Around The Rim Country

A pet by any other name ...

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With Valentine's Day coming up, it's traditional for "Around the Rim" to revisit the nature of the male/female relationship.

Not that anything we say or do will alter the odds of guys getting it right, but somehow our annual visit makes us feel better when once again we get it wrong. I am reminded of the poor guy in the TV commercial who doesn't understand why a Trane heat pump doesn't say "commitment" to his fiance.

In the past, we have called on such experts as John Gray, author of "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus," and William Shakespeare, whose love sonnets still resonate with women.

This year, we are taking a simpler approach to understanding this fundamental mystery by studying a very common phenomenon the names men and women give their pets and what that tells us about the inherent differences between the sexes.

We have chosen to focus our study on pets because the sexes seem to be able to compromise when naming real babies. But we seem less concerned about the stigmas animals have to carry through life, and that makes them fair game, so to speak.

Before we were married my wife had cats named Tippy, Puff, Precious, Whiskers and Bootsy. My cats were named Dark Star, Trouble and "M" (for the University of Michigan football team). Two Rim country female friends have dogs named Lady and Tasha. I once had dogs named Whiskey and Fang. My wife's best friend in Michigan names all her cats that's right, one after another Snowball. My brother had a dachshund named Schultz.

There is a local female vet who calls all the cats she examines Puddin. My next door neighbor named his dog Cujo.

Even Hollywood is rife with examples. Lassie and Snots (Eddie's dog in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation") are two that come to mind.

To summarize, all pets we know with names like Sandy, KiKi, Miss Kitty, Keepsake, Velvet and Sweetie were surely named by women.

Conversely, all pets named Butch, Spike, Brutus, Fred, Buster, Rocky and Elvis had to be named by guys.

All that's left is the bottom line: that women prefer to give their pets soft, fuzzy feminine names, while men opt for mean, tough, masculine names.

And the logical lesson: that any man with half an ounce of sensitivity would function within the framework of this reality. But men will never get it.

Instead of taking the path of least resistance, we futilely try to subvert the system so our pets end up being called what we want them called. The male gene that makes us do this is the same one that controls the TV remote.

I only need tell you the saga of our two new kittens to demonstrate this truth. But to do so, I should first explain that our former cat, Juice, has gone on to that happy mouse hunting ground.

Juice, you may recall, was the cat who loved to walk on my keyboard and even pen an occasional column.

You know how some people seem to die precisely when they no longer have a reason to live? I believe that is what happened to Juice.

It was right after the release of a new software program called PawSense that, according to a Newsweek article, "detects 'catlike typing' four keys at once, nonsensical patterns and responds with a screeching noise reminiscent of an off-key harmonica. The keyboard then locks until you type the word 'human.'"

With her writing career in jeopardy, Juice headed for greener catnip.

So my wife brought two kittens home from the Payson Humane Society, and they needed names. While I prefer to let a pet's personality ultimately dictate a really cool name, my wife, of course, wanted cutesy, and she wanted it now.

Because this had worked before with Juice, whose original name was Kittenjuice, I decided to suggest a couple wife-pleasing names that could later be changed when the real ones were revealed by the actions and deeds of the kittens.

Because one of the kittens has a marking that reminds me of a mountain peak, I suggested we call them Peak and Valley. To cutesy it up even more, they became Peek and Alley Cat.

But like the character in Edgar Alan Poe's "The Telltale Heart," I fiendishly bided my time, waiting for the precise behavior from the kittens that would justify cooler names. Kittens being kittens, it didn't take long. Peek developed a penchant for getting into anything and everything, while Alley soon proved superior at going into the kitchen and making a screeching noise reminiscent of that off-key harmonica until fed.

They reminded me of Bobby Gay, a little boy who lived down the street when my brother and I were growing up. I am sure Bobby became a multi-millionaire and made more of his life than my brother and I combined.

But back then, he was this little urchin who had a penchant for showing up at our door at precisely the moment my mother was breaking out the treats, usually popsicles made in ice cube trays. Bobby, who always had dried snot mixed with dirt running from both nostrils down to his upper lip, would press his face against the screen until mom felt sorry for him and gave him a popsicle.

In typical little boy fashion, my brother and I developed a cruel chant to describe Bobby Gay. It went, "Bobby Beggar Nosey Nobble ... Bobby Beggar Nosey Nobble."

Incredibly our two new kittens, both from the same litter, were collectively exhibiting the very behavior that Bobby Gay managed to squeeze into one body. It was enough to make one believe in reincarnation.

It was certainly enough to re-name the two cats. Alley, the one who begged for food, would henceforth be known as Bobby Beggar, while Peek, the curious one, would be Nosey Nobble.

I smugly told my wife that henceforth the kittens would answer to names that matched their personalities. Over a wailing Bobby Beggar, she simply replied, "While you're feeding Alley, put some out for Peek too."

I tell you this to make an insightful point about the nature of the male-female relationship. I don't remember what it was.

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