Help Me Name My Next Dog

If you are a regular reader of this site, you probably remember that I had to put down my thirteen year-old yellow lab named Luckey, this past October. Luckey was a rescue dog from the Nashville Humane Shelter in 2003. She was discovered by Susan, who was still nine years away from becoming my wife, but was a regular volunteer there at the time.

I was not quite a year past putting down my previous yellow lab, Neyland, who was named after General Neyland, the famous Tennessee football coach from the 1920’s through the early fifties. I got Neyland (the dog) in 1986 before kids or even  my first marriage. She lived to the ripe old age of sixteen, until I had to put her down in 2002. Although she had lived a great life, was old and her kidneys were failing – it was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made. I had never been through anything like that before. I swore my days of owning a dog were over, because I never wanted to go through anything like that again. If you’re not a dog lover and/or owner – you probably don’t understand. If you are one, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.


1986 – The day I picked out Neyland at three weeks old. I took her home two weeks later.

Neyland Snowman

February 1999 – My son Trey (age nine) and Neyland (age thirteen). She lived more than three years after this picture.

But less than a year later, I knew I wanted another dog and started talking openly about it. Then one Sunday afternoon, Susan called me from the shelter to tell me that they had gotten in the most unbelievable dog and I needed to come see it before it was gone. My son Trey and I hopped in the car to go take a look. Susan did not exaggerate. We saw this dog that had a great personality and was beautiful. We immediately adopted her and took her home that afternoon.


2003 – the week we got Luckey. The vet said she was probably a year and a half old when we got her.

Luckey’s name and unique spelling came from Trey who, for whatever reason, was a big Notre Dame football fan at the time. At the shelter, they have a practice of giving dogs a temporary name. Hers was “Luck of the Irish”. Trey considered that prophetic, given his allegiance to Notre Dame, and wanted us to call her Lucky. Being a typical thirteen year-old, he thought it would be great to add an “e” to her spelling to set her apart – so she became Luckey.

When the time came to put her down this past fall; I thought I would be more prepared, having been through it once before. I wasn’t. It hit me just as hard, if not harder, as when I put Neyland down twelve years earlier. Fortunately, we still have Susan’s dog, Pippa, the little sheltie we got this past March – and yes, Pippa is named for Pippa Mann. Pippa has helped the grieving process a lot. I still miss Luckey, but I’m pretty well over her loss and I’m ready to get another dog of my own. I want a puppy this time, so I plan to wait until after our racing travels in April and May have ended. It wouldn’t be right to get a dog and then disappear for several weekends over a two-month span. So I’ve targeted sometime in June to get my new pup.


Luckey and Pippa – March 2014. Luckey had about seven months left. Pippa was five months old.

Yellow labs have always been my favorite dogs. I think they are beautiful and I like their personalities. Both of my labs have been females. They seem to have a sweeter disposition than most males and they don’t try to get intimate with every inanimate object they come across. Since I abhor change, why would I get a different type dog? Besides, I’ve had great luck with female yellow labs. Between the two of them, they lived a total of twenty-nine years. That’s an average of fourteen and a half years. If I don’t get the dog until June and she makes that average – that puts me close to seventy-one. Suffice it to say that this will probably be my last dog.

But I have a problem and I need your help. I don’t know what to name it. As you can tell, there is usually a sports-related theme behind the naming all of my/our dogs over the last thirty years. I want to keep it that way. I am still a passionate follower of Tennessee Volunteer football. Even though they’ve been terrible the last few years, I’m still an avid fan of the Titans.

But the sport I am most passionate about is the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 in particular. I would really like to name my next dog in honor of someone or something that has to do with either.

I’ve racked my brain trying to come up with something that would be appropriate for a female dog. If it were a male, it would be much easier. Nigel, Wilbur or AJ would all get consideration. But for a female? Probably not. I have another requirement – the name must be two syllables. One is just too short, three is too long. Shaw was considered, but it just sounds too short. As Susan says, it must pass the holler test – meaning it can’t sound stupid when you’re calling its name throughout the neighborhood.

There’s not a ton to choose from among the female drivers. We already have a Pippa. I’ve considered Sarah and that has potential, but it’s too common for a dog and doesn’t really send me. Janet, Milka, Bia (or Ana) weren’t really considered and Danica is just too obvious – plus, I’ve never really been a fan. Simona doesn’t pass the holler test. Katherine is too long and Kat is too short. Besides…a dog named Kat? Please.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a driver or even a person. I’ve considered Hulman, Offy and Lola; but none of those really grab me either. I kind of like Offy, but I feel like others would mispronounce it and I would spend all my time explaining what it meant. Then I would have to deal with the strange looks I would get when people realized I named my dog after an obsolete racing engine.

The name Unser has been considered, but sounds idiotic when called. As much as I admire Bill Vukovich, I don’t really want to saddle my dog with the name Vuky or Vukovich. With Vuky, too many people would think I was saying Vickie. Lloyd Ruby was always one of my favorites, but naming a dog Ruby sounds like a cheap hooker from the forties. Ward has no ring to it, Sweikert doesn’t roll off the tongue and Parnelli just doesn’t seem right for a dog.

One name that has strong potential is Wheldon. It’s a classy name that has deep ties to IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 – and it could be used for either gender. I may go with that, but I’m also still looking.

In addition to the two syllable rule, I also have to like or admire the driver. Both rules would therefore eliminate the name Saavedra. Andretti, Bignotti and Tagliani are way too long. I’ve also thought about Helio, but I’m not really sold on that either.

So I’m stuck with three possibilities I could go with – AJ, Offy and Wheldon – but I still feel like the best name hasn’t come to me yet. So, I’m throwing it out to you. What have I missed? I have this nagging feeling that this killer name is out there with obvious ties to IndyCar, but I’ve overlooked it. Can any of you think of anything? I’ve got six months to come up with something, but I’d like to get it settled instead of continuing to run all these names through my head.

