Huff had a different name when we met. I didn’t particularly like it, but I didn’t want to make the adjustment to a new home any more difficult for him. So I used his old name. The odd thing was, he didn’t respond to it.
He knew commands, both voice and hand signals, but not his own name. He would sit, stay (I never had a dog do that!), lie down, and shake (once we removed his painful ingrown dewclaw.) He easily learned new words such as "walk" and "park" and "wait."
But he did not respond to his name. Did they never talk to him? How could he have learned so many commands, but not know this?
I toyed with the idea of changing it. If I was going to have to teach him a name, it might as well be one I liked. But I hesitated.
Then one evening, he made his choice clear. I was talking to him and I used his old name. He stopped, and looked me directly in the eye, being sure to hold my attention. (He’s a border collie. It’s what they do.) Then slowly, and I must say rather dramatically, he turned his head away, nose in the air, completely ignoring me.
Okey-Dokey. Message received.
Whatever good memories that name once held for him, had been erased by the more recent past. So I gave him a new name.
More accurately, he chose his own name. Whenever I am dimwitted or obstinate - that is, whenever he does not get his way, he huffs. He exhales through both his nose and mouth simultaneously. He can do this quite loudly. This sound is often accompanied by equally dramatic gestures. If standing, he will collapse onto the floor. If lying down, his head and shoulders slump. As if my intractability deflates him. It’s impressive, really.
I started calling him Huff.
It was hard to say if he understood this new name, but I kept using it. I shared it with other people. About two weeks into the change, I was talking with a neighbor. She used his name. His ears twitched and he turned toward her.
Welcome to your new identity, Huff. As W.C. Fields said - “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer you to.”
More Adventures with Huff
For the latest: See The Huff Diary