Aug. 13, 2012 at 2:41 PM ET
For the fourth year in a row, Veterinary Pet Insurance scoured their pet database of more than 485,000 animals for the wackiest-named cats and dogs around. Meet the pets who inspired these madcap monikers, and the creative owners who came up with them.
Once their younger child turned 5 and was off to school, Michele and Peter Manzelli III were feeling a bit lonely. They decided against trying for a third child; instead, despite Peter’s allergies, the Chelmsford, Mass., couple decided a dog might just fill the void. So they brought home an apricot toy poodle (a hypoallergenic breed) for a trial sleepover in 2010.
Unsure if they would keep the 6-week-old, 2-pound pup, they weren’t thinking of names quite yet. But his feisty antics, combined with their son Peter’s love of “Star Wars” (he wanted his sister, Gianna, to be named Yoda) led to the pooch’s unusual name.
“All he did was chew at things and bark at everybody,” Michele told TODAY.com.
“We started calling him ‘Hey, Chew,’ ‘Hey Bark,’ because that’s all he was doing,” Peter recalled. “We all looked at each other and said ‘Chew Barka — that’s a perfect name for him.’” The little puppy was therefore named after Chewbacca, the huge, furry Wookiee warrior, and despite sinking his teeth into all of Michele’s flip-flops and gnawing on the area rugs, he was in the Manzelli home to stay.
“Of course everybody fell in love with him,” Michele said, adding that her husband is doing fine with the help of daily allergy medication. “After one night, we couldn’t give him back.”
Though her now 12-year-old son and husband are the “Star Wars” fans, it was Michele who concocted the dog’s name. Her creativity earned Chew Barka the top spot on Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.’s 2012 list of wackiest dog names.
The Manzellis get a great reaction to it. “They love it because he’s so little,” Michele said. “He’s furry all over, but he’s not ferocious-looking. He’s very-timid looking.”
These days, Chewy, as he’s called, doesn’t bite the Manzellis' belongings as much. But he still makes a lot of noise. “He’s a good protector,” Michele told TODAY.com. “He barks at everybody who walks by.”
And Michele, who works part-time from home, and Peter, who also works at home sometimes, aren’t feeling quite so alone, especially when Chewy snuggles with them at night.
“He’s just like a heat-seeker,” she said. “He loves to cuddle up.”
Pico de Gato
The scientific wordplay that led to the names of Vince and Caroline Rye’s two cats leaves many people scratching their heads.
When the San Diego couple brought home their first cat about four years ago, Vince, a physicist, had the idea for the name Mu. It was a combination of the scientific symbol Mu, meaning micro, and the little kitty’s meowing.
“He thought it would be funny, and when we were trying to think of names, he’s like, ‘I’ve got a name that’d be pretty ironic,’” Caroline explained. “He has a sarcastic science sense of humor.”
But the name worked. “It’s was very fitting and he still meows a lot today,” she said.
About a year later, the family brought home another kitten. “Since he was a little baby at the time, we were trying to think of things that were smaller than 'micro' or Mu, so we were playing with different words and Pico came up,” Caroline explained. “We were trying to think of something to go with it.”
So they drew on several elements from their lives. The couple often call cats “gatos,” Spanish for cat, and they love Mexican food, with Rye often making homemade pico de gallo.
“We were thinking 'pico' is smaller than 'micro,' and if we’re going the scientific route, since we always call our cats ‘gatos,’ pico, gato — it just kind of went together,” Caroline said. The name “Pico de Gato” was born, and now it sits atop VPI’s 2012 list of wackiest cat names.
Fittingly for a pet with a food-inspired name, Pico is fond of human food. He begs for cheese and has enjoyed grilled steak burritos, Caroline said. “He goes crazy for it.”
The cat even found his way into a box of doughnuts. “He had a doughnut in his mouth like ‘this is mine,’” Caroline recalled.
But despite the cats’ names, they’re mini no more. Caroline told TODAY.com that Pico now weighs about 18 pounds, surpassing the once-micro Mu by a pound or two. The big kitties better stay spry, as the Ryes' 9-month-old daughter, Caitlin, is on the move. “She squeals when she chases them,” Caroline said.
