What is your dog’s name?


When, after many years of wanting a dog, my mom finally got a beagle, she named him Henry. My Iowa-born mom had become an Anglophile after all those years of marriage to my dad, and, not having sons, she wanted a strong, beautiful English name. Henry lived up to it. He was succeeded by William, which caused some nervous joking in the early days of my relationship with my husband, Bill. When William died, my parents adopted an older beagle, already named. Now they have Chance. It’s a sharp break from their pattern and goes against my mom’s principle of giving dog’s “real” names, but it’s a sweet name and it fits that affectionate, energetic dog.

When we adopted our stray, our friend, the poet Maurice Manning, urged us to give her a literary name. We over-thought the matter: my husband’s field is 19th-century American literature; mine is 20th-century British; we split the difference and combed great works from a 20th-century American name, settling on Dilsey, the name of the mammy in The Sound and the Fury, for our dog had been abused but still had a great spirit and we hoped that she, like the character in the novel, would endure. Only later did I realize that Maurice’s dogs at the time were the more humbly named Mango and Deke.

As I annotate Mrs. Dalloway, I know I want to write about Clarissa’s dog, Rob and Elizabeth’s dog, Grizzle. Clarissa would prefer Elizabeth fuss over Grizzle than Miss Kilman; Peter Walsh remembers Clarissa ostentatiously hugging it just after Clarissa has revealed her snobbery. I’m guessing Rob is a nod to Walter Scott, but Grizzle is very  much akin with the Woolf family dog names which include Shag and Gurth.

How do you name your dogs?