|Naming the puppies|
|Written by Rob Peecher|
|Thursday, 03 May 2012|
My wife came up with his name, and it was so perfect that no one could deny it.
We’d been debating for days over what to name the two new puppies. Jean and I had gone to the animal shelter to see the puppies while the boys were in school. They are 4-month-old, brother and sister Labrador mixes. They’d been found abandoned.
Almost surely these dogs in their short lives had been abused. The male, especially, cowered in the back of his cage at the shelter. The female was more friendly, but not much. The poor male didn’t just cower, tucking his tail at one end and his head at the other, he shivered violently and eyed us with suspicion.
Because they are male and female, the shelter separated them into separate cages, although the animal control officer promised us they got along well. It was obvious, though, that the male took all of his cues from the female.
Jean sat in one cage with him while I sat in the other cage with her. Then she brought the male into the cage where I was, and we both sat with both of them.
We stayed for two hours, petting the dogs and attempting to get them to warm up to us. They did, but only a little.
“It’ll take a lot of work with these two,” I told her. She acknowledged that it would.
Years ago Jean saw a tiny puppy riddled with mange dart across the road in front of her car as she was coming up to a dumpster site. It was November, it was raining and cold. Jean stopped the car, went after the puppy, picked up this tiny bundle of mange and brought him home.
“A lot of work” in adopting abused and abandoned puppies is not the sort of thing that’s going to scare her off.
At least these two puppies didn’t have mange.
That afternoon we told our three sons that we would get the puppies. The kids offered all sorts of suggestions for names. My parents, our co-workers and anyone else who knew we were thinking about getting the puppies also offered up names.
Nothing seemed right, and I wasn’t going to name the dogs “Frick” and “Frack” which was suggested constantly and by everyone.
The male has these enormous brown eyes that are exactly what people mean when they talk about “puppy dog eyes.” They’re sad eyes.
Our sons were just crazy excited at the prospect of having puppies again.
“It may take some time for them to feel comfortable around you guys,” I warned them.
“They’re very skittish. You may have to relax around them and not jump up in their faces right away.”
Nevertheless, the boys jumped up in my face offering suggestions for names. The boys had still not yet seen the puppies, but they were full of names. The dogs had to stay at the shelter over the weekend while we waited for them to be spayed and neutered.
Harrison wanted to name the male “Bubba.”
“He’s not a Bubba,” I told Harrison, reminding him that the male cowers at everything.
“But that’s why we should name him Bubba. We’ll give him a strong sounding name so he feels more confident.”
“We’re not naming him Bubba,” I told Harrison.
Had Jean suggested Tom and Jerry or Mickey and Minnie or Goofy and Pluto, I would have simply said that we were not naming the dogs after cartoon characters and we would have moved on to the next round of name suggestions.
But the cartoon name that Jean suggested was perfect. “I think we should name him Courage the Cowardly Dog,” Jean said.
Courage the Cowardly Dog was a show that aired on Nickelodeon. It was a cartoon about a dog that shivered and shook and was afraid of his own shadow, but when alien chickens or other monsters threatened, Courage would always rescue the elderly woman who loved him, Muriel, and even her husband Eustace who loathed him.
The name was perfect. If ever there was a real-life puppy who reminded me of the cartoon Courage, it was this puppy who was about to come home and live with us.
Harrison said that he would give up on Bubba in favor of Courage if we would relent and name Courage’s sister Dixie. I don’t know why he picked that name, but Harrison threatened to use his powers of persuasion as the oldest brother to bring his younger brothers around to Bubba.
“They’ll do what I tell them to do,” Harrison warned me. “Name her Dixie, or I’ll get Nathan and Robert to agree with me to naming him Bubba.”
I’ve seen Harrison convince his younger brothers to hand over to him their allowance as payment of dues for belonging to the “Peecher Club” – a club to which they have a birthright and to which they owe no money – and so I determined that Harrison might make good on his threat.
And so just more than a week ago Courage and Dixie came home to live with us. He still shrinks when I reach out to pet him; he barks like a madman if you step out of his view for a moment and then step back where he can see you again; and Jean fed him on the couch (seriously – she picked his food bowl up off the ground and put it on the couch in front of him) because he was scared of the tile floor in the kitchen where their food bowls are.
However, he now will wrestle just a little with the kids and loves to play tug with a rope. He shrinks from me (and everyone else), but he no longer runs away or hides in the corner of the room or under the table. Little by little, Courage the Cowardly Dog is becoming more courageous and less cowardly.
Dixie, though, is having no trouble adjusting. She jumps on the boys and playfully nips at them; she goes where she wants – especially if there is food; and while she still barks at strangers she does not hesitate to make friends with them once she sees that they have a hand that could be used to pet her.
As they settle in, it is obvious to us that we made a good decision in bringing home a matching pair rather than opting to separate the dogs. Courage and Dixie go everywhere together. If she goes upstairs to see what the boys are doing, he gets over his fear of the stairs and follows her. When Dixie goes outside, Courage overcomes his fear of the dog he sees in the reflection of the glass on the door and goes outside with her. When Dixie falls asleep on the couch, Courage snuggles up next to her to take his nap.
And our sons jump up in the dogs’ faces and both Courage and Dixie love it.
Meanwhile, when I stand outside and call for the dogs to come in, the neighbors think I am having trouble getting past the War of Northern Aggression: “Courage, Dixie!”
Rob Peecher is editor of The Oconee Leader, and he truly believes that if he found himself threatened by an alien chicken his puppy would come to his rescue.