The littlest giant panda at the National Zoo has a name: Xiao Qi Ji. It means “little miracle,” and it’s fitting for a cub whose birth made its mother, 22-year-old Mei Xiang, the oldest giant panda to give birth in the United States.

You probably haven’t had to christen your own giant panda cub, but there’s a good chance you’ve had a pet you had to choose a name for. I recently asked readers how they decided what to call their animal friends.

Bill Schneider of Annapolis, Md., once had a golden retriever who was not very large. He chose to name him Procy.

As Bill explained: “Procyon is the main star in the constellation Canis Minor, i.e., the lesser dog as compared with the constellation Canis Major.”

And so Procy was a small dog star.

One day after school, Virginia Johnson found a black kitten wandering in the front garden of the house she grew up in outside of London. Wrote Virginia, now of Alexandria, Va.: “We rather unimaginatively called him Teatime because that was when he arrived.”

Hey, I think that’s much better than calling your cat “Dinner.”

When Carol Jo Roeder was a teenager, her father brought home what looked like a tiny buffalo. “It was a Newfoundland puppy, completely black with a huge head,” wrote Carol Jo, of Columbia, Md. “We named him Buffalo Dog. This of course was immediately shortened to Buff, but we always got very strange looks when we called this huge black dog ‘buff’! Were we all colorblind?”

Annabel and Ron Lesher of Easton, Md., have two cats: Ebenezer and Florence, or Eb and Flo, as the water-loving felines are called. “They cavort along the tidal Miles River here in Talbot County,” Ron wrote.

In spring 2006, Debbie King adopted a 1-year-old terrier mix from Pet Rescue of Maryland. The little dog was named Brady.

“As a diehard Washington Football Team fan, I couldn’t in good conscience call him Brady, so I changed it to Joe Gibbs,” wrote Debbie, who lives in Lewes, Del.

Joe Gibbs was sweet, friendly and compassionate. He turned out to be a wonderful therapy dog, the perfect companion when Debbie visited nursing homes and hospitals.

“Even though some of the people admitted that they were Eagles or Dallas fans, they didn’t hold that against him,” Debbie wrote. “The best part was, as we left each visit, I would remind them to let their families know that ‘Joe Gibbs’ had visited them!”

Debbie said Joe was a wonderful ambassador for therapy dogs — and his name was a terrific ice breaker.

“Sadly, he recently passed away at the age of 15,” she wrote. “Joe Gibbs, the dog, couldn’t have had a better role model than Joe Gibbs, the man.”

In the 1970s, Mike Milligan’s family got a kitten from a friend. The cat was so small and scrawny that Mike’s mother decided he needed a big name.

“Thus he was dubbed Charlemagne,” wrote Mike of Columbia. “He grew into the size of the name, but not the regalness of it.”

Emily Johnston’s son once came home from school and announced that a kitten was hanging around a corner near where the neighborhood children caught the school bus.

“They were feeding it baloney out of their sandwiches, so of course it hung around,” wrote Emily, of Sykesville, Md. “So I went down in the car, got out, called ‘Kitten!’ and bingo, here comes the kitten.”

The family adopted the kitten, who turned out to have extra toes on his front paws. That made him look like he was wearing boxing gloves. And that inspired his name: Dempsey, after prizefighter Jack Dempsey.

Dempsey lived to be 18. Wrote Emily: “Best cat we ever had, and we’d had many.”

Larissa Tung-Berry of Falls Church, Va., once had a Lhasa apso who was extremely protective of her. How protective? When Larissa got married, the dog bit her husband seven times.

And the dog’s name? Yeti.

Simply abominable.

Tomorrow: More tales of animal names.

Twitter: @johnkelly

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