Naming a Dog Is Easier Than Naming a Child, But Don’t Look For Fido or Rex

What’s your name? Photograph by Daniel P.

On Monday, we posted a story about rescue puppies available for adoption. If you adopt a dog you have to name it. Here’s how some creative Upper West Siders named theirs. 

By Ellen Jacobs

While there are exceptions, such as the names of children of celebrities — Apple, Sparrow, James Midnight, and Bear Blaze — naming a dog offers a lot more creative leeway than naming a child. For one thing, dogs don’t run the risk of being mocked by other dogs for having weird names. The 72nd Street dog run in Riverside Park is a microcosm of UWS dog-naming creativity, a place where the names often tell more about the owners than the pups.

Take Wrigley, a living example of a curly Doodle’s enthusiastic response to everyone and everything. He was named after Chicago’s Wrigley Field; his parents are Cubs fans. That Wrigley isn’t interested in balls? No matter.

On the other hand, there’s Honey, who despite her name, is a nine-year-old champion ball catcher. She was pre-named Honey when she arrived at the Upper West Side in a van at 2:30 a.m., from the Long Road Home Rescue in Georgia. “We were too lazy to change her name” said Alice Eng, her mistress. Then she paused. “Besides, we didn’t want to confuse her.”

The mistress of Rodeo, an Aussie mix, was asked if he had been rescued from Texas. “No, he’s from Tennessee.” “Was he named Rodeo because he’s your first dog, so it’s your first rodeo?” “We just liked the name,” she said over her shoulder as she snapped on Rodeo’s leash.

A sweet giant white doodle, Doc, whose fascination with squirrels is of Olympian proportions, was so dubbed by his owners because they adopted him to help mend their son’s broken heart (and their own) after their former dog had been hit by a car.

While driving back from North Shore Animal League a couple was scrambling to figure out a name for a Black Lab mix puppy, when their 16-year-old son who was cuddling the newly adopted pup in the back seat, called out: “Leeroy. He should be Leeroy.” Does Leeroy appreciate that he was named after the video game celebrity and internet hero?

Also in the named-after-a-game department is Chess, a Border Collie mix, who was immediately name-changed from Zorro when his new owner asked the foster mother if he was smart. She shook her head with laughter. “I wouldn’t play a game of Chess with him.”

A vivacious ten-month-old yellow lab, Plimpton, is named not after the late journalist George Plimpton, nor the actress Martha Plimpton, nor even after Plimpton Hall on the Barnard College campus, but rather after a street that runs along the ocean in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, where his owner’s family used to vacation as a child.

Arriving at the Bideawee Home from Puerto Rico with the name Peperoncino (hot chili peppers in Italian), a tiny, two-month old puppy’s name was shortened to Pepe (a Spanish nickname for Jose) by his Japanese-born adoptive parents. After all, by the time they finished calling “PEPERONCINO,” Peperoncino would long be out of hearing range.

Nicco’s dog walker was asked, “Why Nicco?” She shrugged. “I have absolutely no idea.”

What’s your dog’s name, and why? Tell us in the comments.


ABSURDITY, COLUMNS | 30 comments | permalink
    1. Angela Filippa says:

      My dog’s name is Penn. No, he is not from Pennsylvania but from Tennessee. He was named Penn by the shelter that rescued him and although we don’t know exactly why, we think it was because his brownish/red fur is a tone darker is close to a penny coin.

      • Penny’s person says:

        We renamed our bright and lustrous coppery mutt Penny for this reason too. We sometimes call her Penn-Penn, though, when we’re summoning her in the park. We did not consider until much later we did both go to UPenn for grad school, and that having met in the MBA program we happen to have named our dog as a unit of currency. Her name is therefore a little ironic – it denotes the lowest possible value, while we feel she is worth everything.

    2. LL says:

      My dog has about 3 names. The name she had when I adopted her, which I rarely use, but it basically is her Hebrew dog name. I call her Chicken because…very embarrassing reasons. And then her name is the Polish word for sunshine.

    3. Huh says:

      “Margaret Plimpton? Did you mean “Martha Plimpton”?

    4. Sarah says:

      I think naming a lab after Leeeeeeroy Jenkins completely captures a lab’s approach to life!

      (Bring back Pupper West Side!)

    5. Aloha's mommy says:

      My pup’a name is Aloha. Either the shelter or her original owners gave her that name. She was abandoned with a litter of puppies who were named Alani, Kahula, Kahuna, and Akoni.

      Her name sure does fit her Hawaiian spirit!

    6. Bill S. says:

      Our wonderful BOOMER was a stray from W.VA. He arrived with the name and responded so well, we decided not to change it. Our last dog we named HOWDY because he was a doodle. When calling him, people would respond, “How are you?”

