What’s in a name? A dog by any other name would smell as smelly.
I have “inherited” an 8-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Jax. How did this happen you ask? How did the worst puppy-mother ever wind up with another dog in her life?
Well for starters, he’s not a puppy. He’s eight, which in dog years is 56. So, he’s older than me, which I like. Secondly, despite all the stories of how crazy Jack Russells are, he is the most chill dog I have ever seen. Third, three cute, little girls live next door and be-bopped over to my house to ask me if I would like to have the “coolest dog ever”. How could I resist? Miraculously, Jim, my neatfreak husband, said okay. Maybe he wanted another guy around.
One thing I like about Jax (in that weird way that only another woman would understand) is that he is short and chubby– like me. I decided that I would use my new four-legged buddy as my walking buddy and have nick-named him “Slim” and me “Trim”, in order to inspire us on our walks around the hood.
I like to walk after 8 pm when the streets have a deserted quality. The atmosphere reminds me of a story I teach called “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury. In the story a man is arrested by a robot for walking at night. Apparently, that was considered “suspicious behavior” in this futuristic world where everyone stayed inside and only watched television. And, he is promptly carted off to the mental ward by the robot cop. Here is the opening paragraph:
“To enter out into that silence that was the city at eight o’clock of a misty evening in November, to put your feet upon that buckling concrete walk, to step over grassy seams and make your way, hands in pockets, through the silences, that was what Mr Leonard Mead most dearly loved to do. He would stand upon the corner of an intersection and peer down long moonlit avenues of sidewalk in four directions, deciding which way to go, but it really made no difference; he was alone in this world of 2053 A.D., or as good as alone, and with a final decision made, a path selected, he would stride off, sending patterns of frosty air before him like the smoke of a cigar.”
As I walk along, Jax smells the concrete furiously and lifts his leg on every mailbox and trashcan he can find. I carry one of the plastic garden shovels I bought for my nieces and a plastic bag as my poor man’s pooper-scooper, secretly hoping Jax won’t have to go at all. Carrying warm poop in a plastic bag is not, after all, the most coveted aspect of dog-ownership.
I think about his name and how I would like to add my own flair to it. For me, naming something makes it your own. We inherited our cat,pre-named Snowball, but I promptly changed her name to Pryncess Snobawl Aurora Lewis with intentional hip-hop/punny misspellings. Originally, I was thinking Master Jax Edsy Lewis for Jax.
Jim said he should be a prince if Snobawl is a princess, but I told him I liked the assonance of the short “a” sound in Master and Jax, to which he rolled his eyes. (Well, he was the one who married an English teacher). The “Edsy” part was a nickname my Grampy’s great Aunt Joyce had for him. My grandfather, Edwin Wesley Canfield, was a chill man indeed. He was chill before chill was cool. But then, Jim reminded me that, in order for Jax’s name to have the same syllable count as Snobawl’s, he needed one more syllable. Sooooo…
(and yes, this is pretty much what people do when they don’t have kids…)
We (or to be more precise, I) decided on Master Jax Strongheart Leroy Lewis. You already get the reasoning behind the first two nomers. Strongheart was the name of an old, old, very old, stuffed animal my aforementioned grandfather gave to me when I was a child. It had been his and was a toy dog that had been the face of a then-popular dogfood called “Strongheart”. My grandfather’s father owned a general store in Sparta, Indiana back in the Thirties and my guess is that maybe he received this as a promo, if they did such things like that during the Great Depression. At any rate, Strongheart, was stuffed with straw and had obviously had spots once upon a time because there were stained parts of fabric peeking through his shorn blonde hair. He was rough to the touch and smelled vaguely of mothballs and other old things. I slept with him so frequently that he got even more dilapidated requiring my grandmother to touch him up with brown felt patches.
Here is a wikipedia link to the origins of Strongheart, who was apparently a German Shepherd.
…who apparently has his own star in Hollywood.
And walking along with Jax one night, I noticed the same spots, some black freckles here and there, and in one of my weird walking meditative trances, I thought of course: Strongheart.
The Leroy bit pays homage to the first dog I ever adopted on my own and who I sadly had to give to my Dad and his wife, Becci because I was not a good mommy. I was a bad, bad mommy. I stayed out late at night and traveled on the weekends and, well…
I was a bad, bad, mommy.
Leroy was the best though and he had a great life at the lake with Dad and Becci and my littlest brother, Matt. I still feel badly about Leroy and always think of how my dog-crazy friend Kim (she actually makes voices for her dogs) would sing Michelle Shocked’s “Anchored down in Anchorage” whenever she saw us:
Leroy says send a letter/ Leroy says hello/ Leroy says keep on rockin’, girl
Click on this link to here this awesome song!
(Incidentally (or not?) Kim’s grandma, Mattie May Reed, worked for RCA in Indianapolis. See picture at top.)
And the older I get the more these random nostalgic fragments invade my thinking and affect my decision making, which could be dangerous?
A sign of oncoming lunacy?
A bit of midlife suburuban genius?
All of the above.
And so, I am pleased to introduce to you Master Jax Strongheart Leroy Lewis. No punniness. No hip-hop spellings. Because he’s old fashioned like that.
And so are my thoughts,
when walking the hood after dark
in company with