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A troubling trend: Dog owners naming their pets after dictators

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Don’t get us wrong: We were horrified to learn of the Pennsylvania boarding kennel fire that killed 17 dogs, including a puppy owned by domestic maven Martha Stewart. (A propane truck driver was also treated for injuries caused by the fire.)

But we were, frankly, nearly as shocked by another aspect of the story: Stewart’s deceased puppy, a chow chow, was named Genghis Khan.

Now, don’t get us wrong, we enjoy unusual pet names. But if we were going to name a dog after a famous historical figure, we’re 100% certain we would pick a historical figure famous for something positive. The original (human) Genghis Khan is, in many parts of the world, considered -- to quote Wikipedia -- ‘a destructive and genocidal warlord.’

Is that the type of legacy you’d want for your pet? We certainly wouldn’t, but a perusal of the L.A.'s Top Dogs project gave us the troubling insight that at least 14 people would.

In Los Angeles alone.

The Top Dogs project is a database of L.A. dog registrations that was launched by The Times last year, and we’re quite convinced that we could spend hours examining it without ever getting bored. It’s chock-full of fascinating, if trivial, insights -- for instance, the most common name-and-breed combination in L.A. is a chihuahua named Princess (there are more than 1,200 of them). A pit bull was more likely to be named Rocky (there are more than 300 of those), and a chow chow like Stewart’s was often named for its ursine resemblance (more than 1,000 of them were named either Oso or Bear).

And at least three unfortunate L.A. dogsare named Genghis Khan. Another 11 are simply named Genghis (and we doubt their owners are referring to the oddly named L.A. music club Genghis Cohen).

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Troubled by this new knowledge, we did some more amateur sleuthing. Were Angelenos naming their pets after other brutal dictators as well?

As it turns out, this naming trend isn’t as uncommon as one might think, especially for the more powerful breeds often used as guard dogs.

For instance, L.A. has eight dogs named Attila (including three rottweilers and two boxers). There are 44 Neros (six of them are rottweilers), six Maos (including two chow chows) and one Stalin (oddly, a Labrador retriever).

Perhaps most shocking was the information that 15 L.A. dogs are named Hitler (mostly rottweilers, German shepherds, boxers and pit bulls). An additional 12 are named Adolf, including four German shepherds and three rottweilers. (We’re hoping against hope that at least some of those are misspelled tributes to debonair actor Adolphe Menjou, but maybe we’re just kidding ourselves.)

Why, why, why, we ask, would an owner saddle their pet with such an unpleasant moniker? Is such a name intended to be a joke? Perhaps a better question would be: Is anybody laughing?

We know we’re not.

-- Lindsay Barnett


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