What’s In a Name?

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Two weeks ago, as of this writing, Julia and I permanently welcomed a furry new friend into our home. Our decision to adopt a 5-pound, male, chihuahua-terrier mix surprised even us. We didn’t pictures ourselves as owners of a teensy-tiny dog, Julia wanted a girl, and I wanted something that didn’t shed. However, when you go to an adoption event and your wife cries upon meeting one of the little furballs – *spoiler alert* – you’re going to adopt that dog. 

So we happily made arrangements to have him dropped off by his foster parents and began preparing our home for his arrival. We were told his shedding could be kept under control with regular brushing, and that a belly band would help with some much-needed house-training. The only nagging problem that was left to deal with was the name he had been saddled with: “Trusty.” 

Not that “Trusty” is a terrible name. It connotes some positive personality traits, and has a “classic dog name” ring to it. (Side note: with all the new parents of human babies looking to classic standbys like “Jack” and “Henry” and “Eleanor”, I notice that we haven’t seen a similar trend towards naming puppies “Rover” and “King” and “Spot.”) Anyway, our dog just wasn’t a “Trusty.” He was a little reserved and as much as we loved him, his housebreaking issues created a lot more suspicion than “trust” every time he was out of our sight around the house. So the race was on to think of a new name. 

Julia very magnanimously put me in charge of names, while reserving the right to veto anything too ridiculous. I’ve wanted to get a dog and name it “Steve” for about 10 years, but Trust was definitely no “Steve.” “Steve” is not a tiny dog’s name. Even at our first meeting with him, we decided the closest we would come to “Steve” was “Stephen.” I’m not sure why, but the “ph” made complete sense.

So we had a pretty good contender, but we pressed on, not wanting to leave any stone unturned. We seemed mostly drawn to people-names, and I knew that if I wanted a name that I really loved, it would have to have some sort of meaning. I thought about sports heroes from the teams from my hometown (Detroit). Not much jumped out at me. Tom (Brookens/Izzo), Joe (Dumars), and once again Steve (Yzerman) just didn’t do it, as much as I loved those athletes. We briefly considered naming him “Mark Vanderhoff, Jr.” and just calling him “Junior.” “Freddie” was considered but ultimately scrapped out of respect to Julia’s Uncle Fred. On a car trip out to the suburbs with Julia, I spouted off another several dozen names, but nothing seemed like the perfect fit. 

Then it hit me. I realized that in my mining of athletes’ names, I had neglected the Detroit Pistons most recent championship team from 2004. And my favorite player, the one my friends and I had created elaborate inside jokes about, the one who hit hit more big shots than I can recall that season, the one whose likeness I had on top of a bookcase for years in the form of a small statue, also happened to have a hilarious and completely fitting name! I was away from home when the idea came to me so I had plenty of time to mull it over and decide, as told Julia as soon as I saw her, that it was the name I wanted to use if she agreed. 


When I told Julia she laughed. And agreed. I explained the context, and it was decided that his full name would indeed be “Chauncey Billups Vanderhoff.” 

It was worth the wait. 




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Comments (3)


Chauncey is perfect. Charlie told me that he can't wait to play with him this weekend.


Chauncey has a great name. Inspired actually!

Mark Barks F-A-Chews | Rover-Time

[…] Q. “Why did you name him that?” A. I already wrote about that.  […]

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