Afer losing our sweet Hana just a year ago, we are finally ready for a new puppy. She’s currently still with her Mommy waiting for us to go North and pick her up. We are very excited to meet her and have decided that her name will be Journey. I think it’s a pretty word, full of hope and promise and adventure. It signifies a passage or progress from one stage to another and surely Arnie and I are between life stages right now as we sell our home and prepare to RV full-time. Journey will join us in May when we travel to Maine to meet the little girl puppy who will join us along with Wicca and Cracker on our own journey.
At first, Cracker and Wicca may be less than thrilled to make room for her, but they are generous souls at heart and will make space. Eventually, Cracker, the African Grey will call her name and direct her through her day. He will ask her as he does our other dog, “You wanna go out?” He’ll praise her by telling her she’s a “Good Girl!” , and correct her with a sharp, “NO!” when she barks. He will boss her little four-legged self all the way to Sunday like he has all of our dogs. I wonder if Cracker wonders where they went after their relatively short lives came to conclusion? The lifespan of an African Grey far outpaces a dog’s and over the years he has said good-bye to Chance, Levi , Leo and Hana since he came to live with us. When Hana passed away a year ago, Cracker never said her name for months despite having talked with her daily. for 14 years. “Hana, come here. Hana, Hana. You’re a good girl.”, he would coo to her. When we arrived at camp last Spring where he associated Hana running about the yard, he whistled for her and called her name loudly, bringing me to tears.
Names are important. When we name our children we intuitively understand that a name can influence self-esteem and identity. For children, it can influence how they are seen and treated. When I added children to my own growing family many years ago I felt strongly that choosing their names was a great responsibility. There was such permanence to the decision. And my adopted children came with names that fit neither their new family or community situation. I searched for names that would give them the dignity of integration into a whole new world and lineage while still honoring who and where they had come from. Naming a beloved child is no easy task. In our spiritual practice, naming is a ritual that is not taken lightly whether the being that is being bestowed with a name is a child or any other sentient being. Thought must be given to the meaning and spirit of the name. Each time it is said out loud, a given name should be a whispered prayer that speaks to the heart of the relationship with that being. It can be a reminder that by naming, we are accepting responsibility for another’s well-being. When we speak a beloved’s name out loud with kindness and compassion, we affirm the bond between us. It matters not that we are speaking to a person or any other sentient being.
In the case of naming a pet, the name that we choose can be a constant reminder of what we value. In my case, I value the spiritual journey and those who are on it with me. A working definition to use could be that a spiritual journey is a process of reconciliation and education through and towards enlightenment. Each person’s journey is as unique and individual as that person. We make our journeys in our own unique way and time. By naming our new dog Journey, we hope to remind ourselves on a daily basis that this short life is just that. It is a journey towards enlightenment. Each time we speak her name we will enter into sacred relationship with her and she with us. We will affirm that we travel the road together holding on tight over the bumps and leaning on one another into the corners to stay steady and upright.
It’s good to have a friend for the journey and it will be good to have Journey for a friend.