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Feb 05, 2021

What’s in a Name?

Courtney Rogers, a kennel aide who mainly works with small animals, names a lot of the rabbits that come into the shelter.

Take a gander at the Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County’s adoptable pets pages and you are likely to see some pretty wild names.

You are unlikely to see Molly or Bailey or Pumpkin or Garfield.

Instead, prepare yourself to read about Prince Tuna or Count Chocula or Sir Fluffenstuff.

The names aren’t just an outlet for creative staff members, but a way to help easily identify the animals for their time in the shelter.

“It gets really hard when we have so many Muffins,” said Emily Mattison, Dog Services Lead. “There can only be so many before they blend together. You want something unique that really stands out.”

Mattison is one of many employees and volunteers who name the pets that come into the shelter. Anyone can name an animal, though not until it passes through the stray animal hold. Animals who are dropped off by owners are generally not renamed.

“We all kind of go to each other and ask what they think of the name,” said Courtney Rogers, a kennel aide who mainly works with small animals like rabbits, ferrets, birds and other critters that aren’t dogs or cats. “I name based on personality or what they look like. We have one right now named Bandit, because his markings make it look like he has a burglar mask on.”

Dog Services Lead Emily Mattison holds Snickerdoodle, a puppy who was brought in. Mattison likes to use puns in her naming of the dogs with a favorite being Abraham A’Winkin’ for a recent one-eyed dog.

Keeping the creative juices flowing can be difficult, though, so different employees use different tactics to keep things fresh.

Laurie Tonellato, an Adoption Services Representative, has a list they keep with them of possible names. Tonellato created it with co-workers on a slow Sunday and any time a cat comes in that hasn’t been previously named, they make sure to adorn it with something off-the-wall.

“It’s my favorite thing to do. It’s fun just to hear people come in and say, ‘Can I meet Tony Hawk?’ I find great enjoyment in that.”

Laurie Tonellato, an Adoption Services Representative about naming cats

Tonellato has been naming cats since they were 6 years old. Their first cat was named Ginger.

“I wasn’t going to be creative since I was 6,” Tonellato said. “I just didn’t know that all the other cats were going to be named Ginger too.”

Now, Tonellato has three cats – Dr. Theodore Tubby Samwise Chunkington, Princess Luficer Pricklepants and Bob Evans Macadoodle. All three were fosters that Tonellato adopted.

While some co-workers say Tonellato is the best cat namer in the building, others roll their eyes when an unnamed cat reaches the department knowing something silly is coming. Tonellato’s favorite name they have come up with is Billy Mays, while a more creative offering was for a trio of kittens they named Dungeons Ann Dragons.

While Tonellato works off of their list, Mattison and Hailey Warner, a Kennel Aide Lead, just go with whatever pops into their heads.

The pair tend to work within themes for a stretch of time or if a litter of animals comes in. Mattison is an avid birder outside of work, so when a big litter of puppies needed names she went with a variety of birds. Warner has used Greek and Norse mythology for inspiration, while her favorite was a recent dog named Doc Holiday.

No matter the name, though, all the animals are treated with love and respect. And that’s all you can ask for.

— Craig Craker, Communications Manager

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