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By Mary Beth K. (with additions by Robyn M.)
A new litter of puppies has just been born into the Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) program. For right now, they are in the home of their breeder/caretakers, who are responsible for keeping both the mother dog and puppies clean, warm, healthy, fed, and socialized. In just eight short weeks, the puppies will be turned in to CCI headquarters in Santa Rosa, California. There they will be health checked, tattooed, and named before being sent to their puppy raisers around the country.
How does CCI go about naming all their puppies? With hundreds of puppies being born to CCI each year, and with CCI having to name each and every one, it is no surprise that they have a puppy naming system all worked out.
For every litter born to CCI, a letter is assigned. This letter will be the first letter of every puppy’s name. For example, in the "B" litter, there may be pups named Bordeaux, Belgium, Boston, Brazil, etc. By using this method, CCI can more easily track litter trends, puppy behaviors, and features.
Since new litters are always being born, CCI chooses the litters’ letters by working their way through the alphabet, from A to Z. Of course, it can become very difficult to come up with a lot of Q, and X names, so CCI has eliminated them from use, as well as U, V, W, Y, and E, which have been used before, but are frequently put into "retirement". D, P, and Z are only used rarely, for certain dogs.
Puppies donated to CCI by private breeders or show dog breeders are assigned names beginning with D. A dog with a name beginning with P indicates that it was a purchased dog. And finally, a dog with a CCI father, but a guide dog mother is designated a name beginning with Z.
(CCI occasionally breeds their females to guide dog sires, and CCI sires to guide dog females, in order to introduce a new gene pool to the organization’s dogs. In exchange for the breeding, the owner of the female often gives a puppy or two to the other organization.)
CCI often works its way through the alphabet (not counting the "retired" and designating letters) about every two to three months. With that in mind, and considering that Labradors and golden retrievers frequently have litters of eight to twelve puppies, CCI must come up with an average of forty-five names of each letter every year!
So how does CCI come up with a name for each puppy? There are several different ways. The "naming committee", at CCI headquarters in Santa Rosa, California, officially names the pups, either from their own list of names, or from submitted names.
CCI has a computerized list of names which shows the names are "active" (no two active puppies, ADITs or Service Dogs can have the same name at the same time). It also lists those that are available for "re-use." With hundreds of puppies being born each year, over the last two and half decades, sometimes a puppy receives a previously used name. Once a CCI dog has been released or retired, the name can be used again with a II or III or even sometimes more. In order to avoid confusion, the puppy is identified as "Bordeaux II", or "Jake IV", for example.
Breeder/caretakers are also given the opportunity to suggest names for some of the puppies in their litter. Since CCI also assigns names, only some of the suggestions will be chosen. Breeder Caretakers are asked to consider the following when submitting suggestions:
The CCI committee reviews the available names, and assigns them to the puppies, considering gender, but not color or personality, or other factors. Other names may be chosen in honor of someone, whether they be family, friend, CCI volunteer, or someone they feel deserves the "honor". Some CCI puppies have been named for people who make large monetary contributions to CCI. If you would like more information on this, please contact the Breeding Department.
In this way, each and every CCI puppy is given a unique name, to have through its life.
However, the CCI Naming Committee generally asks the Breeder Caretakers for suggestions about Week 2, and assigns the names around Week 4. Recently, the Breeder and Puppy Program Cooridinator has agreed to call the Breeder Caretakers with the "tentative names" of the puppies around the sixth week. That way, the BC's can begin teaching the puppies their names! Even if there are last minute changes, "most" of the puppies will know their names when they ship out!
To see many of the names that are in use check out the Litter Lists web site, or the CCI dog lists on the YahooGroups CCI-People site.
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