James Lileks
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Whenever you see a list of the most popular dog names, it's like a warning not to use them. Either they're overused or too trendy. Years from now, you really don't want to be calling an aged Pekinese by shouting "Come, Fauci!"

On the other hand, we're always curious, so I opened the email from Rover.com, a dog-walking / sitting service. They deal with cats, too. They'll probably even find you someone to give aromatherapy to your Komodo Dragon while you're on vacation, if you want.

The top five male dog names: Charlie, Max, Murphy, Teddy and Louie. For girl dogs, it's Luna, Bella, Lucy, Rosie and Penny.

All of them are perfectly good dog names. What I found intriguing was the email's headline, which said that a trending Minneapolis dog name was ... Lambeau.

That would, of course, be the famous French philosopher for whom the Green Bay Packers' field is named. A member of the proto-existentialists, Lambeau apparently concluded that the yawning chasm left by the retreat of religion could be filled by sports and beer, but only temporarily, unless there were playoffs, which constituted a sort of afterlife.

Anyway, you can easily see people shouting "Lambeau!" to their dogs at the park, and Vikings fans turning around sharply with narrowed eyes, then calling their dogs: "Here USBank!" Well, they used to be named Thielen, but he moved to another team, so the dogs had to be renamed.

Naming a dog after a stadium that sold naming rights would be silly, but it does make you wonder why companies don't offer to sponsor dogs, just to hear their name called out in public. Perhaps it's because the only time you call your dog's name in public is when it's doing something wrong. "Gillette! No! Gillette, leave that lady's leg alone!" Or, "Godiva, drop that rotten squirrel!" Probably not a good idea.

What you name your dog depends on when you get it. The first dog, before you have kids, gets a special name that represents all the pre-paternal emotion you invest in the creature. It's something you might name an actual child.

The second dog gets named by the kids, who come up with something like Snooperdood or Wangy or Blipper, and you can't say no. The third dog, the empty-nester dog, might be something smaller and yippier, because you're older and lack the strength to rein in a Great Dane on a walk, so it's a name that ends in a vowel: Trixie, Poppy, Lexie.

No yippy dog for our house, not yet. Our dog No. 3 is a white lab, a rescue dog who, I deduce, spent his puppyhood in the woods of Alabama being tormented by mailmen. I mean, it would explain a lot.

My wife is good at dog-names, and chose "Birch" because of his hue. She did not realize that it would, in texts, autocorrect to a gender which he is not, so half my texts about the dog look like crude rap lyrics.

When I met him at the shelter he was sick and scared, and I loved him from the moment I saw him, thin and shivering. There was a name on the cage, and it took me aback: It was the name of the dog we'd just lost, a hound who bounded after the scent of a deer and was never seen alive again. This little white pup was like a ghost of the dog for whom we'd searched for weeks.

The little white dog probably never learned his shelter name. He picked up on Birch soon enough, because it meant food and love and rubs and scratches.

Here's the thing the surveys don't tell you: the dog's second name. My wife calls him "Buddy" with affection; I just use "dog" in those moments when you just want to bury your face in their fur and drink in that good canine scent. "Hello, dog. Hello, my dog."

The names we give dogs are wrapping paper and ribbons. The gift in the box is the animal itself — painfully mortal. And marvelously eternal.

P.S. Lambeau is not a trending Minneapolis dog name. A later email explained that I got that one by mistake. Perhaps it was intended for a Wisconsin paper. The follow-up email said another of the trending names — up 300% — was, and I swear this is true, "Beer." So now I'm sure this update was intended for Wisconsin.

Here in Minnesota it would be Artisanal IPA. So if you hear someone call "Here, Arty. Arty, come," that's the nickname.