Tuesday, August 10, 2004

What's in a name?

Why do we even bother giving our pets names when we know we're going to call them something else anyway? Taxi is almost never "Taxi." She's "Kitty," like all the other cats in the known universe.

Silver has a dignified and beautiful name, but we can't leave it alone. Occasionally she's "Silverado," which makes her sound like a pickup truck. But in everyday parlance, she's our little "Pookie." She must hate us sometimes.

Cairo is the youngest and the newest to the family, but he's already got more names than the other two combined. The most common is "Shady" or "Slim Shady," because he's in the habit of lying underneath large, sheltering objects. (We think this was how he survived when he was out in the world, starving and trying to heal from having his legs broken.) And, well, he's thin. Eats twice as much as Silver does and burns it right off.

Once in a while we call him "Pogo" for the way he walks.

As you may recall, Cairo was named after Mr. Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon. So formally he's "Mr. Cairo," "Mr. C.," or "MC" for short. That has led to his newest name, "MC Tripod." We keep coming back to hip-hop names, dunno why.


Last year, the s.o. got it in his head that he was going to teach Silver to talk. She's a very smart creature, and she already made those "Ooooowwww" kind of yawning noises dogs make, so it was a fairly simple matter to teach her to say "Out" when she wanted to go outside. Once we were at a friend's house and she walked up to us and said "Out" so clearly that all the color drained from our friend's face. It quite honestly spooked him.

Since then, the s.o. has made an effort to teach Silver to say "Food" and also to speak his name (which is monosyllabic and not heavy on consonants, so it's not impossible). She has tried with great enthusiasm, but really all the words end up sounding a lot like "Out."

Talking is one of the coolest tricks around, but there's a downside. Silver used to be an unusually silent dog, but now she sounds like Chewbacca. It's funny if you're in the mood for it.

Cairo doesn't talk. He barks at interlopers every once in a while, but he doesn't make that yawning noise that so easily lends itself to speech. But that doesn't mean he can't communicate. He has learned that if he wants to go out, he can tell me by stabbing me repeatedly in the arm with his nose. We call this "snouting." It's hard to type when there's a dog snouting your arm.

And that's why I must go now...