So there’s my dilemma. My future dog hasn’t even been born yet, but it’s vital that I settle on a great name. If my past history with dogs holds true, I’m going to be saying this name for a long time – so I want to make sure I like it. So far, I’m not wild about anything I’ve come up with – even the top three. So give it some thought and fire away in the comment section. There is no prize other than some recognition and a thanks if I pick yours. So give it some thought. Pippa needs a playmate.

George Phillips

30 Responses to “Help Me Name My Next Dog”

  1. Without question, AJ…

  2. Jack in Virginia Says:

    How about Cosworth? Dallara? Lola? Lotus? Watson? Coyote?

  3. I once had a dog I wanted to name Indy but couldn’t get buy in. Nevertheless that was the name I used for him all his life.

    Not only could you honor the race and league, but you could give the same name as Indiana Jones pet dog.

  4. With tongue firmly planted in cheek: “Tenderloin”

  5. I like “Wheldon.” Or “Alley”, as in Gasoline Alley. Of course, you could go with the ever popular “Giaffone.” 🙂

  6. Given your favorite team–“Penske.” Or not necessarily your favorite driver, but given your geography–“Dixie.”

  7. I like AJ or Indy although people might tend to think Indiana Jones. Another that comes to mind is Rookie.

  8. Of the choices, I’d go with Offy. I really like the suggestion above of “Alley”, though.

    One thing that kept me from getting a dog for a long time was the worry of what I would name it. I always thought I would end up picking a really bad name for no good reason. But when I met a puppy, the situation naturally let to give him the name “Carlos”. And of course, once you name a puppy, you have to keep it.

    So try not to stress out too hard. I’d go into it with a few ideas, and then just see what name fits.

  9. billytheskink Says:

    If you think people would mispronounce Offy, try naming a pet Ilmor or Novi. Actually, Novi’s a pretty cool name despite the potential for mispronunciation.

    When pondering Wilbur Shaw, I’m surprised you didn’t consider Boots (though it doesn’t meet your two syllable rule).

    I like LMToo’s suggestion of Alley. Other Speedway-focused names, in diminishing order: Brickyard, Snake Pit, Borg-Warner, Yellow Shirt, Pylon, Milk Bottle, and Apron.

    Not sure any of these would top Wheldon, but decent driver-derived names off the top of my head would be: Lazier, Emerson, Posey, Parnelli, Arie, Dawson, Little Al, Bia, Kinser, and Tinglestad. OK, maybe not Tinglestad.

  10. AJ, an absolute NO BRAINER. (I’m guessing it won’t be “Arie,” “Cogan,” (pronounced “Coogan,”) or “Mario.”) Parnelli might be a second choice, or even Bignotti…

  11. Mark Wick Says:

    Indy came to mind immediately. Don’t spent time pondering this. When you see her, you will know what to name her. She won’t care. She will be happy to be part of your family.

  12. Mike Silver Says:

    I like AJ. It’s gender neutral. If it is a slow runner Milka is a possibility. Indy and Allkey are great choices.

  13. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    I hadn’t read beyond the title of this post and “Offy” popped into my head. Now I see it’s one of the three possibilities.

    Simple, venerable, reliable, and trustworthy. All things I associate with a good dog as well as a good auto motor.

    PS: Don’t give a tiny rat’s tucus what anyone thinks. Name it what feels best to you.
    PPS: you could go with a tribute our good friend Jim and use “Nabors”, but yelling that out the back door might cause some local confusion.
    PPPS: If she’s a yellow lab, could be Debris or Phantom, the latter of which needs to be referred to comment in PPS.

  14. How can you even consider naming a dog you haven’t met? All of my dogs got named after observing them. Contrary to what semanticists would tell you, names are not just arbitrary labels. Example: previous dog, a rescue shi-tzu, came to us named Garth. After living with him for a week or so it was obvious his name was Rags.

  15. Mauri, Graham or Duesey as in Duesenberg.

  16. George, you may want to just keep some names in mind until you get the dog and are able to observe her personality. Since Labs love water perhaps you would consider Rainey after “Racing in the Rain”. If she is quite vocal and strong willed you could call her Robin brother. I’d stay away from Aero or Oily.

  17. Judy in Texas Says:

    Since you’re an Helio fan, this is easy — Ellie — the perfect name for a loving female yellow Lab.

  18. I forget to ask……….Will she have to bring her own money to get a ride?

  19. Tennessee names: Majors, Fulmer, Tee, Peyton, Smokey, Knox or Dobbs.

    IndyCar: Burnout, Firehawk, Sunoco, Mears, Toni, NOLA, or Barber.

    Because she will be percieved as your third string dog being your 3rd Yellow Lab and you know they are all number one in your heart: Cardale

  20. Jason Millsap Says:

    I like the name Indy but you should spell it Ndy and keep it unique like Luckey was.

    • Jack In Virginia Says:

      Well, if you’re going to make it unique in spelling, instead of Ndy, just make it ND (to retain the Notre Dame connection)

  21. Matt B. (Dayton) Says:

    “Roadster”. two syllables, great holler name. and rolls off the tongue nicely.

  22. John Henninger Says:

    How about PJ?

  23. My suggestion: Ol’ Calhoun. You could call her Callie for short. I recall from a previous blog post that you enjoyed seeing Ol Calhoun take the track again on pole day a couple years ago. Also in keeping with the Parnelli theme, Rufus would be a great dog name.

  24. Rose for Mauri Rose……Female name…..Great driver

  25. I vote for Sarah. It’s a great name for a female dog, easy to call. (We named our cat after Sarah Fisher 5 years ago, so I am biased).

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