Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What's in a Name?

This is Marley:

If he looks familiar, he should - he's the dog we now call Napi - but when this picture was taken in July 2013, he was still named Marley. Just a few hours before, he'd been tied out in the sun, gotten tangled around a tree, and when he got thirsty, began to bark at the water bowl that was now out of reach.

Marley's owner was a jerk. Instead of untangling him, he threw the water in Marley's face, all while screaming at him. This caught the attention of a big-hearted, dog-loving neighbor (now known as my husband), who watched, horrified, as the owner proceeded to beat Marley.

A few hours later, Marley was safe under the care of my husband, who was going to find him a good home. When it became clear that good home would be with him, my husband decided that Marley needed a new name. He chose Napoleon because it's a good, strong name, and he thought this poor dog could use some self-esteem.

All of this is background information to the story I really want to tell you, which is about the power of names.

It's been almost two years since Napi has heard his old name, and we were curious to know if he remembered it. My husband called him from the other room - "Marley!" Napi looked up, confused. He clearly recognized the name, but wasn't quite sure what to do. My husband called again, and Napi began walking towards him, stiff and hesitant. My husband smiled and said "Napoleon!"

And then it happened: Napi exploded in joy. His whole body began to wiggle, his mouth opened in a huge grin, and he began dancing around in circles.

"Look at that!" I exclaimed. "He knows his real name - and he likes it!"

"Yes," my husband agreed. "His old name has bad memories."

"And his new one has good  memories."

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