Sunday, August 30, 2009


or, "What's in a Name?"

Yesterday the Hendrickson family (including River the Wonder Pit) jumped in the car and headed to the Humane Society for a meet-and-greet with "Crystal," an 8-or-so month old golden female of indeterminate breeding with an "I don't know why I'm here" look on her face.

Cassandra, Isaac (a friend's 6-year old) and I had made the initial foray to the H.S. on Friday after school, where we met Crystal and about 10 other dogs I could have taken home in a heartbeat. She's the one that really clicked, though.

Moments after we met, I was sitting on the floor with all 40 pounds of her in my lap. She never left my side the entire visit.

Her story is an increasingly common one, but that doesn't make it any less sad. Her owner (described by the H.S. people as "a large man, covered in tattoos") couldn't afford to keep her any more. He broke down sobbing at the Humane Society, and Crystal joined him. Many heartwrenching tears later, he finally left her. Of course, she didn't know why. She kept looking for him, expecting him to return and take her home...

She scored the highest possible score on their assessment tests. She loves kids, other dogs, men, women, cats, etc. She has (very) basic obedience, is house trained, isn't yippy, is past the puppy chewing phase...

She'd been there over a week.

I would have taken her home on Friday (softie that I am), but in the interests of keeping my happy home, felt it important that my Wonderful husband have a say in the matter. He didn't mind: he understands the vital importance of my having a dog. Some things in life are essential: Food. Coffee. Horses. Dogs.

At one point at the H.S., I said, "Ok, let's go home!" And the dog perked right up. Made me feel terrible: that word no longer means what she thinks it means.

On the way home, we figured that we should give her a new name to go with her new situation. But she already knew and answered to "Crystal." We tried variations of several similar-sounding names before we hit on "Kestrel." (A small windhovering falcon .)

It fits perfectly. She recognizes it, and I like the imagery.

Some writers (J.K. Rowling springs immediately to mind) are brilliant at naming characters. Others just phone it in, and it shows. I approach naming my animals much like I approach naming my characters. I like names that describe and define, that are unusual and occasionally evocative. The right name can add great depth and weight to a character. In reality, the name must fit the bearer for life...

Kestrel's still a little depressed. That's understandable. I am too, after just losing Sera. We get along great. I have yet to see her tail wag, but know that it will just take time. I've got that. And now that she's in our home, so does she...