A few weeks ago my beloved 13 year old golden retriever Wrigley lost her battle with cancer. I was devastated. I still am devastated. It's been a horrible time. What makes it even worse is that her 'brother' Oscar my 10 year old golden is lost without her. He's never been alone. To be perfectly honest the house doesn't feel right without a second set of paws.

I'm sad beyond belief and know that no puppy will ever replace Wrigley in my heart. I long for the day I meet her at the end of the rainbow bridge. Even with all these emotions my husband and I have decided to bring a golden puppy home. We pick him up next week.

I'm having an existential crisis over naming him. We've come down to the final 5 and argue daily over what to choose. Enzo, Gendry, Winston, Archer or Grover. My husband loves Grover. For me it's the bottom of the heap. For the record, our next girl will be Stella. I love the name there will be no negotiation. So part of me thinks I should let my husband win this one.

I know you normally help with naming human children. My husband and I are and always will be childless. I need your help. Is there a name I missed that might satisfy his love of Grover. Help me Duana, you’re my only hope!

Your fellow name nerd,


Oh, Diane. I am so sorry for all of you for the loss of Wrigley, and I want to point out how lucky Oscar is to have you, not just because you’re his people and love him so much, but because you see how he’s grieving too, and how his relationship with her was separate and distinct from your own.

I do wonder if you are, totally understandably, assigning some outsized feelings toward the naming of the new pup, in trying to choose a name that not only feels right to both of you (and, conceivably, ‘goes’ with Oscar), but also one that sounds as different as possible from anything that might cause you to accidentally say ‘Wrigley’ or think of Wrigley.

That’s a stretch, of course, but I wonder if it’s one of the reasons you’re not interested in Grover – that hard ‘G’ also appears in Wrigley. I also wonder whether choosing a name like Winston or Enzo – names that seem easy to slot in the ‘old man names’ category with Oscar – might make you feel like they’re two of a pair. Finally, for many people, kids or not, ‘Grover’ is inextricably linked with the phrase “Lovable, furry old…”, which frankly, just sounds appropriate when you’re talking about a new puppy.

So the question is, since you narrowed the list down to five names, is Grover an absolute no-go that wound up on your list somehow? Or is it just the number 5 name of a list that you love? Are you resistant to the fact that Grover and Oscar kind of rhyme? If so, does Archer kind of fall into the same category? In trying to find other names that might fit the bill, I think about Arlo and Rodney and I’m reminded of the lovable (if neglected) English bulldog on Party Of Five, Thurber… which might give the idea of a ‘cuddly factor’ without Grover?

I love Gendry too, but you and I both know what will happen when you wind up in a dog park with any delightfully nerdy owners – ask me what happened to the people in my neighbourhood whose dog was called “Calrissian”. If you’re looking for a bit of an in-joke, though, Gendry made me think of Landry, which of course made me think of  Lance. Oscar and Lance are different enough from each other, and it also allows your new little pup a name to make all his own, that’s different from any that have gone before or that were debated and found lacking… so let yourselves go outside the parameters of what you once thought you might choose – even if, like Stella, you’ve had it picked out for years. You couldn’t have known then how you’d feel now…

The other advice I have is to take the pressure off. I know we spend a lot more time ‘calling’ pets than human babies, who are attached to us and don’t need to be beckoned – so there can be a lot of pressure to have a great name so they learn it early. But let your pup go ahead and prove to you that dogs can ‘look like their names’ too, and to feel what feels right once you realize that he’s a whole new entity in your space, and that there’s plenty of room for him, Oscar, and your memories of Wrigley, all at the same time.

Sending you our collective love, and looking forward to your update when you let us know…