Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I learned a very interesting thing last night at dinner.

Apparently these days of double spacing after periods and such are OVER. I had no idea. It is grammatically/ stylistically incorrect to double-space now and the researcher I work for was recounting how she has had to go through whole manuscripts and remove the extra space and to get out of the habit of double spacing NOW. Ugh. This is going to be hard hard hard.

Although now that I look at this paragraph, the first in my life that I've not double spaced
after a paragraph is DOES look cleaner, more readable, and more like the stuff that
actually get published, I just have one question. AARENEX - WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL

OK, that was more of a whiny wail.

I'm sure AareneX has plenty of other things to do than to tell me I'm 20 years behind the

Do your animals have nicknames? I used to scoff at them - you give an animal a name
for a reason, because that's their NAME, why wouldn't you use it? And then I got Tess,
and the animal's name took on a greater significance.

"Tess" means "turn your head and look at me, and acknowledge my existence because
something else is coming". It doesn't happen to mean any of the following:
- You are so in trouble
- You better stop it right now!
- You are so cute!
- A greeting

All of these circumstances are better served by real commands such as "leave it", a
recall etc.

By using her name in these circumstances, I'm diluting the positive association with the
name, and/or teaching her that sometimes "Tess" means look at me and sometimes
"Tess" means I'm just happy/sad/angry/playful or just talking about her in casual
conversation. (Reason #umpteenth thousand why dogs are better than kids: you can
talk smack about them in front of them and they are still blissfully happy).

My boyfriend is a big fan of affectionate nicknames with his dogs. He plays the "name"
game with them and they absolutely know their names, but then he has a whole
assortment of things he calls the dogs when he's playing with them.

Harley is:
-Ms. Pointy Ears

Reed is:
-Mr. Foot
-Happy foot
-Senior happy foot
-golden puppy/boy
-golden foot
-prancey foot
-Box of rocks
-cuddle foot
-THE foot

Tess is:
-Snarfer (named for the snuffling noise that she constantly does with her nose)
-White Devil (Matt is not always pleased with the plotting, expression she has when she
is made into a cuddly puppy against her will)
-Drama queen

I have chosen "Snarfer" for my working nickname of Tess. I use Snarfer when I'm
playing with her and rolling on the floor, when I'm asking how she's doing, when I say hi,
in frustration when I'm trying to sleep and Reed and Tess have decided to do a
reenactment of sheep jumping across the bed while the insomniac counts them.

If I was some big shot trainer, or had better self control, I probably wouldn't need to rely
so much on a nickname to cover up for my training deficiencies. However, for my needs
(which apparently include being able to yell "SNARFER" in exasperation across the
house when she's sneaking into my closet for the umpteenth time to steal a stuffed
animal) I really love having that nickname.

So when do I use her real name?

-when I'm sitting in the living room and I'm not sure where she is and all I want her to do
is peek her head around the corner of whatever room she's in.
-when I'm going to follow it with another command and I want to get her attention first
-when we are out for a run and I know that she's about to get distracted by something
and I either want to release her to go play with it, or give her a treat instead for playing
the name game
-When something really good is about to happen - getting fed, I came home early and
snuck into the backyard the back way and she's no where in sight, I have a special treat
in the kitchen etc.

I've even given a nickname to my cat Mickie in the last couple of weeks - "Ninja Cat".
(named so because she has gotten adept at sneaking into the bedroom to sleep on the
bed, where she is strictly forbidden based on Matt's low opinion of cats. She scorns this
opinion and chooses to appear only after a time when she knows the odds of Matt
actually getting out of bed to toss her out is very low. She increases her odds of staying
by silently sneaking on the bed to cuddle at his feet, and only gradually moves her way
up to sleep on his pillow, on top of his face around 4 am.

So who doesn't have a nickname? Farley. It's probably because Matt isn't around Farley
enough to help me out. I'm boring and unimaginative and he's responsible for the
creation of most of the nicknames.

I'm not sure that it's necessary with a horse, since she's usually attached to me when
we are working. But I can't whistle and it would be nice to have something that she
consistently comes to that also isn't something I use as a cuss word when she's about
to buck me off at the start of a ride. When I bring her a bucket after a ride I call out
"Farley Girl!" in a sing-song higher voice, and with that call I can get her to look and
whinny at me several acres away, so maybe that's her nickname - "Girl", to remind her
that even though I unthoughtfully saddled her with a boy's name, she's still a pretty little
mare pony. Farley is registered as "TKR Triforta", so perhaps "Farley" is a nickname,
but I'm not so sure.

It is my personal belief that horses rely more on body language, and a dog can be
trained to understand verbal cues regardless of overt body language. For example, Tess
will sit on verbal command whether I'm standing on my head, doing the jig, or
performing a cartwheel at the time of the request. How many horses have we seen
continue to trot on through a beginners frustrated "Whoa!"s as they clutch with their
heels and lean forward? Perhaps with a horse it's more important to choose a
nickname that within your frustration, it's impossible to say without making you smile just
a little bit inside, thus defusing the situation.

Do your animals have nicknames? Do you double space after periods (and will you
change just because of convention?)? For those of you with dogs or other animals that
you regularly require "off leash" control and don't rely as heavily on body language for,
do you differentiate between when you use their name and nickname? Or do you have
a special "show name" that you only use in the ring so that the dog knows they are
"on"? (If I had to have a ring name for Tess, it would be "Derby" since her full registered
name is "Tess of Derbyfield"). What do you think about my "horse versus dog" theory?