    7. S. Hayes says:

      Maggie May. Can’t you just hear the mandolin rain when you call this tawny chow mix? I do every day. Four legged angel.

    8. CJ says:

      Our purebred beagle named Kouklamou (“my little doll” in Greek)
      Our beagle/dachshund rescue named Khloe (loosely meaning “green shoot” as she is always fresh and lively, changed from her original name Abby)
      And our Lhasa Apso also rescued named Kalvin (originally Calvin, but you see a pattern here?)
      P.S. Absolutely NOTHING to do with that K family!!
      Loves of our lives!!

    9. Our recently adopted rescue from the NY Humane Society was named “Petunia.” Sweet name, but since we were looking for a four-legged rock star, we dubbed our nine pound Maltese “JANIS JOPLIN.”

    10. upper west side girly says:

      I have a chihuahua named Kramer after the Seinfeld character. He lives up to the name:)

    11. Darwin says:

      My first rescue dog was Darwin Bearhead because (1) Darwin was a great scientist & (2) his (dog’s) head was shaped like a bear’s. His shelter name was Fuzzy Wuzzy, which may not have been his original name because he’d been abandoned. Theodore Houdinidog is my current guy – Teddy from his previous home & Houdinidog because he can escape from ANYTHING, including a seatbelt.

    12. Ira Finkelstein says:

      My Jack Russell terrier was named Veronica by her former owner. I changed it to Olive, after the Jack Russell in Olive the Other Reindeer.

    13. Carolyn Hahn says:

      I;m going to cheat: it’s a little rescue tabby cat. My husband named him “Dinger,” which is a home run in baseball. He is 11 years old and shows no interest in baseball, sadly, but does enjoy bird/squirrel videos on you tube.

    14. Carol says:

      I’d read that dogs like two-syllable names that end with an “e” sound. (Can’t recall which group of monks, but it was a group who trained doggies that said that). So I set about with that guideline, and chose the name “Phoebe”. It means bright light, so it was an absolute fit, and is also the namesake of a Biblical gal who delivered a very important letter.

    15. Ruth Helfrich-Yood says:

      When I found the right rescue dog for my father-in-law (then age 94), this longish-hair pug mix (who looks like a small blonde Wookie) was named “Snickers”, which aptly described his snaggletooth smile. Sight unseen, however, my father-in-law renamed him & was eagerly touting on his then-daily blog, “Dawg’s a-comin’!” I realized then that as brilliant & cognitively clear as he still was, my husband’s father realized he was starting to have some difficulty retrieving names, so he had created a name with a southern drawl (he was an UVA alumni) which he knew he would remember, as he did, until the day he died at 101.4 years.

    16. June Rousso says:

      Funny you saw that. I always thought that naming a child is easier than naming a dog! That was the case for me!

    17. Karen Sutton says:

      Roy after a famous footballer in Sydney, Australia.

    18. Laura J says:

      My collie was rescued from Tri-state collie rescue in Ohio and her foster mother called her Daisy. I thought she would not survive in NYC with that name so we had a naming contest in my office and Roxie was the winner. The name is perfect for her because she will be 5 years old on Saturday and she still struts around town.

    19. RJ says:

      Diamond came to us from the city pound 11 years ago, already with her name. Fits perfectly as she’s a total jewel of a dog!

    20. With retirement, we were moving to NYC permanently. We wanted our COVID puppy (black maltase) to have a New York-connected name. It was my husband’s turn to name this girl, and my only request is that it be a “girly” name and have two syllables. We took out a map of the City and he immediately picked out Gracie—as in Gracie Mansion!

    21. Madam Chu was a beautiful female pug. Pugs were royalty in ancient China. I’m surprised I never meet pugs with Chinese names.

    22. mary says:

      My dog is named SUNDAY she was a rescue.
      I named her after Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George.


      I had a boxer as a child growing up in Mexico City. I named her Yuqui, a nickname for the Yucatán peninsula

    24. Kris Boston says:

      My rescue dog is named Little Lucy. Sweetest dog on earth. She came to me 3 years ago from Bidewee with the name Mary. My mother’s name was Mary; I instantly changed my dog’s name to Little Lucy. That says it all.

    25. My mother name one of her dog sasha after the character in Peter and the Wolf says:

      My mother named one of her dog sasha after the character in Peter and the Wolf. Later we named our daughter sasha after the dog.

    26. Dog Mom says:

      My dog’s name is the Italian diminutive of her cat brother, Simon. But since Simonina was too long a name for her to learn or for me to call out, she is now Nina.

    27. D says:

      Who remembers Zabar the orange and white Pembroke Welsh Corgi?

    28. C says:

      My friend’s dog is Enid Petunia, which I love so much! 🙂