My husband and I raised our white flag today. Defeated, and with his first set of vaccines scheduled for next week, we knew it was time to name the Baby Dog. Vaccine labels belong in a medical chart, medical records are legal documents and, as far as the law is concerned, a name is kind of important. That, and signalment. Plus, it’s just insensitive to tell genuinely interested strangers that his name is Baby Dog or The Fetus. Still, I’m pretty sure that he will retain these as nicknames, at least in private.
We like historical names, names with some meaty significance. Dogs are wonderful creatures, sentient, with personalities, desires and interests unique to themselves. Just like people, only way better. Accordingly, a dog deserves a name that is worthy of his character and importance. My husband and I also like a theme, and once we have one, we work hard to keep it going. Our boys are named Darwin, Galileo and Edison, so we take this historically-significant-name-with-a-theme thing seriously.
We had arrived at point where it was time to christen him properly. This is always a thorny issue. Naming a thing, whether human baby or baby dog, is a ritual. You make a list, whittle it down, try each name on for size, and in the process, develop an emotional attachment to the chosen name itself. For us, there will never be another Vivian or Gypsy or Homer or Casper; those names both symbolize the animal and embody the love we felt for him or her. Yes, naming makes a thing more real and adds dimension to an already emotional situation. If you aren’t already, you will soon find yourself attached to that furry poop monster once you pick a name. If you are attached, a name solidifies the attachment, making it twice as hard to say goodbye.
Over the past few days, my husband and I have been nudging each other towards The Name. We knew it was time, but we also knew it was dangerous. Once we chose one, our attachment would grow stronger and, in consequence, letting him go would hurt a little but more. And yet, this is what we signed up for. Fostering hurts sometimes but it is important.
We do it because, unlike normal people, there is no difference between who I am and the work that I do; they are two sides of the same coin. We foster because my husband loves me enough to go on this journey with me, knowing he will get hurt. One day, I’ll tell you about our first date- that is what made my entire life and career possible, and eventually, I hope to be deserving of him.
Since The Fetus is five weeks old, he travels to and from work with me everyday. I have a crate set up in my office, with stacks of towels and a small clearing of trees compressed into newspaper. I have several bowls, some toys and a heating lamp to keep him warm. I have an identical set-up next to the Davenport at home. In the morning, I pop him in a carrier, fasten him tight in the back seat and head to the shelter. Once there, I pop him into his day crate, feed him then dive into the chaos of animal welfare. With him always nearby, it’s easy to fall in love. Over the past week, I found myself checking on him more often, and sometimes when writing a report or drafting some emails, I placed him belly up in my lap. He watched and I typed. And my attachment grew stronger.
Today, when leaving for lunch, I spontaneously put him in the crate and took him with me. This is never a good sign. While lunching at Chez Dunkin’, I staged a series of photos to send my husband. Cute photos, nothing manipulative, just a few digital postcards from home, which I texted to him in Los Angeles.
He replied with an “Awww” and the name Ulysses, the great Greek hero, and it was perfect. I’m not sure if this was a name that flashed into his head when he saw the pictures or if he had been mulling it over. Knowing him, he’s been narrowing his list the past several days and, finally, consented to sharing it with me. Truth be told, he always names our animals. I may make suggestions, but he makes the final decision. So today, over a caramel salted hot chocolate and cream cheese bagel, Ulysses became Ulysses.
I don’t anticipate that we will adopt Ulysses. Edison is just starting to form an adult frontal lobe and the idea of another year and a half of puppy-proofing against puppy meltdowns is overwhelming, but stranger things have happened. We do love him, and the act of naming can have unforeseen consequences. Whatever happens, my husband’s love for me has given Ulysses a chance at life, and that is an awesome thing.