luck. Since we misguidedly changed the name of our very first boat in a fit of hubris and foolishness, we have always treated the superstition with great respect.
On the other hand, a former name can sometimes carry unpleasant baggage from the past that the dog needs to move on from. I met a beautiful setter in the park the other day and her owner and I got talking. He told me she was a rescue, an abuse case who had been trained as a gun dog using the most barbaric methods. The turning point in her healing process had been the decision to change her name. From the moment she took her new name, she cast off the horrors of her past life and became a new dog, happy and confident, the dog she was always meant to be.
I think these days I might approach the issue of name-changes more thoughtfully and sensitively. Our greyhounds Arrow and Robbie were both rehomed by us after they had been returned to rescue kennels late in their lives and in very sad circumstances: their names were one of the few things to remain constant through all that upheaval. And little Lindy may only have carried the name “Lindy” for a short while when she first came to me but it was clearly important to her. It was probably the first time anyone had addressed her with love and gentleness in their voice and touched her with kind hands. These days we call her Lulu when she is having a special fussing but mostly we call her Lindy. It is her name after all.