Reprinted with permission of The Lutheran.
Move over, "Fluffy" and "Fido." You've been replaced - by Lutherans whose faith has influenced the naming of their pets. Responding to a call in the July issue of The Lutheran, readers not only reported faith-full names but also served up stories to go with them.
Not surprisingly, Martin Luther is a driving force for some pet owners. "We named our dog 'Lute' - short for Lutheran," wrote Steve Tangen, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Dickinson, N.D. "We wanted to be an ecumenical household, so we decided if we got a cat, we would name it 'Cat' - short for Catholic."
Judith Helm, a retired ELCA pastor living in Cary, N.C., named her brother and sister cats Martin and Katie. "They are Lutheran cats, after all," she said.
Of their greyhound named Martin Luther, Earl and Donna Dinger, Denver, Pa., wrote: "He doesn't show any tendencies toward preaching and theology. However, he does appreciate good music and 'sings' very well!"
Elizabeth and Leonard Notto, Tucson, Ariz., adopted an abused dog, Shad, who had been kept outside in the Arizona heat. "It was like being in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3). We renamed him Shadrach," they said. "He's loved, spoiled and enjoys the doggie door. He stays in the house where it's nice and cool!"
One Sunday about 16 years ago, a pastor of Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Red Bank, N.J., announced: "Many things come to the church door, but this morning was a first - a box of kittens." Lorraine Ayres, Little Silver, N.J., took one home and named it Tabitha - this set a precedent for other family cats named after Cornelius, Thomas, Priscilla, Benjamin, Timothy, Andrew and Keturah.
Mona Lackore's family had a string of bad luck with cats that had anything but nine lives. So she named the next one Moses Methuselah in hopes of a long life. "He did survive significantly longer than his immediate predecessors," said the Willmar, Minn., resident.
Jean Johansson, Minneapolis, said she'd like to be able to say she has a deep reason for naming her Shih Tzu Shiloh. "I honestly just like the way it sounds," she said.
Roberta Palen, Virginia, Minn., rescued from a cat sanctuary a Main coon who was "cowering in a corner because he wasn't used to so many other cats." Believing he needed a strong name and because of his colored fur, she named him Joseph. "I later found out his caregiver at the sanctuary was a sister (nun) of St. Joseph."
A German shepherd/Australian sheepdog was named Boaz by Laura Rudgers, Poway, Calif., and Julie and Dave Steffenson, Little Falls, Minn., thought Samson was the perfect name for their sheltie with silky, long hair.
A dog covered with sores took residence under Rennard and Grace Svanoe's van as they returned to mission work in Anahuac, Chihuahua, Mexico. "The parable of the rich man and Lazarus came to mind," they said. Lazarus, who appeared a "scrawny coyote mix," became, with treatment, a handsome malamute.
The cat who came to Pastor Nancy Lund, Stockbridge, Ga., after fending for herself for a few months had a disposition that earned her the name Jezebel. She "loved to get close to people, even strangers, and was very affectionate. But she had a wicked streak. She would lick you and then sneak in a little bite. ... We named her after 'the wickedest woman in the Bible.' "
Marsha Swenson, pastor of First Lutheran Church, Lee, Ill., had said "no more cats" after saying farewell to her 21-year-old feline. But then a kitten showed up under her front porch - she named him Moses. When a year passed, Moses invited the Sunday school to his birthday party. "We played Pin the Tail on Moses and experienced all 10 plagues of the flight from Egypt - crawly creatures, impromptu frog races and red Kool-Aid for the Red Sea ...."
Swenson decided she was too busy at the annual blessing of the animals to bring Moses. But he showed up on his own - "watching the proceedings from a nearby field and teasing one of the well-behaved dogs," she said.
A shaggy black and white puppy named Angel "adopted" Kim Rapczak the day she visited a shelter "just to look." Her mother had died, and Rapczak had just moved back to her mother's house. She named her cat Angel "because she was a messenger of God's love to me." Angel went with her to seminary, on internship and, after ordination, to the office almost daily before dying at age 11. Rapczak is pastor of St. John of the Cross (Dravosburg, Pa.) and Holy Spirit (Clairton, Pa.) Lutheran churches.
A mini-schnauzer was also a bearer of God's love to Mary Weinkauf, pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church, Minocqua, Wis. Weinkauf decided at age 3 to be a pastor but was told girls can't do that. At age 49, she fulfilled her dream: She entered seminary. Ten years later she got a puppy she named Mary Magdalene.
Some pets are named after other religious leaders or seasons of the church year: a cat named Bede, for the Venerable Bede, a famous 7th century Benedictine; a Gordon setter named Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf, after a Lutheran nobleman who allowed Moravians to settle on his land; a cat named Caspar (a wise man), rescued on Epiphany; and a kitten named Marky, born on St. Mark's Day. Noting that Mark's Gospel begins with the story of John the Baptist, J. Thomas Shelley, pastor of Zion (Shaffer's) United Lutheran Church, Hanover Junction, Pa., says Marky (a.k.a. Markios) "has an extraordinary fascination with water and often 'drowns' his toy mice in the water dish."
And finally, there's the three-legged cat Gloria Mengle, Reading, Pa., started feeding and eventually invited into her home. She named him Trinity.