And so to further explorations of the names we give our animals: Nicholas Dujmovic is a retired CIA historian who now teaches in Catholic University’s Politics Department. He’s someone with an eye toward influential figures of the past. When Nicholas and his wife, Cathy, adopted two rescue dogs, they immediately named them Ronnie and Maggie, in tribute to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
“Then we found out that their names define them,” wrote Nicholas, of Vienna, Va. Maggie, a Corgi mix, is imperious but extremely smart and loyal. What’s more, he said, “Ronnie, a pointer mix, looks dumb but is smarter than he looks and has a heart of gold.”
The pooches also have a joint nickname. Said Nicholas: “We’re Orthodox Christians, so we call them the Orthodogs.”
Diane Rogers’s late husband, John, loved old movies. And that affection carried over to the names of the dozens of rescue ferrets that sheltered with the couple before finding permanent homes through the Baltimore Ferret Club.
Wrote Diane, who lives now in Leesburg, Va.: “Our best-in-shows — yes, there are international ferret shows — were Clark Sable, Rhatt Butler and Scah-lett O’Hairy. Blue Ribbon winners all!”
When Andrea Dietrich of McLean, Va., was a substitute preschool assistant 11 years ago, a student brought in a tiny kitten for show-and-tell.
“Imagine my surprise when a few weeks later he had not been adopted, so the student gifted him to me in an oatmeal box,” Andrea wrote. “He was the runt of the litter and weighed a mere 1.7 pounds.”
Andrea’s two children tried to come up with a name referencing the kitten’s orange fur: Cheez-It, Marmalade, Cheddar. But they couldn’t agree and kept calling him a “tidbit” of a cat. The name stuck, though Tidbit is usually shortened to “The Tid.”
Wrote Andrea: “Kinda funny now that Tidbit tips the scales at over 14 pounds!”
In 2003, Susan Klinger, at the urging of her youngest son, adopted two cats, a brother and sister. For the female, they chose the name Isabel — nickname Bella — after Hurricane Isabel, which had hit around the time the kittens joined the family. Another of Susan’s sons was studying Latin in high school, so the male was named after the Roman poet Catullus.
“His nickname is Cat, which seems appropriate,” Susan wrote. “Sadly, Bella died a few years ago, but Catullus is doing quite well for a senior cat. He’s extremely vocal but hasn’t written any poetry we are aware of.”
Ginny Schultz was a professional soprano who studied voice with Todd Duncan, the original Porgy in “Porgy and Bess.” Wrote Ginny, of Silver Spring, Md.: “I had a beautiful cat named Mozart. After she went to cat heaven we named our next cat Opus Two.”
In the 1930s, Jude Howard and his brothers had a Gordon setter whom their father named Dogue, after the Native Americans of Virginia and Maryland. (The tribe is also known as the Doeg.)
Wrote Jude, of Silver Spring, Md.: “We forever had to explain to our friends that our dog had a proper name and was not simply called ‘dog.’ ”
Speaking of which, when Steve Hunt agreed to watch a Staffordshire terrier/pit bull mix, he thought it would be a temporary arrangement, just two weeks while his neighbors were away on a cruise. The three-legged dog — injured by a car on Interstate 95 — was a rescue awaiting a permanent home.
“During that time, I made a point to call him ‘dog,’ not wanting to give him a name,” Steve wrote. It was up to the mutt’s eventual owners to do that.
“However, of course, during that time I became attached to the dog,” wrote Steve, who lives in the Mount Vernon District of Fairfax County, Va.
He decided to keep him. Since the pooch already responded to being called “dog,” Steve decided to name him Doug — long before the appearance of the squirrel-loving hound, Dug, of the Pixar movie “Up.”
Doug the dog was very friendly — to other dogs, to strangers who inquired as to how he lost his leg, but especially to children.
“Doug lived to be 17 years old and never once missed his lost leg — he never really knew any different,” Steve wrote. “Although he’s been gone for about eight years, he still appears in my dreams.”