FARMINGTON – Stacie Voss walked down the aisle of dog kennels at the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter on a recent morning. Voss, the shelter’s animal welfare director, paused beside a kennel with what appeared to be a Labrador retriever mix inside.
The 6-year-old female’s name is Sandy, and she has been at the shelter since November. Voss said she hadn’t started working at the shelter when Sandy was brought in, but she suspects Sandy got her name based on her coat color.
When each animal arrives at intake, the person working intake gives the pet its name.
Some have common names like Max, a pit-bull mix who has been at the shelter since November, like Sandy. Other names are more unique, such as Muhammad, another pit-bull mix.
Voss said sometimes people read different things into the names. For example, she said a person told her Muhammad would be adopted if he had been given a “good Christian name.”
Other pets, such as two dilute tortoiseshell cats, Alice and Saphira, had names when they were surrendered by their owners. These names stay with the pets.
Pet names can be chosen based on physical traits or, when it comes to litters, on themes like flowers or holidays, Voss said.
She said the shelter currently has a mastiff mix they named Hulk because of his size. Chihuahuas often get Latino names such as Rico.
John Maez often works intake with the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter and is known for coming up with some of the more creative names.
To come up with names, he looks at behaviors of the pets. For instance, if a dog is jumping on tables and sniffing everything, he might name it Curious. He also watches the end credits of movies to find creative names.
Maez said most of the time, people change the animals’ names after adoption, but sometimes they keep the name and bring the dog in later for spay or neuter. He said it’s a good feeling when owners keep the names he chose.
His favorite name he gave an animal was Zero. Zero was an orange cat that reminded him of a childhood pet with the same name.
While names are assigned at intake at Farmington’s shelter, the naming process can take much longer at the Aztec Animal Shelter.
Rosemary Boucher, the support service secretary at the shelter, said she looks at breeds, personality, color and size when naming animals.
She said a large male German shepherd might get a name like Odin or Maverick, while a small dog would get a “little dog name.”
Cats often receive more generic names like Mittens or a brown cat could be named Cocoa.
Many of the pets still have “unknown” on their information sheets.
“Sometimes, it takes a couple days before we name them,” Boucher said.
With strays, the staff waits until the stray hold is up. The stray hold is the period of time the shelter keeps the animals waiting for their owners to reclaim them before putting the animals up for adoption. For animals with tags or microchips, the shelter waits five days. An animal with no identification is held for three days.
Some of the more memorable names for Boucher are names given to a pair of puppies who were found at the dump – Oscar and Stella, after “Sesame Street” characters who live in trash cans.