Dog names reflect habits

By Karl Terry: Freedom columnist

Sometimes a given name just doesn’t suffice for a dog. A nickname sometimes works better.

The new dog at the Terry household, Ranger, earned one early on in his residence for his tendency to find out of the way, even hiding places to sleep. We found him behind the couch the first night after he quit playing and got quiet. He hangs out behind the recliner some and when I’m in the office at home he crawls up underneath the computer desk behind me.

When the 45-pound predominantly black mixed breed started wiggling underneath our king size bed, though, I began to call him the little Troll. He knows he’s not allowed on the bed so underneath it is the next best thing.

He gets under there and gives out playful growls and other vocalizations meant to communicate to his humans and dog brother topside. I’m not sure if he’s cussing or mocking us because we’re all too fat to get under there.

If he gets a prize to chew on, he can be under the bed and into the middle where I can’t reach him in a flash. When I look under the bed all I see is a pair of little troll eyes looking back at me.

Other dogs I’ve had or known had nicknames too. The Dalmatian we have now is also known as Booger Butt for the lack of hair on his backside. The golden retriever mix we had was known as Turkey Tail for the fanned out tail he carried high. My sister has two Great Pyrenees known as the Swirly Brothers because of the way their coats look when wet.

When my brother and sister and I were growing up we had a long-legged, big-footed Shepherd mix that quickly acquired the name Damn It. Dad gave him the nickname because that was the first thing he yelled every time he saw the dog. He was usually where he shouldn’t have been.

I also had a dog we called Knucklehead because that’s what my folks said he was, I was about 5 and didn’t know what that meant so I thought it was a pretty good thing to call him.

We had a man that used to go to church with us who had a dog he eventually called Get. Every time he came out of the house and the dog greeted him he would holler, Get! As in get away. The dog soon answered to that name. The man made a big show of telling everyone how much he despised the dog but strangely enough the two eventually became inseparable.

Some of my favorite dogs from movies got their monikers by rote as well. Ol’ Yeller started out with Travis referring to him as “that yeller dog.” John Wayne’s dog in “Big Jake” and Clint Eastwood’s tagalong dog in “Outlaw Josie Wales” both were known simply as Dog.

For now, Ranger’s bad habit of chewing things up is starting to earn him a couple of other nicknames, neither of which I can share in a family newspaper. Hopefully he grows out of it before I earn the nickname Canine Strangler.