Growing up in Ohio, my family always had dogs but none of them had interesting names. I never thought about this until, years later when I met Kitty Hawks, the decorator who worked with me on my two jewelry shops on Madison Avenue. She owned a marvelous mutt, a mix of blue Merle, Australian shepherd, and something else, who was even photographed by William Wegman, an artist whose work I love. He was called Earl but his full name was Earl the Pearl E.T. Smith, in honor of the basket ball player, Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, with E.T. Smith thrown in for alliteration. Among the many things that Kitty taught me was the importance of giving a dog a proper name- a real and memorable name.
So, when I got my first very own dog – a rescue Jack Russell terrier mix, I called her Jewels - full name Carla Guiliana in honor of Carlo Guiliano, the nineteenth century jeweler who specialized in antique revival style jewelry and was particularly known for his enamel work. Jewels, who got herself photographed by Elle, Elle Décor, and Town and Country, used to love to come to my store, where she would sit on everyone’s lap and charm all my customers into buying my antique revival jewelry. This was a dog who understood the art of selling!
When I got married, my husband had two labs, Trevor and Lady, and a Brittany called Jessie. Such undistinguished names! In 2011, after they died, I announced that I wanted to find a dog under the Christmas tree. This would be complicated as we were going to be in Ireland over Christmas, visiting my stepdaughter. Christmas came and went and no puppy.
On Boxing Day, we went with some friends to see the local fox hunt, where I saw a man with the cutest Jack Russell terrier sticking out of his coat pocket. It was time to take matters into my own hands. I asked my friend if she knew of anyone who had any cute puppies. Miraculously, she took me to a farmer with a barn full of them. I picked out what I thought was a Jack Russell since his mother was one. But later, when his ears stood up and his legs did not grow, it became obvious that his father must have been a corgi. What to name this new baby? On our way home, we saw a road sign for Cork and that was it. Then, my Irish friend, remarked, in a lilting voice, that this puppy had such an air of an aristocrat that he deserved to be called the Earl of Cork and so, of course, that became his name! And so the tradition of having an aristocrat in family has carried on.
Today, our black Lab is called the Duchess of Pottersville. (Many people, including my vet, seem to think the name has to do with Dutchess County in upstate New York, and I have to gently correct their spelling.) When Duchie had puppies, I asked the buyers to give the dogs names from ancient history. I was in my ancient Rome phase (reading everything I could and making frequent trips to Rome, Naples, and Pompei.) We ended up with a Jove, Julius, and even a Cleopatra; while the puppy that we kept from the litter, who turns out to be my husband’s best shooting dog, is called Plotina Octavia Augusta - Octavia or Via for short, especially in the field.
After Cork went to dog heaven, we wanted another small dog. It was Kitty who told me about petfinder.com, where we found a super cute mutt, with great liver marks and the funniest face. We were told he was a mix of Jack and lab. His name was already Jackson, so being in my French eighteenth century phase, I called him Count Axel Von Jackson after Count Axel Von Fersen, the Swedish diplomat with whom Marie Antoinette had an extensive correspondence.
Jackie grew much bigger than he was supposed to and clearly there was a lot of fox hound in him (52 pounds of sold muscle) so, still needing a small dog, we have just acquired the cutest Jack Russell from Spain. What to name her? I had recently been in Madrid looking at gardens. One of my favorite was El Capricho, created by the Duchess of Osuna in the late eighteenth century. I also loved the palace and gardens belonging to the Duchess of Alba. Since both Duchesses shared the names of Marie and Pimentale, I had no trouble deciding to call our new arrival, Infanta Marie Pimentale Alba. Alba for short. My niece thought the name was in honor of Jessica Alba, the American actress. Go figure!