When I applied for a service dog, I prepared myself for much that I figured I’d face with my furry, four-legged cane. I never factored in the need for aliases. Not for me. For him.
Names are special. Remember in kindergarten, when you stared down at the chunky crayon letters you wrote and it spelled your very own name? And how important it felt to see your name on labels throughout the classroom: on your cubby, lunchbox, folders?
Names are personal. Ask any parent, there’s likely a story behind the children’s names. And on the flip side, names carry adverse personality traits. We’ve all known a [fill in the blank] who rubbed us the wrong way and makes us shudder whenever we hear it.
Tommy’s name is special in its own way. He learned it early on. Part of training the pups involves coming for a treat when the individual’s name is called. Six or seven young ‘uns line up and only when individual names are called does that dog get to step forward. Tommy loves his food; he knows his name well.
On the personal side, I use his name to praise him (Happy Voice: Tommy), to get or maintain his attention when in service mode (Parental Voice: Thomas), to play (Silly Voice: Sir Thommmmas).
The reason for changing his name? So many people – from passers-by to clerks to fellow shoppers – ask his name. It makes me shudder when they then proceed to talk to him. As in, Happy, Silly voice talk to him.
Not only does counting out change while giving Stay, Wait, Leave It commands tax my multitasking abilities, I need my service dog to pay attention to me when he’s working. Yes, me, the one using her Parental voice, the one at the handle end of his vest. I don’t call out my doctor’s name while he’s taking my blood pressure. I don’t start idly conversing with a teacher mid-lesson. I don’t sing out the plumbers name and offer him treats while he’s fixing a broken faucet.
But that’s too much to explain. Besides, I don’t want to be rude. Instead, I’ll start giving aliases. Depending on my mood, and on who is asking, here’s the pool thus far when asked, What’s his name?
Beowolf Fang Jehoshaphat Killer Knock-knock Kujo Mr. Greenjeans Smiley Ta-ta Tiny Whatsyours Workinghere.
I always like the question, Does your dog bite? Answer Only on Command.