News & Politics

A Dog Named Paxil

So long, Spot and Fido—pet names aren’t what they used to be.

In the 11 years since Rebecca Bisgyer opened Dog-ma Daycare and Boarding for Dogs on Capitol Hill, she’s met canines named Buckwheat, Tanqueray, Zot, and Paxil. She’s worked with a beagle named Tin Cup and a Westie called Couscous.

“We’ve had Barry White, Grits, Puff Daddy, and a whole pack of Elvises,” Bisgyer says. “Then there are those with a purely creative streak—Boom Cha, Ampersand, Skedaddle, Tainted Evidence.” She’s never had a Rover.

The name you choose for your dog or cat probably says more about you than it does about your pet. If you find yourself saying, “Sit, Snoop Dogg,” or “Roll over, Guinness,” chances are it’s not because your pet likes hip-hop or Irish stout.

“A pet’s name is a stamp of your own personality,” says Cameron Woo, publisher of Bark magazine. “People like giving their animals ironic names because it shows they have a sense of humor.”

Rochelle Bartolomei, who fosters cats in her Silver Spring home, names her litters after celebrities. “We’ve had Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live because the two cats used to beat each other up a lot,” she says. “There’s also been Jake and Elwood because they used to cry a lot, like they were singing the blues. My son wants to name our next group after the cast of Jersey Shore.

Not everyone names pets after reality-show personalities—Bisgyer meets dogs named Steve, Fred, Jim, and Emma. Max and Sophie are popular among Bark readers. The Washington Humane Society has worked with more than 250 cats named Diamond and many pets named Precious.

The Humane Society’s Lisa Bragg says shelter dogs that are brought in without tags are often named by the staffers who rescued them—and most people who adopt pets keep those names.

“We recently found a cat walking on the underground subway tracks we called Metro,” says Bragg. “Another cat, Benning, was found on Benning Road. We have a cat named Drywall because we had to bust into a wall to get him.”

Hundreds of Web sites are dedicated to helping people name their pets. On—which lists more than 20,000 names divided by geographic origin, among other categories—users can find Hindu, Hawaiian, and Eskimo names. includes names such as Asbolos, Jabba the Hut, and Brigadier. encourages people to send in their dog’s name and the rationale behind it. So far there’s Ahau-Kin, a German shepherd named after the Mayan sun god; Koegel Vienna, a dachshund whose family was inspired by a meal of hot dogs; and Wager, a mixed-breed whose owner loved to gamble.

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