According to VPI Pet Insurance Company, the top ten dog names of 2010 are as follows:

10. Sophie

9. Charlie

8. Daisy

7. Maggie

6. Buddy

5. Molly

4. Lucy

3. Max

2. Bailey

1. Bella

I know many, many dogs by these names. They are good, strong names. Just super, duper, ooper common. I feel like 95 percent of the female Golden Retrievers in the world are named Maggie or Molly. Sophie is up there too.

Whenever I encounter a dog or cat with an unusual name, I take advantage of the icebreaker opportunity to find out the origin of said name. I once met a Golden named Cabella, after the fact that she was carried home in a Cabella’s box. (Cabella’s is a big hunting/fishing/outdoorsy retail place.) Along the retail vein, I’ve seen several little foofy dogs named Prada.

Some dogs are named after the street they were found on. My friend is after a stray Border Collie that’s been lurking in his hometown’s parking lots for a week or two now. It’s wily and elusive, so he’s named it Sasquatch.

Pop culture is a good place to find a name. If I get the opportunity to name my own pet (often they are pre-named, or the kids get naming rights) that’s where I usually go. My dog Scully was named after Dana Scully, the female lead character in my favorite show at the time, The X-Files. I had a rabbit named LeRoy from a line in an old Beastie Boys song. (“YO LEROY!” was the line, can’t recall which song. Just Googled it, it’s from the song Hold it Now, Hit It from Licensed to Ill.) I had a rat named Quiche Le Rat from a B-52’s song called Quiche Lorraine, about a poodle named Quiche Le Poodle.

If I had my way, my dog Katelin would be Mushu, after the dragon in the Disney cartoon Mulan, but she was pre-named and I didn’t want to change it and freak her out further after she’d been shuffled to many homes already.

Years ago there was a rash of Lion King inspired names. There were piles and piles of Simbas and Nalas, even one Zazu. My friend had a cat named Pumba. Not too many of those guys left these days though.

Any cat named Gus gets asked if his name is really Asparagus after the theatre cat in the musical Cats. You’d be surprised how many of those there are out there.

We see a pair of Border Collies named Calvin and Hobbes after one of the greatest comic strips of all time. The other day I met a dog named Zeeba after a character in my current favorite newspaper comic (yes I read the paper, and I’m not afraid to admit it!): Pearls Before Swine. The alligators on the strip are portrayed as cretins who don’t speak proper English and they call the zebras "zeebas."

My brother followed the pop culture trend too, naming his cat Spiral after the Nine Inch Nails album, The Downward Spiral.

Of course my brother also contributed to another family pet naming trend: food names. We had a yellow kitten that appeared on our doorstep. I thought we had all agreed on some name, but my brother incredulously proclaimed, "But I thought her name was Twinkie!?"  I was pretty certain that Twinkie never entered our negotiations, but he was dead-set that that cat’s name was Twinkie (I think he dreamed it). She was yellow with a little white and looked like the scary space-aged preservative-filled delight, so the name stuck.

Along the food lines, we had a lab named Bagels. Mom said she came up with the name on a whim. I’m not convinced, you see, we are of Cuban descent, and I never saw or ate a bagel in my entire life until maybe college. She said she just liked the name, since our other lab was called Pretzel and the two bread product names were cute. Years later, I learned a fact about Barry Manilow, my mom’s favorite singer in the universe. (She once tearfully told a back-stage security guard that she came all the way over [like, literally fresh off the boat] from Cuba JUST so that she could meet Barry. Incidentally, the picture she took with Mr. Manilow that night is the biggest one on the family mantle photo shelf.)  Anyhow, for some God-awful reason, I guess to please my mom, I read Barry’s autobiography, and lo and behold, Barry had a Beagle named Bagels! Mom insists that’s not why she named our dog Bagels; that it was just a wonderful coincidence, but I still have my suspicions.

Nowadays my mom names her pets after places she loves: Destin and Kemah.

One more food thing: I have also met a couple dogs called PITA, but not after the food. It actually stands for "pain in the a#$."

So hopefully this gives you a few ideas for places to look and thinks to think  when naming your new puppy. I, for one, enjoy the off the beaten path names, so be creative! And feel free to comment on any unusual pet names you have, or have come across.

Dr. Vivian Cardoso-Carroll

Pic of the day: Puppy Dylan by Pirate Scott

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