Notebook Names

posted 8 Sep 2003, 2PM | 7 Comments

Recently I encountered a forgotten memory. My encounter with the memory was inspired by an artifact that I stumbled upon while reorganizing some old junk. The old junk was strewn about my home office. The artifact was a small piece of wrinkled notebook paper, and the memory... the memory was a single still image of a large black dog laying beneath a large sheet, on a cart, inside a warehouse. The warehouse was sunless, the cart was wheeled, the sheet was white, the dog was dead, and the memory originated at Angelview Pet Cemetary, where I had the strange fortune to be employed for one week three years ago.

I worked in a small office inside the warehouse, a few feet away from the crematories. I slid bags of ashes into fancy urns or simple cannisters, and labeled these so they could be mailed back to mournful pet lovers and local animal hospitals. Each package included a card and a cremation certificate, for customer comfort and closure. I admired the owner for this nice touch.

The job was surreal during that first day, and I found it hard to internalize everything, to visualize so many loveable creatures taken from their owners by age, disease or passing automobiles. By the second day I had settled into a mindless routine of simple tasks and classic rock radio, much like any other job. On the third day, however, I started collecting names.

Names were the only connections I had with these bags of ashes, so I gave them a legacy in writing. You can stuff a whole lot of personality into the name of a pet, free from the social conventions that keep most human names sounding a bit sterile. Whenever I had a chance, I wrote these pet names on a piece of notebook paper. That sheet of paper somehow surfaced last week, here in my L.A. apartment:
McDuff, Merci, Jet, Jazz, Furry Lewis, Casey, Clyde, Kitty,Buster, Axel, Uncas, Dugan, Brandy, Mandy, Maggie, Molly, Lady, Mattapan, Brutus, Britt, Desi, Goo Goo Bee, Taffy, Lucas, Brindle, Schmoozie, Boomer, Schatzie, Pudge, Yin, Norton, Jing, Missy, Rusty, Champ, Precious, Mae Mae, Sissy, McTavish, Sparky, Thor, Mei li, Spinnaker, Lucky, Colorado, Snickers, Roxanne, Spot, Otis, Blackberry, Dannie, K.K., Bambi, Midnight, Clarise, Holland, Binky, Chip, Betty B, Barny, Mopsey, Peanut, Nellie, Buster, Gunner, KC, Spaz, Pedro, Teddy, Muffin, Five Bucks, Amber, Peewee, Theo, Sasha, Huckleberry, Sandy, Petunia, Angel, Shakes, Max, Lulu, Hairy, Cochise, Blue, Castle, Seger, Cliff, Tristan, Sneakers, Skipper, Mom's Rascal (or is that 'Morris' and 'Rascal'?), Miss Maple, Highway, Spaz, Buzzy, Chewy, Blanche, Oreo, Obermeyer
It's a funny thing to stumble upon, now: so many lost connections between dozens of folks or families... and all of those tiny dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, all scribbled into one page. Do some of the owners still think about their lost friend every morning?

On my fifth and final day, the owner of the cemetary caught me using my digital camera around the crematories. I had fearlessly taken several pictures, including one of large black dog laying beneath a large sheet, on a wheeled cart inside a dark warehouse. It was a good photograph. Neither the owner nor the temp agency that assigned me much appreciated my photography instincts, however.

If the photos were out of line, later I got what I deserved: the ILOVEYOU virus, which ate every jpg and mp3 on my hard drive. Only one image from that week survived.

I have never had a pet that wasn't a fish.

There are 7 Comments


9 Sep 03 at 08:58AM ryan said:

I still think "Five Bucks" is a great name for a pet.


9 Sep 03 at 09:23PM dan said:

Very true but I am kind of partial to "Shakes".


9 Sep 03 at 09:27PM Dan said:

Although everyone should check out thier products page.


9 Sep 03 at 11:14PM alison said:

my three favorites: clarise, whom you'd eat with some fava beans and a nice chianti; gunner, to whom you'd sing nelson songs as you brushed its long, blonde hair; and blanche, the dog that always depends on the kindness of strangers.

for runner-up i'd have to go with seger. when he rides in cars, he sticks his head out against the wind.


10 Sep 03 at 12:10AM ryan said:

Hey, Dan's right. They really do have some fine resting vessels available on the products page.

Alison, you are wonderfully clever. I'm also a big fan of "Mattapan" (which is both a town and a T stop), "Yin" (who shouldn't have died alone) and "Furry Lewis" (who I originally mistyped - and who was presumably not hairless.)


11 Sep 03 at 06:22PM Jay said:

Not in this list but the best name I ever heard for a dog was 'Flog' :)


13 Sep 03 at 03:30PM rabi said:

it's hard to think of pet names sometimes. when I was little I wanted to name a pet dog juno (this was before the isp), but all the new pets I got were cats and rabbits and hamsters and a bird, none of which seemed big enough for such a name.

the dog I got in seventh grade was named "wanda" by the vet who did her spaying for free (she was a stray), but that was awful and so temporary that we didn't feel bad changing it (to "cricket," which was more a compromise than a choice).

my new dog also came with a name, but she's had it since birth and it seemed unnecessarily mean to change it. I had to settle with changing the spelling (from lucy to lucie).

were there really cremated birds and rodents? how much ash could that possibly leave?

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