Monday, March 29, 2010

A dork by any other name

I often wonder what Murdoch’s name used to be and if he still remembers it almost two years after I picked him up. It took us over a month to give him a new name after I found him, partly because we couldn’t agree on one, but mostly because we knew deep down that naming him would mean we made a decision to keep him; neither of us wanted to be responsible for that. As our attempts to pass him on to someone else were continually thwarted we realized we needed to find something to call him since he was beginning to show signs he thought his name was Good Boy - which he definitely wasn’t.

During his first month with us we were barely able to get his attention by yelling “Hey!” And if he happened to return to us while we clapped our hands and then waved them wildly over our heads, we went overboard with the “Good Boy”s, because anything good he did was so rare, we jumped on the slightest thing.

“Did that look like he was thinking about running in my direction? Good Boy!”

“He didn’t bite me very hard that time. Good Boy!”

“Is he sitting? Good Boy!”

We yelled, “Come here,” and “Good Boy” together so often he started to respond to Good Boy with a certain recognition in his eye.

Over those first few weeks, Morgan and I must have gone through about 200 names. Everyday we each offered up a slew of options, a lot of them were ridiculous, some were pretty decent but not for our particular bundle of terror, mostly one of us would like a name the other couldn’t stand. Some names we kept for half a day, rolling them around in our mouths to see how they felt before realizing they didn’t suit him. I have no idea how people name babies.

Murdoch was the winner mostly because we’d run out of steam and were tired of discussing the subject 24 hours a day. We came up with the name while returning from a road trip on which Murdoch had accompanied us because there had been no other option. He was securely belted into the back seat of the car and I kept turning around to look at him as Morgan drove and we bounced names back and forth. It had been quiet for a while as we watched the scenery fly by the window, the wind-blown pines that lined the road were scraggily and very green against the flat grey sky.

“What about Murdoch?” I suggested, explaining how every crazy person in every movie or tv show is always called Murdoch. It seemed to suit.

“Yeah, that works,” said Morgan. “I like it.”

Okay then, Murdoch it was. A few minutes later, after thinking about it, I piped up again, “No, I don’t think I like it.”

“No,” Morgan answered rather quickly, I thought, “We are not changing it again. It’s Murdoch.”

“Fine,” I said, turning to face the road. I imagined myself calling the name Murdoch out our front door or around trees as we tromped through the woods but wasn’t sure I liked how it sounded. However, it wasn’t long before I got so used to yelling his name I was calling everyone Murdoch for a while.

It took me eight months from the day I brought him home to actually start liking Murdoch. I could tell Morgan and I had changed attitudes towards the little demon when we no longer just addressed him as Murdoch, but began shortening his name to Murd. Then the nicknames started rolling easily off our tongues each time we spoke to him and I knew he was officially part of our family.

All of our dogs have nicknames that are used more frequently than their actual names and each one reflects in no uncertain terms exactly where they fit in. Bear is often called Baby Bear or Bearalina. A lot of the time it’s just Floopy or Boobers. Mostly I call her Peanut, but she does get an occasional Sweet Pea, as does Max. I don’t think I’ve ever referred to Murdoch as Sweet Pea though.

Max is often addressed as Maxwell or Maxamillion - both are best said with an English accent. He also gets Maximum or Maximo or just plain Cutie (but that’s mostly from me).

Murdoch is a whole different story. His nicknames carry a certain understated hostility which mirror his attitude almost perfectly. Most commonly I find myself calling him Murd McTurd, but there is also Murdork, Merp the Twerp or Murple the Purple Nurple.

I’m quite sure he doesn’t understand the negative undertones, but they all get the same long-faced “I am not amused” stare in return. But that’s pretty much what Murdoch’s face looks like all the time. His almost piercing brown eyes peer through sprays of hair growing up and out instead of lying flat at the top of a long snout that ends in pouty lips which peek out from behind his shaggy beard. Mostly it’s the sulky face of a spoiled child who has just been told “No” for the first time and it makes me want to pinch his cheeks every time.


  1. Attitudes are changing and Murds is becoming more of a gentleman, mostly

    He still breaks away occasionally and stops to almost flip you the finger, as he runs away.

  2. Ha! I feel Murdock even gives me the finger as I merely read about him. To a dog civilian, such as myself, he appears threatening, sharper than a fish knife, and faster than a rabbit. Ringed with big blades, his jaw is huge and always looking for use. Did you consider calling him Heathcliff, Emily Bronte's darkly wolfish and deeply untamed ruffian of a character from Wuthering Heights? A man of unparalleled passion who could howl at the rising moon. Black and disheveled Murdock could fit the bill. You and Morgan are a brave couple to weather the varying moods of such a wild "child". Good work here Heather - crazy Murdock comes to life, teeth and all.

  3. I have been meaning to ask you how Murdoch got his name!!

    First thing I thought when I started reading your blog, was the crazy guy from the A-Team (not sure if you guys are old enough to remember that show or not), but that is who I will always think of when I read about him!

    I'm laughing out loud at the different nicknames...why do we do that....think for days and weeks about naming them "the perfect name", then call them by a variety of nicknames anyways...too funny!!!

  4. The A-Team was a staple at my house growing up, and that's exactly who came to mind that day in the car!