Pet Names and Cultural Icons

Dr. Tony with Gilligan

I’ve often commented to owners about some of the names of pets I see in our practice. There are the usual Molly’s and Buddy’s and Lady’s, but then there is a second group of pets that are named after the in vogue cultural icons of the day.

These cultural icons can be singers, or athletes, or – most commonly – movie characters, but the common denominator is that they have recently risen to prominence, and the vast majority of the public have heard of them.

Common names we see today include Elsa, Anna, and Olaf from Frozen, and from a few years ago,  Sid, Manny and Diego from Ice Age. For a while I saw a lot of Tigers for Tiger Woods. And recently I saw a Tukka. For those of you who are NOT from Boston, Tukka Rask is the very, very good goalie for the Boston Bruins. You have to be a hockey fan for that one; luckily I am, and the owner was shocked I knew where the name came from.

Dr. Tony with Gilligan
Dr. Tony with Gilligan

I was reminded of this recently when a long-time client brought in her new Boston Terrier puppy, Gilligan. Now you may wonder how Gilligan refers to a cultural icon, but there’s a story behind it. I was a young child when our family got our first “family pet.” It was a male Boston Terrier, and the year was 1966, and the TV show Gilligan’s Island was at its peak. My parents allowed my siblings and me to name him, and much to their chagrin, we named him Gilligan. Gilligan was the only animal we had until I was well into high school, and so he was my first and only pet for a long time.

Ever since then, any Boston Terrier I see in the office is immediately called a “Gilligan dog.” It’s just a fun little game we play, as Boston’s are all very friendly, and they all remind me of my first Gilligan. And so, for a long time I had a client who brought her old Boston, Brodie, in for me to take care of. Per usual, Brodie was called a “Gilligan dog” by me and my staff every time he came in. Brodie lived a long and healthy life until we eventually had to put him down last year.

This client swore (like so many clients do) that she would never have another dog, as losing them is just too painful. However, after just two short months she had already gone out and picked out a new Boston Terrier puppy. Having brought Brodie to our practice for so many years, she new full well that every Boston in the practice was (un)officially called a Gilligan dog. And in honor of my first pet she officially named him Gilligan.

Gilligan at 14 weeks old
Gilligan at 14 wks old

We’re all thrilled, as he is friendly and playful beyond words. He gives all “Gilligans” a good name, and is a great ambassador for the breed. And now everyone in her community knows what a “Gilligan dog” is.

I’m sure that pet owners will continue to name their pets after the cultural stars of the day long after I’m gone. But it’s funny how life turns, and an innocent choice made by four clueless kids in 1960’s Ohio has come full circle, and now there’s a new Gilligan to carry on an old tradition.