Pet names — as in the nicknames we give to our pets — say lots about who we are and what our pets mean to us. It's a truism that's especially evident in the examination room, whether people coo sweet nothings to their beloveds … or chat blithely on the cell phone after handing you "the cat."
It’s doubtless that something is missing in a relationship when an animal is referred to in terms of genus and species. Not exactly a member of the family, if you know what I mean. Indeed, it seems generally the case that the more terms of endearment a pet boasts, the more bed-time, hike-time, car-time, couch-time, and kitchen-time these pets tend to enjoy.
Maybe I'm wrong, but that's my take, anyway.
Partly, that's informed by an interesting exercise I participated in as a veterinary student in my third year of school at the University of Pennsylvania. By way of bereavement assistance training, a small group of us were asked to list every single moniker attributed to a past pet of our choice.
An odd choice of exercises, perhaps, but a very effective one. Because by enumerating our deceased pets' appellations of adoration we inevitably come in direct contact with what most of our clients are feeling at the time of their pets' loss. And that's a crucial emotion to keep close whenever dealing with pet owners whose pets impending or recent deaths means a soft touch will be in order.
Makes sense, right? Because it behooves veterinarians to pay close attention to what pet owners need. And nicknames may well be among the most telling of them.
Dr. Patty Khuly
P.S. What do you call your pets in the comfort and privacy of your own home?