I’ve always been a dog lover. Some of my oldest memories are of my family’s cocker spaniels, Winkie and Guy Scootis, a.k.a. “Scootie.” I’m not sure what happened, but one day when I was about 5 years old I came home from school and they were both gone. I suspect they got hit by a car. To this day I obsess over the safety of my dog, Rudy (“Rudy Patootie,” “The Rudster,” “Rude Dude”), a little red dachshund.

Growing up, my aunt and uncle always had dachshunds who were named Shorty. There was Shorty I and Shorty II. I think their last was Shorty III. After we were grown their oldest son, Frank, had a dog named Boozer, or “Booze” for short. He took after his owner. Frank’s brother, Biff, runs a “boat and breakfast” in Florida. His dog’s name is Skipper.

One of the things I really hate about getting older is forgetting the names of dogs I have loved, especially when their owners are no longer around to remind me. I spent years trying to remember the names of my old neighbor’s dogs. Then, it suddenly just popped into my head: Gwenie, who was a beautiful golden retriever, and her eventual replacement, Wendy (a.k.a. “Knucklehead”), who, much to my neighbor’s consternation, couldn’t retrieve a ball, never understood any commands and was a nervous wreck from always getting yelled at.

My former neighbor in Tennessee, Miss Kate, had an old dog, Sparky, a collie who hobbled around just like her owner, and Rounder, a mischievous hound. When Sparky died, Miss Kate got Rascal, a spunky puppy who lived up to his name. Thinking about these long-gone dear neighbors still puts a smile on my face.

I was particularly fond of my Missoula neighbor’s mutt Buzz (“Buzzie,” the “Buzzer”), a very lovable old dog. Across the road is a big bloodhound named Heinz whose forehead is dented from being kicked by a horse. Down the street, Phanny likes to escape her yard. When I see her and her partner in crime, who is twice her size, I always stop the car and herd them back to their driveway.

Some good friends of ours had a standard French poodle named Oscar who was actually of German heritage. They had their phone listed under Oscar’s name, so whenever anyone called asking for Oscar they knew it wasn’t anyone they cared to speak with. I think they had a lot of fun turning the tables on these unsuspecting solicitors.

Other favorite pet names are old-fashioned ones. Harry is a real character who is aptly named, and Floyd is my dog-sitter’s dog. Some of Rudy’s pals we meet walking the Rattlesnake trails are Gertie, a dappled dachshund who runs circles around Rudy, and Moose, an enormous chocolate lab whose owner always carries treats and is adored by all the regulars, particularly Rudy.

For some mysterious reason, my dog’s favorite buddy is a large yellow lab named Ruger, who always rides shotgun in his owner’s truck. When they come down the driveway, Rudy knows exactly who it is and rushes to the door, barking for joy.

Like me, Ruger’s owner is devoted to his dog. Both our dogs are getting older, and I dread the day when he pulls into the driveway solo. Tragic as that will be, he’s a dog lover at heart, and I doubt he’ll be solo for long.

I’ve already been imaging names for his new companion: Colt or Wes, short for Wesson. Or possibly Ryder, since no doubt he’ll be faithfully riding next to his best friend.

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Virginia Braun of Missoula is a long-time dog lover, more recent cat-lover, and committed supporter of AniMeals No-Kill Adoption Center and Animal Food Bank.

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