Everything. A person's name stays with them for their entire life and long after they've departed this continuum that they share with us for too short a time. Choosing one is a huge responsibility. Choosing the right one is daunting at times. It has to "fit" and, if you're of the creative and imaginative type, like us, it has to be interesting. At its very best, a name for an animal companion is a one or two word look into who they are, what they mean to you and how they came into your life. It says as much about you as it does them. A tall order.
I've had cat companions since I was a little kid, after Dad convinced me that a cat would be better than the dog I wanted. You know the dynamic. Other kids had dogs. I wanted one. I'm sure I resisted but I'm more than sure now that I'm glad that he won out. The cats I had back then were from the shelter. Go and choose one and bring it home. Always boys. No girl cats for me! It's a kid thing. I'd learn to care for them and they'd learn to care for me. I had about eight or so. Only one at a time; and that was fine. They're all out under the apple tree in the homestead back yard. Most of them were done in by not respecting cars. I had my fair share of grief at an early age because of this. Still, I always got my parents to take me back to the shelter to find another companion that I could care for and be immeasurably rewarded in the process. All part of growing up. Their names at that time in my life were of the more simple variety.
Once I set out on my own, having a cat just didn't fit into the picture anymore. I was in apartments that notoriously don't allow pets or traveling extensively with the racing team. Years passed. Time flies when you're having fun, you know. Living in a penthouse apartment in an old Victorian and, among other things, taking care of the owner's heating systems in the many houses they renovated and being the construction engineer on a racing trimaran he wanted to build, a little scrawny Tortoiseshell kitten showed up in a rain storm at their back doordrenched to the bone; determined that this is where she was supposed to be. Stayed there for hours looking up to the door window and calling. Already in the mode of working in my home studio, we were the obvious choice to take her in... just until we find a home for her. Right.
Then came the Naming. Whether you want to acknowledge it at the time or not, the Naming is your clue that the altruistic notion that you're going to adopt a person out "to a good home" is just lip service. You already have provided the best home there is. That's why she chose it. Duh.
For a few days, we went 'round and 'round with names. Usually, if you wait long enough, a cat will name itself by acting or looking like something or someone. This little girl arrived in the pouring rain at the back door of the house we were in. Orphaned, Annie was the eventual obvious choice. My first cat in a long, long time had arrived and filled a void I didn't know I had.
A while later came Comet. A Korat-Norwegian Forest Cat mix that I saved from the animal shelter in Big Bear, California. When I lived in Southern California, a friend and I went up in the mountains every so often to this little town at Big Bear Lake to gather architectural antiques for her shop. She suggested once that we go across the lake to the animal shelter on the north shore to see who was there. I resisted all day but, at the last minute, relented. It always tears my heart out going into those places and seeing the pleas for help. I want to take them all. Most were frantic; reaching through the cage door, pawing the air. You can't tell me that they don't know what's going on. One little guy caught my eye as he caught mine, then his green eyes looked down at the cage floor again; dejected. He just sat there like that for the time I watched him. No crying, no attempts at escape. I got the feeling that he couldn't understand why he was being subjected to this. I watched him for a while longer and then we said our good wishes to everyone and left to consider.
Next day, we returned just before closing. He worked on me all night and all day from afar. I asked to see the grey boy and they brought him out. He summarily ignored me and I said: "I'll take him." As the little guy stumbled across objects on the counter, the person taking care of us began filling out the paperwork and murmured: "Good thing. This was his last day."
Reality and shock descended upon me. I knew in the back of my mind what the situation is but tried to ignore it at the same time. I was back in the "no pets" housing situation, so taking this one person was a gamble already. I was powerless to do anything more for all of those still waiting for someone to come along and knew that one of them would meet my little guy's fate in his place. Maybe not today, but soon. Saddened beyond belief, I took solace in that I could save one little life; but those others haunt me to this day.
Why the name Comet? He was a dark cool grey, had a long & bushy flowing tail, every so often he'd blast through the house & out into the kitchen and leap into the sink. He made no audible sound when he purred. In order to tell if he was purring you had to touch himjust like any object in space. So, I had two main clues: similar bodies that travel through our solar system and a brand of scouring cleanser. Comet it was!
It was he who taught me about cats communicating by transmitting and reading brainwaves. Every time he had a vet appointment, he'd disappear. The place I was living in at the time was an upstairs single room over a shop in Carmel, so he had nowhere to go; but he'd be gone, just the same. I began to make sure that there weren't any outward clues as to what the plan for the day was. No carrier. Nothing out of the ordinary in the day's routine. When it came time to scoop him up gone. Never did find out where he hid. He'd just suddenly appear. Maybe he had an invisibility cloak or performed Mak'tar on me. Whatever it was, it was downright remarkable to witness.
And that's how he summoned me back to save him on that all-important day. I'm glad I was tuned in.
Next came Aurora - my first pedigree cat. A Silver Patched Tabby named for her resemblance to the Borealis display. But, since then, here's a far from complete shortlist of notable names in no particular order:
- Shadow - as a kitten, she followed Joy everywhere.
- Annie - tiny Tortoise Shell orphan girl who showed up totally drenched at my back door when I lived in Rochester; determined that she was going to live here, too. I miss her very much.
- Pancreas - he's Abyssinian and so should have a Greek name.
- Lilli - because she was Lilliputian.
- Roadside - she showed up one day at the studio, not long after we moved here ourselves, took a nap in the sun on the west deck and stayed.
- Rubeus - he was an Orange Maine Coon - BIG and hairy. Renamed from Tom after we rescued him from a hideous existence. Better place to live - better name to go with it. He really liked it and especially the Heaven that was being on the bed.
- Hagrid - he is a Black Maine Coon - BIG and hairy. He showed up at a house down the road and we went to see if it was Luna; who never came home one night. Shortly thereafter, he showed up here; about a mile over rough terrain from the other house. He has all of Rubeus' traits, even his voice, so he's brought him back home.
- Kirby - a very big Orange Tabby. Had an eating disorder where she would suck up any food in sight and then hurl.
- Moe - a smooth, shiny Black Shorthair Maine Coon. "Hey, Moe!"e;
- Larry - one good Stooge deserves another. Somehow, just seems to fit him.
- Luna - 'cuz she's craaaaaaaazzzzy. Our Dark Side of the Moon all Black Maine Coon. Named before we learned of Luna in Harry Potter but fits in with all of the others now.
- Dobby - a very big Red Maine Coon who looks like Dobby The House Elf.
- Zot - has Harry Potter scars on her Marbled Bengal sides.
- Winky - Dobby's Marbled Bengal house elf companion.
- Blinky - originally heading for Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod but Zot had already been named. They're Marbled Bengal triplets.
- Silicon - a light grey metallic Spotted Bengal.
- Carbon Fiber (Carbon for short) - a black on black Marbled Bengal; a miniature Black Leopard. We work in carbon fiber in our artwork and only when you see him in the direct sunlight, that's what he looks like.
- Admiral Akbar - we couldn't get him to go into the trap. Cow-spotted; looks like he's in dress whites.
- Toothless - he showed up one day at the studio, watching the other kids playing. Seemed ferocious at first, perhaps feral. Later, we learned that he's got the sweetest heart, so his name was changed to that of the Night Fury in How to Train Your Dragon. The incredibly touching story of his journey into our lives and hearts starts here.
- Big Sir - named on the way home from Deetjen's Big Sur Inn, where we got him. All white. Lived up to his name. Used to terrorize huge dogs.
- Albedo - she was a black and white fugitive from the neighbors to the south who treated her badly. Our scientist friends at JPL loved her name.
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