Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dogs Are Family

The other day, I read an article on about how dogs are becoming thought of as members of our families. It said this is shown by our choice of names for our modern day dogs: instead of Spot, Lady and Fido we are now naming our dogs Max, Molly and Jack.
I think popular names for pets follow trends the same way children's names do. While we like to name our dogs with traditional human names, there also seems to be a trend toward naming children with non-traditional human names such as Apple, Poppy and Rocket. Of course, these are celebrity kids names; Jacob and Emma still top the charts. But I'm guessing the rest of us will eventually follow.
According to Wikipedia, pugs were bred to adorn the laps of Chinese sovereigns before 400 BC and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was named because it was the children's pet in the house of Charles I. Evidence suggests that dogs began their road to domestication some 15,000 years ago. They have been working, living and playing with us for literally ages.
In the past it may have been common only for royals to enjoy the companionship of a dog as a family member. But as our standard of living has improved over the years, more and more families have been able to afford dogs and appreciate them as part of the family.
The media has had a hand in this as well. In the 1923 movie "Where the North Begins" Rin Tin Tin plays a wolf dog. The movie was credited with saving Warner Bros. from bankruptcy. In the 1957 movie "Old Yeller" a boy bonds with a golden mongrel and is heartbroken when he has to shoot the rabid dog. In the 1960 episode of Looney Tunes, called "Dog Gone People," Elmer Fudd cares for a dog named Rupert who expects to be treated like a human. The 1974 film Benji, one of my personal favorites, the hero not only has a human name, but helps the authorities nab kidnappers as well. The 1990's the hit comedy series "Mad About You" featured a lovable mutt named Murray. And, of course we can't forget Brian of "Family Guy" who sips martinis one minute and chases his tale the next.
I would say that my dog Grits most reminds me of Brian. He has a way of communicating with his eyes, sighs, growls, whines and barks, while being an expert at reading body language and recognizing routines then assigning meaning to them that is sometimes astounding to me. At the same time he is all dog and likes to chew on his bone, tear the stuffing out of his toys and sniff the butts of his four legged friends.
His name may not be traditional in any way. He may not be a related by blood or marriage. Technically he's not the child of this person or couple, but he is definitely family.

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