Fauci is under my desk. He isn’t wearing a mask; he never does. He doesn’t social distance or wash his hands frequently — because he doesn’t have any.

Fauci is my dog.

I’m not the only one who thought it would be funny, inspiring and memorable to name my pandemic pet after the most prominent science guy since, perhaps, Einstein (the name, by the way of George Clooney’s late cocker spaniel). Fauci is gaining popularity as a name for pets, according to Rover.com, achieving “honorable mention” on its most popular list of 2020. Also on the rise, dogs named after Fauci’s foe: Covi, Rona and Corona. Alas, Rand and Trump did not make the cut.

Is Fauci threatening to steal the top spot from Max, Charlie or Cooper — or follow the meteoric rise of Lizzo (up 458 percent in 2020)? Probably not.

Still, Fauci is in many ways a perfect dog name. Two syllables that end on a happy “e!” sound make it an ideal moniker for beckoning, cuddling and, yes, reprimanding. The name means “jaws” in Italian, a fitting homage to the chewing and eating that take up so much of a dog’s life. Also, of course, there’s the personality of Fauci the man: tenacious. And, depending on your politics: intelligent, empathetic and loyal.

“He’s resilient with a happy face,” Donna Shalala, a former Health and Human Services secretary, said of her Fauci dog, a rescue she got in July 2020. Shalala, who has known Anthony S. Fauci the human since the 1980s, said her nine-pound mixed breed “has Tony’s personality completely. He only barks at huge dogs” (wink-wink).

Although some might say using the name Fauci for a pet is disrespectful — to the dog or the man (depending on your politics), many owners say they chose the moniker to honor the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as their furry friends.

During the coronavirus pandemic, “Dr. Fauci was a source of hope and comfort for us, providing straight talk and helping people manage expectations,” said Amy Goldrich, a lawyer in New York who owns a 11-month-old Boston terrier she and her husband call Maximo Fauci. “The breeder had named him Max, so we wanted to stay close to that and found ‘Maximo.’ Then ‘Fauci’ just seemed to flow. Dr. Fauci himself is feisty and probably the smartest one in the room most of the time. That’s Maximo Fauci in a nutshell.”

Actress Jennie Garth of “Beverly Hills, 90210” fame picked the name for her Chihuahua because she thought he looked like the infectious-disease expert. (Is it the hair, the eyes, the ears? I don’t see it.)

Shalala, now a trustee professor of political science and health policy at the University of Miami, said her rescue dog needed an Italian name, because he had been seen running through a tony Italian restaurant in Coconut Grove, and Fauci fit the bill. “He loves pizza crusts,” Shalala said of her pup.

Megan Broom, who works at a restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, chose the name for her Anatolian shepherd-Great Pyrenees mix after the dog wouldn’t respond to his original name. Broom, who lost her stepfather to covid-19, chose Fauci out of admiration for the doctor; also, she says, her pup has “mask markings, which I thought was a cute coincidence.”

Hi Uan Kang Haaga, an art teacher and photographer in the District, said Fauci, her Portuguese water dog, may be just the beginning. If she got another pup, she would name her Karikó, after Katalin Karikó, a researcher whose work on mRNA therapies were vital to the development of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines.

Writer and comedian Akilah Hughes thought the name Dogtor Starfox Fauci, “Fauci” for short, was perfect for her Jindo Shih Tzu mix because it was a way to “associate something happy with the pandemic.” Her little pup, with his “incredibly active ears” was “truly the best thing to happen to me while on lockdown,” she said.

I know the feeling. My family of four added Fauci, a red-haired labradoodle, to our fold in November. After months of schooling and working from home, we were getting sick of one another; we needed another being to love and care for. In the photos sent by the breeder, our yet-to-be-known dog looked wise, if a little sad, a little world-weary. As it turned out, unlike the human Fauci, our Fauci isn’t especially mighty: If he were to be confronted by unmasked anti-vaccine protesters or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), he would probably bark a little, then cry and walk away. But we believed in him, and in the months that he has been with us, Fauci has both toughened up and grown friendlier. He loves a good belly rub, but if you try to give him a condescending pat on the head, you’ll get a growl.

Perhaps my Fauci would be heartened to hear of his many name twins on Instagram, a veritable dog park of Faucis: a black Lab in Missouri training to be service dog; Sir Fauci the goldendoodle in Brooklyn; an Australian labradoodle in Rotterdam, where, apparently, the name has been a bit of head-scratcher.

With restrictions lifting and schedules changing, both pets and humans are experiencing separation anxiety. (Monica Rodman, Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)

“Turns out no one in the Netherlands knows Dr. Fauci,” says his Dutch American owner, Sera DiMario. “Or they think I’m saying ‘foutje,’ which is the Dutch word for ‘mistake.’ So, I’m often explaining his name is not mistake and he’s named after an American scientist.”

Like their human counterpart, Fauci dogs sometimes spark controversy. Hilary Mauro, a director of development at a biomedical research foundation, says that when she walks her Cavapoochon puppy, Fauci, in Manhattan, “everyone cracks up and loves the name.” But when she and her husband visit family in Florida, it’s a different story. “We received responses like, ‘Well, I hope he is smarter than the real Dr. Fauci,’ or ‘Ew, why would you name it after him?’ and lots of eye rolls and exasperated sighs.”

For the most part, Mauro said she kept her retorts to herself. But “when people would say, “I hope he is smarter than the real Dr. Fauci,’ I would usually respond with something like, ‘Those are some pretty big shoes to fill!’ ”

The human Fauci seems both appreciative of and a bit surprised by his canine namesakes. “I don’t think I feel flattery about it,” he said by phone. “I just think it’s kind of interesting.” The NIAID director adores dogs — his beloved mixed-breed, Bubba, died about a decade ago, and he enjoys playing with his daughters’ dogs, Lucca and Sammie.

“During these stressful times, having a dog who has nothing but love for you is great,” he said, adding that he’s “getting closer and closer to wanting to get a dog.” (No word on names he’s considering, but it’s unlikely that Fauci is in the running.) As for everyone else: What you name your dog “is entirely up to you,” he said.

Although when I mentioned that a neighbor had named her (female) chicken Fauci, he laughed and said, “It gets weirder by the moment.” It does.