Monday, June 23, 2014

What’s in a dog’s name?



Bruno poses for me
Bruno is the name of the only favourite dog on my school’s campus.  He has been on the campus for more years than I can trace my memory back to.  Recently he posed for two snaps for me.  He was so meek and obedient when I approached with my mobile phone’s camera, when the sun had already set far below the horizon, that I began to wonder who gave him the name of Bruno.

The Western Christians gave the name Bruno to dogs in the olden days in order to disparage the great philosopher, mathematician, astrologer and poet of the same name who was burnt to death as a heretic by the Catholic church in the year 1600.  Bruno, according to the Catholic church, was teaching things that went against the teachings of the Bible.  It was Bruno who taught Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) to recant his science for the sake of religion so that he could say, “Religion teaches how to go to heaven, science teaches how the heavens go.” [I have taken a little liberty with what he actually said: replace the word religion with ‘the Bible’ and you’ll get what Galileo actually said.]

He loved the attention.
Who on my campus could have thought of Bruno as a name for such a meek dog when the real Bruno was a rebel who died for the truth?

Some questions have no answers. 

Do dogs’ names actually mean anything?  As Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?”  Especially a dog’s?

In my childhood I knew quite a few dogs in my village which were named Kaiser.  In fact, the owners of those dogs could have known nothing about Kaiser being the German emperor in the olden days.  Probably, the British in India had named some of their dogs Kaiser just as some other people of the West named their dogs Bruno.  And the people of my village might have plagiarised the name with the naiveté that usually and magnanimously accompanies snobs and dumb wits. 

I’m not a lover of animals at all except from a considerable distance.  I like to watch them from far.  Especially if they are in the cage in some zoo.  Safe distance is what I desire when it comes to animals.  [Even people J ] The only time that an animal’s death elicited some feelings from my recalcitrant heart was when I was about seven or eight years old.  My father had ordered our domestic assistant to kill our family dog named Jimmy.  I pleaded with the young man not to kill the dog.  I had grown up feeding it and playing with it as much as the ferocious creature allowed me to.  My tears did not last longer than the dog’s burial in the evening.  But I have wondered time and again why my father had named the dog Jimmy.  Jimmy Carter became the President of America quite a few years after the dog’s assassination.

A few years ago, when I visited my village my brother’s children were fondling a puppy.  I asked them what name they had given to the puppy.  Nothing, they said.  I suggested the name Larry spontaneously.  “What a stupid name!” my nephew and niece said simultaneously.  They continued to call the puppy ‘Putti’ which is the simplest Malayalam equivalent of the Hindi ‘Kuta’.  And, understandably, Putti was not there when I visited the village the next time.  There were three other dogs (two of which were German shepherds) each of which had an exotic name.  Nothing can last without a name.  I wondered more than once why I had suggested that name for the putti.  It took me a while to remember that Larry was the name of the person to whom I had dedicated a book of mine.  The book contained short stories I had written while I was going through the toughest time of my life.

So, what’s in a name?  Especially a dog’s? 


I dedicate this post to Bruno who is a hero on the campus. 

12 comments:

  1. Interesting words on a dog...in fact,no one cares a dog that much...a real tribute to dog world.:)

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    1. There are people who care a lot for their own dogs. But Bruno in this post is cared for by a lot of people.

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  2. It's amazing to know how Bruno came to be a name associated with the dogs. But then, I agree, what's in a name. A hero will always be a hero, no matter what the name. Interesting post; Bruno looks adorable.

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    1. Names make people as well as animals unique individuals. So there's much in a name. But, of course, the history of the name doesn't matter really.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Cant bear the thought of a dog bein assassinated....but why did your dad do so ? though I love all the animals byt dogs are my hot fav...just like u i maintain distance from human beings but i get too too attached to dogs , i love to pamper them...they sleep in my bed , they eat in my plate ...and it does not apply to my pet dogs alone but I like to cuddle and take care of any dog immaterial of name , breed etc etc.

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    2. Alka, doing away with aged animals was a common practice in villages in those days, a kind of euthanasia. Nothing surprising about it. Conditions were such that dying animals could be a serious health hazard for people in days when vets were not available easily. The practice has not vanished from villages even today, I believe.

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    3. Alka, doing away with aged animals was a common practice in villages in those days, a kind of euthanasia. Nothing surprising about it. Conditions were such that dying animals could be a serious health hazard for people in days when vets were not available easily. The practice has not vanished from villages even today, I believe.

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  4. I love dogs passionately. YOur story about Jimmy being assassinated is extremely disturbing.
    Secondly - would you like to be called Matthias instead of Matheikal? I guess not. A dog;s name is his identity. It's important to him.

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    1. That happened almost half a century ago in a remote village, Kalpana. The world was a different place then. Circumstances demanded certain killings. Otherwise there would be greater evils.

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  5. Interesting post.. Just to tickle a bone, there is an old joke. A man was standing along with his dog when a passerby asked its name. "William bell". The passerby was amused so he went on asking the man's name and he replied "Bruno" :)

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