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A dog by any other name is still the family pet

"Kids need a dog," he argued. "It's part of growing up." He paused for impact, then pressed, "So, are we going to do it?"

"I don't think we're ready."

"We'll never be ready," the closer wrangled.

I lowered my chin and eyed my spouse contemptuously, with a withering stare.

He stood his ground. "Think about it this way," he urged. "The kids are the perfect ages to enjoy a dog. And, if we get a puppy now, it will probably expire right about the time the last one leaves for college. Best of all, the children will do all the work until then."

Such a dreamer, I ruminated. Yet, surrendering, I quipped, "You're morbidly convincing."

Saving me from changing my mind and going down in the family annals as a crusher of childish abandon, my beloved wasted no time locating a golden retriever litter and high-tailed it to South Carolina.

But how to choose a puppy? Eons had passed since he last made such a selection and he vaguely remembered the criteria. When the bundle bounded out of the breeder's backdoor in a roly-poly pack of fur and teeth bumbling over brothers and sisters, my husband noticed a lone golden standing out from the pack.

"I'll take that one," he said, pointing to a small female squatting in a flower bed next to the back steps. "I like to see a retriever putting business before pleasure."

When our new addition dashed through the front door, excitedly greeted by my brood, a ball of arms and legs climbing over and under brothers and sister to get a hand gnawed by the needly teeth of the cutest thing they had ever seen, her whole body trembled with youthful exuberance and anxiety. Then and there she mixed business with pleasure.

And shortly thereafter, the whirling dervish developed her entrepreneurial skills, becoming all business. She left forgotten memos behind in every room. I disposed of so many pieces of incriminating evidence, I briefly considered a second career in politics.

At the same time that I mumbled, "We've made a mistake," one of the kids inadvertently insured her permanence by shouting, "What are we going to name her?"

Immediately, a committee of confederates met to confer, submitting suggestions like, Killer, Duke, Gold Dog, Spot, Nigel, and Fluffy.

My husband got in on the act, too. "Let's name her Kirksey, for the town where I got her."

"Gosh, I really wanted to name her Dimple or Belle, or something girlie like that," I pouted. Honestly, I had wanted to name our next dog Sartorious Metatarsal, but in light of my family's resistance to creativity, I didn't mention it.

But hey-diddle-diddle if I was going to let them name it something stupid. "We cannot name her Duke," I announced. "She's a girl."

I nixed Killer. It didn't bode well for obedience training.

With the short list in hand, I put on my bathrobe and slippers and strolled out to the front yard. Yelling each option, one by one, I tried to ascertain which landed shy of the thin partition between neighbors tagging us as a nice, normal family or as the idiots down the street; an important distinction to make before shackling ourselves and our dog to an appellation for the next 12-15 years.

Through this painstaking process, I arrived at the title, Kirksey Belle. No decent southerner would ever question why my pet has a double name, because she already knows.

Best of all, it fits our baby like Italian loafers. And I dread the day my last child departs for college.

Web posted on Thursday, February 01, 2007

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