(Benjamin: continued from Ben Trains Us)
What do you name a creature that comes crashing into your life and bites you within an hour of knowing you?
What to name a dog that quickly evidences himself a supremely smart little dog? (I hadn’t finished my first 12 hours with him before he convinced me of that certainty.)
What do you name your friend that will teach you things you don’t even know you don’t know?
We knew we had to give this nameless urchin something that made sense … and since both his parents were overly steeped in literary study and criticism, anything given was going to have to be meaningful. After all, his step-Mom was Aida, a loving brindle Boxer named after a Verdi opera. Damn (that dam).
Over the course of a week, we wrestled with a hundred names. My study of Latin brought me to Fido, but that was just cliché. Max? I so loved that little dog in the Grinch, but no, not sophisticated enough. Ralph? Hmm, the ruffian in him sort of looked like a Ralph but there was no way his terrier-cross genes would grow into the name. Then I remembered a great name I had read somewhere … in some Victorian novel. Which one? I scrambled through my shelves looking for inspiration. It was Dickens … that was the first thing I remembered. Great Expectations? No – Twist? No. What was it? Then I remembered: Hard Times. I had read it in university – and the great name that made this all worthwhile? “Merrylegs.” There was a lot of scamp and bounding in both these dogs. It was perfect. I loved it.
…and Andrea hated it – and then she reminded me that our dog had testicles.
“You can’t name a male dog ‘Mary.’”
“It’s not ‘Mary’ – it’s ‘Merry,’ like happy little legs. Look at him?”
“You can’t name a boy, Mary.”
I can’t remember if I countered with “Well, what about Sue, then?” but I’m sure I thought it.
Hmm, so what’s in a name, then?
And so it continued for a week until I blurted it out ….
“Why Benjamin?” And her eyes said, “He’s not Jewish, you know.”
I grant you, he wasn’t circumcised (yes, that would be weird), but no, that wasn’t where my mind was going ….
“The Graduate. He’s Benjamin Braddock. A lost soul trying to find himself.”
Andrea looked at me hard – but it wasn’t with Merryleg hardness. I could see the wheels turning as she looked from me to the dog and thought ….
“I don’t know,” she said … but she didn’t say “No.”
“I think it’s perfect. I love that movie. He’s small and scruffy – just like Hoffman in that role. Braddock was a lost puppy. He had a lot of attitude, had lost his way, was confused, was looking for a place. Mrs ….”
“… don’t you dare call me Mrs Robinson.”
“Ok … but he got rescued. He got outside the margins and found himself.” I figured if I threw in a little literary criticism, I’d ice this baby.
I don’t think she really bought the whole Graduate thing, but the more she looked at him, the more she warmed to “Benjamin.” We agreed to try it for a week and see …
…and a week became 16½ years.
Here’s the rub: as his hair came in, more than one person would say “Oh!!! He’s soooo cute. What’s his name?”
“Oh, Benji,” they’d repeat, cooing.
I’ll admit, I loved the series as a child, but I hated that name for my dog and I corrected people more than a few when we moved back to Canada: “No – Ben.”
And, yes, I’ll further admit my scrappy little foundling had some similarities with that other shelter dog that launched Benji to fame … but this, this cute little guy was Benjamin.
What’s in a name?
Here’s an interesting postscript – I looked the name up today for the first time. Odd I never did before, but I hadn’t – I guess he was just Benjamin Braddock to me.
Turns out: the literal translation of Benjamin is “son of right” (as opposed to the left). That is to say, Benjamin means “son of my right hand.”
Hmmm … never did a name turn out more right.
Continued … Chapter 1: You Came into My Life — Ben the Foody