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Soul Dog: How to settle on naming a puppy

    We’d gone through the exercise of naming a puppy before we even set our own eyes on her in person.

    We knew she was Italian.

    We knew she was going to be gorgeous. After all, we’d seen photos of her on the breeder’s Facebook page.

    Her name had to be something appropriate.

    We settled on “Bella,” the Italian word for “beautiful.”

    Her eyes, though, should have told us she was destined for a more definitive name.

    intense eyes of a Maremma sheepdog

    Her eyes told us she was going to be trouble from the very start.

    Her stares sparkled with a suspicion and may the goddesses help anyone who told her what to do.

    I needed to do a Lookdown photo of her for my recent challenge. Our gurus called it the Soul Searcher, a dog looking longingly up into the camera.

    My image of Bella made the top 10 of more than 40 other photographers around the world.

    But I don’t think her eyes are soul searching.

    I think they’re soul destroying.

    How to screw up naming a puppy

    You know what we didn’t know when we settled on Bella?

    Two things:

    1. Bella was, at the time, the most popular name for a female dog in the United States.
    2. What an asshole puppy she was going to be.

    I know, I know. All puppies are assholes. My best friend, Dana, asked me several times if I was sure a puppy was the right way to go.

    Because puppies are assholes.

    And this one especially so.

    the photo we saw of Bella before naming a puppy
    The first time we laid eyes on Bella was in a Facebook photo

    She wouldn’t come inside when told.

    She refused to get off the furniture and promptly returned to her new spot when forcibly removed.

    And seven years later, she is no less defiant.

    She is not afraid to tell us what she wants and when she wants it.

    When we were naming a puppy, we probably should have looked up the Italian word for “devil.”


    And but it doesn’t have such a lovely ring to it like “Bella” does, does it?

    That’s why we’ve added to it over these last seven years.

    Ladies and gentleman, I give you the more appropriately named “Princess Bella Bossypants.”

    Miss Bossypants, indeed

    Our full-grown puppy has a number of names, to be honest.

    When my fiance-now-husband left us in Kelowna to return home to Spokane Valley, he got a phone call from me.

    “Her name is Beelzebella.”

    portrait of a Maremma sheepdog

    “Nuh-uh,” he replied, “it’s Adorabella!”

    He had no idea what he would be dealing with when my visa was approved some months later and Bella and I moved to Spokane Valley to be with him.

    “You’re right, she does have a bit of the devil in her,” he soon declared.

    That was after our asshole puppy tore up several sections of carpet in the living room.

    He insisted, though, on tagging her with his own nickname: Shmoopy.

    Over the years, she really has become a shmoop. Still defiant and stubborn, she’s a far more gentle and snuggly creature than I ever imagined she would be.

    The Soul Dog Journey Project 

    These stories of Bella, to be told every Monday in 2022, are part of the Soul Dog Journey Project, an effort by my friend Marika at @dirtiedogphotography in Seattle. After losing her Soul Dog, Kerouac, last year, she’s put together a 52-week project that gets us telling the stories of how we are connected to our dogs and what they bring to our lives. 

    Each week, there’s a new story prompt to get our creative juices flowing. This week’s prompt is all about naming a puppy. 

    Funny thing about “Bella.” It is still the most popular name for a girl dog. That’s why I continue to work with her in French, commands I learned from a friend while living in Calgary with Shep.

    She would speak French to him and he would look at her like she was nuts.

    Now don’t be shy. Tell me in the comments the steps you took in naming a puppy, your puppy. Or did you find yourself a rescue dog and fall in love with him, name already attached?

    If you’ve found yourself here because you have a Maremma sheepdog that should have been named “Diavola,” well … you probably just know. 


    Dogs. Adventure. Outdoors. These words set Angela's heart afire. Angela Schneider, an award-winning writer and dog photographer, documents the story of you and your dog and the adventures you take together. Your portraits will be a statement piece in your home, art that will make your friends and family beg to hear its story.

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