I have been thinking about the process of deciding on a pup name for a while. I find it a fascinating subject because it wasn’t a struggle I had. I am Sparky, and I was Sparky before I even knew what pup play was. I was first named Sparky by my boss on the farm I worked on in college because I would drive the grain truck over the fresh cut fields. The axle on a grain truck can give of a single spark that can turn a wheat field into a roaring blaze in a matter of minutes, so I would hear “SLOW IT DOWN SPARKY” on the CB at least once a day.
The name stuck with the crew, but I didn’t use it elsewhere until a couple years later. I had moved to Seattle and my new roommate, out of the blue, called me Sparky. I stopped short and said, “Why did you call me that?” He didn’t know anything about the farm story, so it was shocking when he said that he just thought the name fit. A couple of weeks later it happened again with another friend, out of the blue and with someone not knowing the story of the other two times. The universe was trying to tell me something.
It wasn’t until nearly 6 years later that I even heard of puppy play. I didn’t have a name or framework for what I was feeling until then. There was Sean, who was responsible and serious, often times focused on a single goal with determination. And then there was Sparky, who was playful and bouncy, unpredictable and sometimes just wild. Looking back I felt like there was two sides to my personality for many years, and when Stompie (owner of Pupzone) first introduced me to the idea of puppy play it all suddenly made sense.
I figured out who Sparky was.
My name came easy to me. It resonated for me. For others, sometimes it doesn’t and it is hard to land on a puppy name. It is important to find one, however, because so much of who you are and how people start building a frame work of you as a puppy starts from that name. You may say, “I don’t like labels!”, sure, but sorry kids that is how the brain is wired. Once we have a label we start filling that label with attributes and associations that build a picture of who someone is. It isn’t perfect, but it’s what we got.
After talking with numerous pups out there about their naming experience I have found there are usually four blocks that inhibit a boy from settling on his puppy name.
Embarrassment – This is an easy discussion to have with a puppy whenever they think they have a name but won’t settle down with it because they are embarrassed for some reason. Maybe the name is too stylized, too gregarious, too sexual. It could be used too much (had a few contact me asking for permission to use my name – hint: I don’t own it!). Most of the time I tell them to just let go. If it makes their puppy side jump for joy, then go for it. If you want to be known as Pup Dildo, then Pup Dildo it is!
Overanalyze – This can be a toughie, as some pups will think about this name versus that name, do cost-benefit analysis charts, conduct surveys and focus group different names. I do love these kinds of pups, because they are so analytical that when you get them into true pup headspace they are the most joyful because of the contrast to their daily lives. For them, I tell them this: For years when I was a kid I played the violin. Tuning the strings is very important, and one of the first things you learn. It was the only thing about a violin I did well because I got from the beginning what the instructor was trying to tell us. Other kids would analyze the process, try to listen, develop patterns that dialed in the strings quickly, but I was always faster at it. I was often asked by the others to tune their strings for them before a concert. The part I figured out was just to listen for the string to resonate. When the string is just right it will vibrate in a way that causes you to feel “right”, the air around the strings and the neck of the instrument vibrate just “right”. For pups that are analyzing their name, I tell them, pluck the string and see if it resonates, if it stirs an emotion of happiness and pride then you are there, you have found your name. Leave analyzing for work time and other non-pup boring crap.
Waiting for a Sir – As a pup that found my name before I heard of pups, let alone handlers, I am obviously not an advocate of waiting until you find a Sir or Handler to have them name you. There is a pup name in you that is waiting to come out, and a Handler that is worth their salt is only going to help get it out, not come up with something they just like. If the name is inside you then you can be the one to pull it out. Usually these pups, the ones that are saving themselves for a Sir before a name, are not really asking for advice for naming but rather validation for doing so. To them I just ask if they are still happy while they are waiting. Most are not, and the distress of not having a name is causing more harm than good. The answer is then easy. I usually tell these pups they have one week to settle on a name. GET TO IT! Worked so far with anyone I have had to be forceful with.
Mental block – Now here is a classic problem that has an answer. Everyone assumes that to be creative all you have to do is let inspiration do all the work and it will just come to you. The truth is that is the hardest way, and often the least successful. Those that make a living being creative do so using processes. Here is my favorite. Take a sheet of paper and just free form words about yourself or puppy play that you like (not necessarily names, just descriptive words). Write them at different angles and in different ways, use different pens. Don’t follow the lines. Set that sheet aside and on a new one, write down the alphabet from the top down. To the right of each letter do the same thing, write words about you or puppy play that are descriptive and that you like, that start with each letter. A words first, then B words, and so on. You can use words from the previous sheet, but don’t look at it. When done select the words that resonated with you. By now you should at least have some good words that you have liked from this process. Pick your favorite and create a mind-map. To do this, put the word in the center of a new sheet, then think of names (labels, objects, nouns, whatever) that go with that word. Draw a line from the center of your selected word out and write one of your associated names or nouns out from it. The next name/noun you come up with can either be connected to the original, or the new one. Keep branching out as much as you need to. This works best if sheet ends up a mess, with lots and lots of branches. By now, some names will have percolated to the top, if not one single one, that you are starting to fall in love with. If you are, you can stop as that is your name, or keep going. Take a name from the mind map that is a likely candidate and write down all the attributes about that name. Is it strong. Fierce. Playful. Fun. Timid. Shy. Write them all down, then circle the ones that describe you. If not many, it isn’t the name for you. If you circle them all, that is your name. Repeat this process for other names from your mind map until you land on just the perfect name.
Finding a puppy name should be a fun process and it always saddens me when it stresses a boy out. Let it be fun. Let it be a self-discovery process and open yourself up to possibility. Being a puppy is a chance to be our ideal selves, so chasing after that in a way that is painful or distressing is only going to take you farther from your goal.
Good luck pups, can’t wait to hear your new name!