Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Name Game

Prologue: How She Came To Us

We had already decided that we weren’t going to get a dog. In the late 1980’s, Jim was in the Navy, stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. He seemed to be on deployment constantly. I really wanted to discuss having a dog for a pet. Having grown up in a three-Dachshund home, I had developed and intense love for dogs. I was, as they say, a “Dog Person”. What I longed for now was a puppy companion.

Jim wasn’t much for that “touchy-feely” dog thing: he was in favor of the useful reasons for having a dog. He thought that having a dog in the home might provide me with a sense of security…but that was the practical argument. I agreed with him, figuring that even if we had different reasons for wanting a dog, this would all work out to satisfy us both.

We had many discussions about the exact kind of dog we wanted. We weren’t too picky…"all" I wanted was a female, purebred Beagle—one that wasn’t from a pet store, and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. All Jim wanted was a dog that wasn’t too big, wasn’t too small, and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. He was fine with a Beagle. And, with that decision made, we were on our way!

I began keeping an eye on the classified ads. I purchased and studied a book on raising a puppy: Superpuppy, by Daniel Manus Pinkwater and Jill Pinkwater. (BLOGNOTE: This is an EXCELLENT book for new dog owners. I highly recommend it!!) I had many discussions with friends—poor things—about our future dog. I even borrowed a “Dog Naming Book” from the library (BLOGNOTE: A bit obsessive, you are wondering??). I pored through the book as if I were studying for an exam. There were names of all kinds, in many languages, in this book…but none of them fit the image I had of “our dog”. Suddenly a name stood out from the page: Bijoux, from the French, meaning, “little jewels”. (BLOGNOTE: If you've already read "Lesson #1, you might recall that, upon meeting Bijoux for the first time, I noticed her jewel-like markings on her head. And that was AFTER I decided on a name. Check out the photo to the right...) The name had a ring of familiarity about it, too. We remembered that Bijou (no "X") was the name of the dog that belonged to the title character in John Ritter’s television show, “Hooperman”, and we had botched the answer once while playing Trivial Pursuit. I took it as some kind of sign: the first of many. We loved it.

But—for a day—it was not to be. On a day in early April of 1990, we eventually came to the conclusion that financially, we wouldn’t be able to afford it. In financial terms, having a pet is similar to owning a car: once you make the purchase, there are regular, sometimes large and unpredictable, expenses that come along with the responsibility and commitment. This decision was a disappointment to both of us, but we knew that eventually we would realize my dream of dog ownership.

Little did we know it would be the very next day! A friend phoned me late in the afternoon. “Did you see the classifieds?” she said. “No,” I said, “We decided not to get a dog right now.” “Look in the classifieds,” she urged.

I casually flipped through the newspaper until I reached the animal ads. I couldn’t believe my eyes: the perfect little ad that seemed too good to be true was right there in front of me: “BEAGLE puppy, AKC, female. $50. Last one.” I immediately picked up the telephone and dialed the number. The puppy was born on an actual farm in Chesapeake, the mother was on the premises, and yes, the puppy was still available. Believing that perhaps fate was intervening, I excitedly made an appointment to meet this ten-week-old puppy later that evening. Jim was skeptical, but I convinced him that maybe this was a sign that we shouldn’t ignore.

That was over thirteen years ago. Listening to that instinct was one of the best things we have ever done.

So, that's my prologue! As far as "Ruby" is concerned, I struggled for a while in coming up with a name for the book. I felt strongly that "Bijoux" (BEE-shooo) would be, in a book, a name that most young kids would have trouble reading. For a while I considered making the book about a Buddy or a Susie (which, as you'll find out later, is what I called Bijoux quite often), but Buddy is a boy's name and the photos would have been goofy (!), and Susie is too much of a human name to me.

One day, the name "Ruby" popped into my head (maybe Bijoux put it there!). Did you put it all together yet? Ruby is a little jewel. Just like Bijoux.