A cemetery is a good place to study names, since unless you have the misfortune of being buried in an unmarked grave, your name is displayed prominently six feet above you. You’re tagged for eternity.
The same is true at pet cemeteries. More than 50,000 animals are buried at Aspin Hill, among them a pair of cats named Cat #1 and Cat #2.
Aspin Hill marked its centennial last year. Even older is Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, founded in 1896 in Westchester County, N.Y., and the final resting place for more than 80,000 animals. A company called FirstVet crunched Hartsdale’s numbers to see how names have changed over the years.
Analysts looked at 25,000 names that had been digitized. Over the past 115 years, Princess has been the most popular overall name for dogs at the cemetery. While Princess has never been the No. 1 most popular name in any single decade, it has consistently been in the top 10 since the 1960s.
The most popular name for cats over the past 115 years is Tiger.
Here’s how the lists break down over the decades. For dogs, the most popular name in the 1930s was Queenie; 1940s: Tippy; 1950s: Sandy; 1960s: Lady; 1970s: Brandy; 1980s: Max; 1990s: Max; 2000s: Max.
The cat data starts in the 1960s, when Cindy was the most popular name; 1970s: Ginger; 1980s: Tiger; 1990s: Smokey; 2000s: Smokey.
Remember, these are results based on a single cemetery. And the entire project was put together just to wangle publicity for FirstVet, which is an app that provides virtual veterinarian visits. Some of it strikes me as reasonably accurate. I definitely have witnessed the Max explosion over the past few years.
But I’m not sure I buy the reasoning FirstVet thinks is behind some of the names. The rise of the name Smokey for cats, the company wrote in a news release, “is potentially linked to 1977’s road action comedy film, ‘Smokey and the Bandit,’ starring Burt Reynolds (and its many sequels).”
I think that is overestimating the influence of that particular movie, though come to think of it, “Burt Reynolds” would be a great name for a pet.
FirstVet posits that “Tiger” might be “a legacy of the earliest domesticated cats in America being European ‘tabby’ cats, with distinctive tiger-like striped markings (before the importation of Asian breeds).”
Sure, why not.
FirstVet was co-founded by a Swede, David Prien. I asked him whether the names data from Hartsdale Pet Cemetery surprised him at all.
“Speaking from Sweden, a country with a monarchy, it is interesting to see how many American pet owners will endow their furry friends with a regal or aristocratic title,” he wrote in an email. “These are the names we bestow on animals we adore, cherish and care for. So it’s an interesting choice for a country which has been proudly independent since 1776!”
I asked David what his own pets are named.
“I have a working springer spaniel named Chili, named after the first thing she tried (unsuccessfully!) to eat, when we got her home,” he wrote.
David also has a German spaniel whome he let his 5-year-old cousin, Esther, name. The name Esther chose for the dog? Esther.
At the same time FirstVet was trying to drum up publicity, Rover, the service that matches owners with dog walkers, was doing something similar. They sent me a list of most popular dog names, based on users of their app.
According to Rover, the top 10 male dog names in the United States are 1: Max; 2: Charlie; 3: Cooper; 4: Buddy; 5: Milo; 6: Bear; 7: Rocky; 8: Duke; 9: Tucker; 10: Jack.
The top 10 female dog names are 1: Bella; 2: Luna; 3: Lucy; 4: Daisy; 5: Lola; 6: Sadie; 7: Molly; 8: Bailey; 9: Stella; 10: Maggie.
There were some slight differences at the tail end of the top 5 names for Washington dogs. Teddy and Rocky were Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. For females, Coco came in at No. 5.
Rover also claims that the No. 1 “trending” dog name in Washington is Cyber.
Julianne Mangin has spent hours at the Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery. The records aren’t in a state that would make analyzing them easy, she said, but the favorite name she’s seen is Squedunk, a word that is a synonym for “podunk.”
Said Julianne: “I just like the sound of it.”
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.