Meet my shovel, Kristof. We grew apart my thirteen winters down South but lately we’re reconnecting. As the gusty wind bites my cheeks and the wet flakes stick to my hair, Kristof and I methodically clear the driveway together. He wasn’t always a proper noun. My biggest girl inspired me to name him after she put forth an interesting theory. “Value” she states, “is connected to naming.” It’s a philosophy she’s always lived by intuitively. When she was just little-bitty, she named her stuffed toys, then her dollyhouse “people”. Now she calls her houseplant, Alberta and her car, Jack. Her sister followed suit with her anatomy lab skull, who she refers to fondly as Bill. Her dissection cat, she calls Mollie and her beloved Toyota CRV, Winston. And during our last power outage, our family even named the neighbor’s generator, Spencer.
I’m reminded of Cynthia Rylant’s tender story about an Old Woman who’d lived longer than all her friends and got so lonely she started naming her possessions, but only the ones she didn’t expect to outlive. Her chair was Fred, her bed Roxanne, her house Franklin and her car Betsy.
One day, a tail wagging puppy ventured up to the Old Woman’s gate looking hungry, so she fed him then told him to go away. That dog was no fool and returned for refills daily, weeks and even months later, wearing a path up to her front gate. Then one day the little brown dog didn’t sit at the gate begging and the Old Woman wished she hadn’t sent him away. A few days passed and she missed the nameless little dog so she and Betsy drove to the pound to look for him.
The dog catcher asked, “What’s the dog’s name?”
“Then she thought about all those dear, old friends she’d outlived.
She saw their smiling faces and remembered their lovely names and she thought how lucky she had been to have known them. “
“My dog’s name is Lucky,” she told the dog catcher.
Then they went out to the yard with all of the incarcerated canines and she called for him,
And he immediately came running.
From that day on, Lucky lived at Franklin. He rode in Betsy, sat on Fred and even slept on Roxanne next to the Old Woman who named him.
You know, everybody finds their own unique path through the maze of loss and the Old Woman in the story discovered that the bond between a pet and it’s person makes you feel really, really