Home News It’s Brutus, not Bruno! Remember the etiquette of your friend’s pet names.

It’s Brutus, not Bruno! Remember the etiquette of your friend’s pet names.


Kiyomi Lowe often hears people mispronounce her name, or sometimes forgets it altogether. “I pronounce it Naomi, Kaiomi, sometimes Kimmy,” she says. It doesn’t bother her: “I respond to anything.”

She’s less forgiving when friends and acquaintances forget the name of her dog, a Shar-Pei. “I often hear Bruno,” she says. She responds, “‘No, that’s Brutus!’ The dog doesn’t care. But he does.”

Ms. Lowe, a hairstylist at Al’s Barber Shop, a popular six-chair barbershop in Boulder near the University of Colorado, was having a heated conversation with her co-workers and several customers on a sensitive issue one recent morning: Should you learn the names of your friends’ pets? What’s the etiquette?

“It’s a huge problem,” says stylist Jen Himes, who admits she sometimes makes naming mistakes that are painful for her. “I call people by the wrong nicknames a lot. I’ll ask, ‘How about Pookie?’ And they’ll say, ‘It’s Rufus!’ Or something like that.”

“Most people would laugh,” she said. “But some would say, ‘That’s so offensive.’ ”

Ultimately, she adds, there’s a good way to determine whether you feel obligated to remember your pet’s name. “It depends on how important the pet is to your friend,” she says.

People in the barbershop, which happens to be a frequent haunt of this reporter, generally agreed with that assessment. The conversation centered around dogs, which some said were taken for walks and outings, unlike other pets, and therefore deserved to be better known than more personal animal companions.

“It’s discriminatory against cats!” Ms. Himes retorted. She laughed and said she wasn’t that worried about it. Even she didn’t always stick to her tuxedo cat’s name, Kosmos.

“I call her Katie,” she said.

Al Urbanowski, owner of Al’s Barbershop, noted that another key factor in whether you should remember a friend’s pet’s name is how important that friend is to you. Mr. Urbanowski, 58, still remembers the name of his best friend’s dog, “Whiskey,” when he was 9. Mr. Urbanowski said he now lives in a neighborhood full of dogs, and his past relationships with his neighbors make it difficult for him to remember both dogs’ and people’s names.

He noted that your relationships change as you age, which also changes what you can and should remember. Urbanowski said that when he was 25, his dog joined him on hikes and other social activities with friends, becoming an important part of those friendships.

“Once I had kids, the dog’s name became harder to pronounce,” he said. Remembering the dog’s name “is still a priority, but it gets pushed to the side.”

The group at the barbershop said that people who try to remember their friends’ pets’ names do have some responsibility, but friends who have pets may also have some responsibility by choosing a pet name that is easy to remember.

“The more interesting the name, the easier it is to remember,” Ms. Lowe said. “Like Derek.”

Was Derek memorable? Yes, she insisted.

“Luke Skywalker,” Ms. Himes recalled the name of one of her clients’ dog.

“Big Tuna,” said Al’s stylist Madisyn Crandell, who named one of her mother’s two English bulldogs. (The other, Lucy, was considered less memorable by the group.)

“Doug,” said Jason Owens, who had been standing by while his 11-year-old son, Ryder, got a haircut. Doug is the name of a friend’s corgi. “How could I forget a name like Doug,” Mr. Owens said. But he added that if Doug was a person’s name, he probably would have forgotten it.

The Owens’ Rottweiler, Derby, recently died. Mr. Owens said most of his friends didn’t remember Derby’s name, but they all remembered his nickname, “Cheeky.”

“She’s the sweetest dog,” Mr. Owens said. “Dumb as a rock, but the sweetest dog.” He doesn’t mind at all that his friend calls Derby Dumb, too. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, you’re right: She’s dumb as a rock.'”

Others have trouble remembering a pet’s name. Christian Huerta, a receptionist at Al’s, has a pit bull mix named Frieda. One of her friends repeatedly called her dog Freya. Ms. Huerta came up with a solution.

“I texted her multiple times when she was coming over and I said, ‘Freda, so nice to meet you’ — I would spell Frida,” Ms. Huerta said. “And my friend was like, ‘Freya!’ I was upset.”

Ms. Huerta reflected on this. “Maybe it’s not that serious,” she said. “Maybe I’m being too sensitive.” She then compared it to forgetting other important things, like birthdays.

“I think the reason it bothers me is because I love my dog ​​so much,” she said.

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