What’s in a puppy name?

So, how do you name a puppy?  Is it a pain-staking process, or the name just comes to you?   Careful consideration, or this’ll fit?  I used to be the latter, now, I’m more the former.

To help us out with the naming dilemma, there are lots of great references out there.  One that comes to mind is a cautionary article by Alexandra Horowitz, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/minds-animals/201105/what-not-name-dog, the underlying premise being carefully choose a name, as names tend to pre-destine. And certainly don’t choose a disrespectful one.  I whole-heartedly agree.

And I believe one needs to put some thought into a name, as it has an intent and an energy.  Here’s another great reference, check out Silvia Jay’s blog, where she notes “A name carries energy … many dogs … live up and down to their name.” (http://voice4dogs.blogspot.ca/2013_04_01_archive.html).

I can speak to my experience though. Starting with dog number one.

Rin Tin Tin.  My little buddy, a BC-sheperd cross. I was 10, and I had just finished reading the book, Rinty. I do clearly remember him though. I picked him out because he ran up to me and licked my leg; I scooped him up and ran home through the fields with him in my arms. I have no real physical scars, but the one that is most visible is a long one across my ring finger where puppy Tin Tin grabbed my hand and the fistful of grass it gripped (apparently I had deemed this a useful means of cleaning goose poop off my bike tire.)  That memory is very clear too. (I don’t remember those pants though).
Rin Tin Tin & Me, off on a photo shoot.

Rin Tin Tin & Me, off on a photo shoot.

Years later (2000), Salty  came along. Naming her was easy.   Salty was easy period, and everyone loved Salty, all humans, all animals. She was a BC-Husky cross. I named her after she lived with me for a day or two, the name fit.  Easy-going, gentle, independent, herself, she would have been a super therapy dog. Salty and I started agility together, however, she was more interested in flirting with the judges than running over something as unsophisticated as an A-frame.  Sigh.  Salty, the name derived from Salt of the Earth.  She passed last fall; much missed.
Early weave training, I'm on the ground with the camera and peanut butter.  Good grief.

Early weave training. I’m on the ground with the camera and peanut butter. Good grief.

Stop and Smell the Daffodils, or just lie in them!

Stop and smell the daffodils, or just lie in them!

Salty's favorite activity: swimming.

Salty’s favorite activity: swimming.

Three years later, enter Shep, named after my favourite Far Side Cartoon depicting a BC  hanging out with wolves whilst the farmer’s beer and sheep went missing (“Shep was gettiig a little too sociable for his own good”).  I thought the caricature was hysterical, and well, that was about as much thought as I put into it… kept it fun.  He was a cute puppy, in a goofy way, a BC -lab mix.  As he grew, I inadvertently nicknamed him Dude. When I had to call him off an obstacle in agility, I would yell “Dude”, not something you can do with any kind of negative tone in your voice, or with any dignity for that matter. Often I would hear whispers “Did she just call him ‘Dude'”?  as we ran by the bystanders.
Not exactly the cool guy all the time, but mostly, Shep responded poorly to most dogs in his face, fearful when they got too close, something I quickly had to learn to help him with.  He did evolve into Far Side’s Shep, though, taking advantage of opportunities, swinging deals for extra food, duping the Border Collies on a regular basis.  Lesson learned, Horowitz was right … one needs to be careful what one chooses for a name.  For the record though, he did turn into a Dude, very suave guy in his senior years.
The cool dude persona.

The cool dude persona.

A bit goofy ...

A bit goofy at times!

Shep heartily worked for me.

Shep heartily worked for me.

I was very proud of his agility accomplishments.

I was very proud of his agility accomplishments.

Retired beach bum.

Now enjoying beach bum retirement.

