You may have heard we recently adopted a dog from The Animal Center of Queens in Rego Park. (If you're looking, they provide a wonderful service to animals that need homes -- http://acq.petfinder.com/). We got lucky and happened to be there when "Queenie" was carried into the center in a large dog crate fully expecting puppies at any moment (actually, it was just 8 hours later). Her family of origin abandoned her because they didn't want to deal with the imminently expected puppies. Of course, they also apparently didn't want to deal with getting her spayed (or are females neutered? I can never remember which is which). But, that's another story! The topic of ridiculously irresponsible pet owners aside, after a 9-week stay at the shelter with her caretaker, Lori, and 8 beautiful pups, "Queenie" got to come home with us permanently. She's the most gentle soul who, it has become apparent from her behavior, was physically abused in her former home. She flinches every time you hold out an open hand to pet her. She buries her stump in her butt -- if she had a tail it would be between her legs -- and runs in terror when I walk in the front door despite my greeting her with a loving, overly sweet, baby-talk, high-pitched, super-inflected "Hi Queenie Girl!" (get the picture?). And, she cowers every time you call her by her name... "Queenie".
In chatting with my oldest sister, Cathy, during her recent, much appreciated and way-too-short visit from Boston, she told me that her friend had adopted an abused dog and the veterinarian said, "the first thing you should do is change the dog's name". Now, my husband and I have rescued a number of animals and never changed a name. We always thought that changing the name of an animal that already knew it's name would be sorta cruel. Like suddenly calling my daughter Olivia, "Mary"??? It just didn't feel right. I mean, clearly, "Queenie" already knows her name.
Psychology 101! Right? I not only took Psych 101 but I earned my bachelor's degree in Psychology. So, why hadn't I thought of that?
We immediately voted on a new name for the new life our dog was about to embark on (pun intended).... Molly! And, it suits her perfectly! (Honestly, we didn't like the name "Queenie" anyway. Too trite.) I have to admit, her name change has made all the difference! She is never reminded of the abuse she suffered and, as such, Molly has not flinched once when we bend to pet her, obeys when she's told what to do -- or not to do (except that peeing thing) -- and happily greets me at the door when I arrive home. She's a new and different -- AND VERY HAPPY -- dog!
Just like me when I realized I didn't have to be "Large Marge" anymore!
So, what's in a name, you ask? Good names, good people, good associations, positive associations -- like new ones that we're amenable to as opposed to those old ones that make us flinch in mental or physical pain -- boost our sense of safety and, therefore, our self esteem. They help us relegate past hurts to the past where they belong. Dumping negative associations whenever possible can help us make a fresh start. That's a wonderful opportunity for man and beast. I should know....
I am forever MAGGIE... and her new dog, Molly!