There is definitely a correlation between a dog’s name and its disposition. I have learned this startling fact the hard way: on-the-job traumas. When I get a call to tune a piano, I first ask if they have a dog, and if so, what its name is. The name determines whether I take the job or not.
I never have had trouble with dogs that have names like Cuddles or FruFru. These tiny trembling tyrants with satin bows in their neatly coifed crowns are the pampered rulers of the household. Who can be terrorized by their outburst of yips performed perfunctorily to earn their keep? One step in their direction and they scoot away like disoriented centipedes.
In this category of petite pooches are names like Bubbles, Peaches, double syllable ones like JoJo, FiFi and, of course, French names, like Pierre and Roulette. I would not hesitate to take these tuning jobs.
HOWEVER, if the dog’s name is Champ, that’s out. Champ was this big ugly brute who could probably eat a hundred pound human in two bites. I rang Champ’s doorbell early one morning, and in a flash, he lunged at the window, barking furiously, with his paws on the window pane and his eyes up near the curtain rod. How big was this dog, anyway?
I had second thoughts about ringing again when the door opened a crack. A woman’s voice whispered “Move slowly or he attacks.” I should have run for my life then, but I didn’t. It took me half an hour to inch my way from the front door to the piano. Champ never took his red eyes off me for one moment. Then his mistress let him sniff me all over, and when she felt that I was no longer a stranger to him, she left the room.
It was hard to turn my back on Champ, but what could I do. I can’t tune a piano with my back to it, so I turned around. I could still feel his red eyes watching every move I made. I leaned into the piano to correct an action problem when this monstrous mongrel, this bulldog on stilts, this carnivore, came up behind me like a bulldozer and lifted me a foot off the floor then dropped me.
The woman ran in when she heard me crash back to the floor. She sized up the situation and looked fondly at her smiling, smug beast, then at me, and said, “He likes you.”
He likes me? She wouldn’t say that if her husband did that to me, now would she?
On another job, the real estate woman said, “I have to go show a house. I’ll be right back. Don’t worry about Bear. He’s locked in a room upstairs.” The name gave me an uneasy feeling, but I convinced myself that I was safe, after all, he’s locked in a room. Then at one point, I had to go out to my car to get a special tool. When I re-entered the house, Bear went wild. He obviously thought I was a burglar.
After the most menacing footwork overhead, there was a loud crash and a furious flow of crazed atonal vocal sounds that would be the envy of any dodecaphonic composer of the twentieth century. In a flash, an enormous chestnut brown mass shot down the stairs with legs stretched straight out in front of him and his rear end slapping every third step. If there ever was a crazed animal, this was it.
Bear hit the wall at the foot of the stairs and ricocheted toward me after running into two supporting posts and a table. I can recall quite vividly the thought that entered my mind: “I always knew that someday I would die, but I had no idea it would be by dog.”
After pulling myself into my synthetic fur coat like a frightened turtle, I cried, in a pathetically wavering voice, “Upstairs, Bear.”
Bear slid to within inches of me and looked at me curiously, as if to say, “Do I know her? How does she know my name?”
Again, a little stronger, and maybe a little more bold, I repeated, “Upstairs, Bear.” I was astounded that the beast knew his name, and for a dog the size of a camel, it obeyed.
He turned and started walking toward the stairs, looking back at me several times with a quizzical look on his face. Do I know her?
Even with Bear gone, I was still visibly shaken and holding onto a support beam when the lady came home. All I could say was “Bear paid me a visit.”
“That can’t be,” she shouted angrily as she stomped up the stairs. She was astounded by what she found. The locked door was broken clean off its hinges and Bear was snoozing and belching peacefully in another room. Her final words were that old familiar line of the illuminated unbeliever, “Can you beat that!”
Dogs with human names like Penny, Alfred, and Gretchen, are all bark, but if you raise your arm, they run like mad. With dogs named Duke, Brutus, King, Thor, and the like, I do not raise my arm. I raise my price.