In 2008, when I decided to get a full fledged BC, I figured I better put some thought into it, or, being very cognizant of their intelligence, he would name himself.  So, I started with a website for 10,000 baby names.  An engineer, and being analytical to a fault, I started with ‘A’s, determined to get through them all.  After 20 minutes, and not halfway through the first letter of the alphabet, I decided to find a better way.  Analytical, not stupid.  So I entered in ‘bright’ as a meaning, and up popped Jayce, meaning ‘bright as the moon’.  This stuck.
Now I had to find a puppy to stick it too.  First breeder visit, herding dogs, solid lineage rooted in England and Wales. I meet an 8-week old litter.  I could’ve taken a puppy home that day, but as adorable as they were, I refused, not for any particular reason.  On the way out, I poked my head over a stall wall, “who are they”? “A 1-week old litter”.  I zeroed in on a very little gerbil like figure, set out from the rest, with a stripe across his hips. (Later, I dubbed this his racing stripe.)  “You’ll always know your dog”, the breeder gruffly noted as I stood there gah-gah.  “Can I meet the parents? “, I finally jammer.  Not an unreasonable request; given the age, I couldn’t tell anything about the pup.  The parents were Jim and Grace.  I was stunned.  Jayce. A cross between the two names.  “That’s my puppy”, I told him.  “I’ll be back next week”.  And I returned every week, driving over two hours in winter weather to see Double R Jayce, each visit trying to prove he wasn’t the one.  Didn’t work, and finally, I was driving him home, wondering what I had got myself into, picking a puppy because he had a white stripe on his butt. “So scientific”, my analytical mind chastised.
I lucked out, Jayce has great structure and stamina, a sweet, tolerant disposition, and drivey, oh my.  And yes, he is extremely bright as it turns out.  Try as I might now though, I cannot find a naming site that indicates the name means ‘bright as the moon’.  In my most recent searches,  ‘Healer’ is what comes up.  That could fit too –  I call him Dr J often, for his curious habit of inspecting after a sneeze or a cough. Seriously though, as Silvia Jay indicates, this dog has lived up to the brightness, as well as the healing energy, carried in this name.  My constant companion, Jayce has taught me much, and in many ways, healed me too.
Sassy, even at 4 weeks.

Sassy, even at 4 weeks.

And at 8 weeks.

And at 8 weeks.


Numerous athletic endeavours.

Numerous athletic endeavours.



Wind in my fur!

Hurricane wind in my fur!

Bright, lovely dog.

Sassy pup, lovely dog.

Sassy pup, lovely dog. (Courtesy of A Matter of Tastes Photogtaphy.)

Fast forward to Spring 2013. I’ve committed to finding another BC puppy.  This time – I firmly decree – with lots of selection criteria.  Strong, athletic, good structure, sweet disposition, will get along with my pack, easy to train, and yes bright.  And male, despite the warnings of too much testosterone in the house with no bitch to help deal with it. And my lengthy research has taken me to the UK.

Naming this guy was indeed painstaking, albeit self-induced, and not helped by the riduclous number of internet sites that claim to know exactly what you need to select and for what reason, plus be able to predict your [child’s] future career.  Uh-huh.  There was even a database site of 29,000 BC names world-wide.  Have to admit, that one was cool, and I cross-referenced to it frequently. Eventually, sanity prevailed, and I set my obsessive search aside for a more methodological, sensible approach.  My thought process began with the odd, kinda heart shaped black spot on the white collar of a sturdy Tri that would likely be mine. So, I started with “heart”.  I was seeking a strong, but fun, Scottish name. What about Hugh? – means “hug” or “heart/mind/spirit” in Scottish.  But Hugh wasn’t grabbing me, plus my sister’s dog is named Hughie – can’t have that,  plagiarism in puppy naming.  Enter parallel thought process:  I love the song “Fire It Up” by Johnny Reid, himself a Scot, now living in Canada.  I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if my puppy’s name was prefixed by “heart says fire it up”, a line in the chorus.  
Then, one morning my sister sent me a list of names she was researching on ancestry.com, MacLean’s I had never heard of.  One was Hugh Laughlan, my Great-grand-uncle, or “Hughie Lauchie”.  This stuck with me all day.  That night, I thought I’d play the song for inspiration, ended up finding video by Joe Cocker playing “Fire it Up” that shows some really neat pics, including a heart of fire over a lake.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_26_qPlxeWk).   “Laughlan/Lauchie”, means “lochs”, “lakes”.  That was it.  Lauchie.
Daily I ponder what’s in store for me.  What energy will this pup will bring?  The only thing I can say with confidence is, despite the extensive selection criteria (and the methodological naming procedure), at the end of the day, I went with what felt right, what my heart told me, from just a few pics and videos, plus the advice of a superb breeder and a superb agility trainer … finally confirmed when I first set eyes him.  From all the way across the ocean, presenting … strong, spirited, hugely intelligent and hugely  fun … Devongem “Heart Says Fire It Up”, Lauchie.
Lauchie Baby, 6 weeks.

Lauchie Baby, 6 weeks.

Surviving Heathrow - good idea!

Surviving Heathrow – good idea!

Half in the (carry-on) bag on Air Canada (AC was great!)

Half in the (carry-on) bag on Air Canada (AC was great!)

Sir Lauchie, on Canadian soil.

Sir Lauchie, on Canadian soil (Halifax Int’l).

'Hey, you my big brother?'  Note to self, they speak the same language.

‘Hey, you my big brother?’
Note to self, they speak the same language.

Hang on, the Flying Tails adventure continues.

Enjoy the Ride … Fly in The Moment!