But what about the rest of the wacky names? Here's a look at the Top 10 among both dogs and cats, with details gleaned from VPI’s Wacky Pet Names website:
Wackiest dog names
2. Nigel Nosewhistle This pup was named in honor of Michele and Pete Thomas’ late dog, Sidney, a Westie who used to make whistling noises when he was tired.
3. Sir Maui Senqkey Schwykle Sure, his seven syllables are a mouthful. But when Sir Maui hears his full name, he knows he’s been a bad boy, according to owner Jean Schwindt of Virginia Beach, Va.
4. Spark Pug Spark Pug’s owners like wacky names: The rescue dog lives alongside Betty Boop, Minnie Pearl, Little Jimmy Dickens and Benjamin Button. But the name has been a fitting one for “Sparky,” says owner Jack Fallin, of Walnut Creek, Calif., who says the pooch was playful as a pup.
5. Agent 99 Named after the “Get Smart” character, this Labrador retriever has a nose for mold. Owner Brad Prill, of Wildomar, Calif., originally got the dog for his industrial safety consulting firm (Agent 99 can find 18 kinds of mold), but she now goes everywhere with her owner.
6. Stinker Belle This Yorkshire terrier was the first dog for Jay Cohen’s wife, and he thought the pooch would be spoiled rotten and become a real stinker. Fortunately for the Nashville, Tenn., couple, Stinker Belle doesn’t get into too much trouble.
7. Vienna Sausage This dachshund’s name was picked out even before she was. Gary Jaconski and Cassandra Wahl of Williamstown, N.J., like meat-related names for their animals and decided that if they got a dachshund, they’d name her Vienna Sausage after the food popular in Guam, where Wahl grew up.
8.Furnace Hills Dante All of the pups in this Spinone Italiano’s litter got names that began with "D." Owner Axel Waldkirch of Elizabethtown, Pa., came up with the name by combining the movie “Dante’s Inferno” with the name of his neighborhood — Furnace Hills.
9. Senorita Margarita The owner of this Yorkshire terrier thought she would be bringing home a male dog that she planned to name Senor. Finding out she had a female, owner Samantha of Mount Joy, Pa., adjusted the name to fit the dog’s gender while honoring her favorite alcoholic drink.
10. Trigonometry They call him “Trig” for short, and the name reflects his owners’ jobs: she’s a teacher and he’s a sheriff’s deputy.
Wackiest cat names
2. Dingleberry Poor Dingleberry wasn’t doing so well when he was adopted by Laura Carlson of San Diego: He had parasites in his stomach that led to diarrhea, making the name a fitting one.
3. Dumpster Kitty This cat gets her name from her humble beginnings, under a Dumpster behind a hotel. Eileen Karle of Kerhonkson, N.Y., who works in the hotel, took the kitty home after the feline moved into the ceiling of the hotel’s kitchen and the staff wanted her out.
4. Schnickelfritz Jeff Rich of Avondale, Ariz., was thinking of naming his newest cat “Fritz” after a mouse in an old movie. But the cat answered to “Schnickelfritz” and the name was a keeper.
5. Koobenfarben This unusual name came about after Alycia Watson upset a co-worker by mispronouncing his name. Her husband said it should be the pronunciation, not the spelling, of a name that’s important, and joked that they could say their name was pronounced “Koobenfarben,” which then became their cat’s name.
6. Sassy Pants Huska This cat’s pushy and sassy personality led to her name after she was adopted by Robin Lefkowitz-Huska of Morganville, N.J.
7. Vincent Van Furrball When Iza Ramli of Arlington, Va., adopted this tabby, he was malnourished and his left ear drooped, leading to his name after the one-eared Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh.
8. Kitty Gaga With her unique facial markings that make it look like she’s wearing heavy eye makeup, "Kitty Gaga" was the only name for Keane Slagle’s feline pop star.
9. Beefra One look at this kitty’s striped tummy and Ellie Irons of New York City settled on the name “Beefra,” which is how she pronounced “zebra” when she was little.
10. Mister Bigglesworth Cindy Chiudioni of Eastlake, Ohio, found a stray orange tabby and took him in. And after a trip to the vet, she changed her new pet’s name from Princess Bigglesworth to the anatomically correct Mister Bigglesworth.
Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles writer in New York who had a goldfish named Swimmy and a dog called Daisy.
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