Balance, Finding the Sweet Spot where the Pendulum Stops

Striking a balance isn’t easy. It always seems like the pendulum has swung too far one way or the other. Just as juggling life’s curve balls can be a challenge, so too can balancing daily activities.  If you’re like me, there are those overwhelming days  when I have to suppress, and mostly unsuccessfully, the lament ‘how am I going to handle this one?’ or ‘too much to do, not enough time!’

So, I cleverly resolved to take on no more than one activity a day (beyond work commitments, of course).  For instance, today is a conditioning routine for Jay (and me, combining fitness programs saves time!). Great, lots of core exercises to choose from recent courses for both of us.

Jayce demos ultimate core strength, even in winter

Jayce demos ultimate core strength, even in winter

However (!), after a recent visit to the vet for a chiropractic massage, I discover that core work needs to be ‘balanced’ with focussed trotting in extension.  Gah, now that activity requires on offset activity.  It’s cold and windy, I whine to myself, but the next day off we go for a ‘trot’ on the beach, wind chill and all, thank you very much.

My dogs balance trotting with a moment of off-road discovery

My dogs balance trotting with a moment of off-road discovery (courtesy of Flying Tails Photography)

Check, balanced core strength with flexibility. But the list goes on, some of my agility-related ones are:  learn skills with minimal reps vs over-training; tight turns vs straight runs; competing vs rest periods; training vs beach runs; go out to a movie vs train some more. Here is one of Jay’s:

Sleep vs yet another game of ball.Sleep vs yet another game of ball (courtesy of Matter of Tastes Photography)

Sleep vs yet another game of ball.
 (courtesy of A Matter of Tastes Photography)

You get the idea.

I will share one thing though – planning is everything. It’s much easier to effectively strike a balance with a little upfront thoughtfulness and target setting.  It also pays to be flexible, as not everything will go as planned.

So there we have it – maintaining a balance of life’s activities, even balance within the activity, is as necessary, as it is challenging …
… unless you’re a Border Collie with ancestral herding instincts that date back to the 1800’s, maybe even 1500’s.  How do they know to keep that perfect balance, that is that perfect distance when monitoring action, like sheep on the move (or not on the move)? Or me tugging with my other dog?

Balancing Act

Balancing Act (courtesy of Flying Tails Photography)

My good friend, Silvia Jay, Dog Behaviour Expert, elaborates on a quote by Yogi Berra, the famous Yankee catcher who said ‘You can observe a lot just by watching’: “Watching a Border Collie master the art of space balance carries lessons for all of us.  Too much pressure, and the animals the clever dog is in charge of manipulating spook and stampede; too little and they don’t respond, might even challenge. Just enough pressure is what gets the job done successfully, which just about guarantees that one wants to be back at it the next day”.

True enough.  Border Collies watch and adjust.  They calmly sense and naturally find the balance, the sweet spot.  Maybe they’re on to something. Perhaps it’s time we take cues from our dogs, intelligent, sensitive beings. Be observant … go with the flow … strive to find the sweet spot, where the pendulum stops.  Dogs do.


Team Flying Tails  *Ann, Jayce, Shep*

Enjoy the Ride … Fly in the Moment


A New Year, Discovering the Beat

courtesy of naelcamphotography.ca

courtesy of amatteroftastes.ca (photography)

I think this is a great picture. In a look forward kinda way.  And since it’s a Border Collie, my guy Jayce, it’s a-look-forward-with-astute intensity.  So I chose it for my first post.

My intent is not to ramble on in these blog posts, but to provide useful tidbits based on my experiences, probably, well mostly, geared towards dogs in general, centered around my love of BCs (err, some would call it an obsession), in particular.  Things like training tips, cool toys and gear, dog sport news, and attempted answers to highly philosophical questions like ‘why does my border collie do that?’

And because photography is a hobby, the posts will have nice photos.  Not just dog ones – there will be a few other subjects, like these from a recent sailing trip in the Exumas.

Courtesy of Flying Tails (Photography)

courtesy of Flying Tails (Photography)

Overwhelming, really. Want to ponder life’s philosophical questions, stare into the horizon for a few hours while your thoughts bob to the beat of the waves. Perhaps you’ll find like I did, that the troublesome ones drain away, and a few days later things become clear, and you’ll gain the strength to move forward to your own beat.  Albeit not as clear as these turquoise waters, nothing could be that clear.

courtesy of FlyingTails Photography

courtesy of FlyingTails (Photography)

I do acknowledge though, that I would be spending a lot of time awash in salt spray if I needed to resolve every ‘Why did my border collie do that?’ question. Hmmmm …


In other words, give yourself a break and go discover your beat.

And have a very happy 2013!

PS.  Big thanks to my new-found ami, Francois, and my best friend, Rob, for the opportunity to discover the Bahamas Beat – you guys rock! (to your own beat already!)


Team Flying Tails  *Ann, Jayce, Shep*

Enjoy the Ride … Fly in the Moment