“His name is … Levi,” we said with teary eyes as we held our newborn son in our arms, proudly showing him to our family.
“Oh, it’s perfect,” they cooed over the beautiful name we had chosen and the bundle of love who owned it.
Light, but energetic. A good name that would carry this little boy into adulthood, encompassing his heritage while allowing him his own path. Levi. The best boy name that had ever escaped our lips.
Only, that picturesque memory is not how it happened at all. When we used our favorite boy name of all time, it was on the mutt we rescued from the Humane Society. The conversation was more something like, “Yeah, I guess he looks like a Levi,” before we threw it up on Facebook. "We have a dog, his name is Levi!"
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Fast forward two years and, within minutes of finding out we were having a son, we were already pissed we'd wasted the perfect name on our dog.
My anger was not toward the dog. Not at all. It was at myself. I knew I loved that name. I knew kids were a possibility down the road. I knew that you could not have a dog and a child with the same name without it being considered some sort of cruelty. But I'd gone ahead and made the decision to use the name on our canine family member quickly, without foresight.
And so began months of “What do you think of (name)?” *sigh* “No, it’s not as good.”
Levi became the bar upon which all other names would be judged, and that bar was not set low.
Levi was family. He was my friend, my confidant, and, when I worked exclusively from home, my only colleague.
Like most of my experiences as a mother, that damn mom’s guilt crept in as I contemplated the situation I found myself in. Saying that I “wasted” the name on the dog made it sound like I didn’t love my dog or that he wasn’t worthy of a name we thought sounded good.
Levi was family. He was my friend, my confidant, and, when I worked exclusively from home, my only colleague. I spoke of him and treated him like he was somehow above other pets. There were dogs, and then there was Levi. I was known for being a little obsessed.
But if I’m being honest, he was not even close to being on the same level of my son. Levi was still family, still my friend and ally, but adopting him didn’t change who I was to the core. When we brought him home, I didn’t question my capabilities or worthiness, and I didn’t view the world through the lens of the new role I had taken on. I continued my normal life but with a dog that enhanced it.
The same can certainly not be said about my son. When I brought him home, I was changed, even though I may not have realized it right in that moment.
The biggest difference between my baby and my dog wasn’t the love. I have seen and experienced the bond between a person and their dog, and I would never trivialize it or make the argument that those people don’t know “real love” the way I do with my child.
No, the biggest difference was the level of selfishness in the relationship.
As much as we agonized over the name of our son, we now think that his name fits him perfectly.
We adopted the dog for reasons that fit our lifestyle. There were pragmatic reasons why his company improved our lives. I felt safer when I was home alone, knowing that he could easily scare away any perpetrator with a single bark. He didn’t judge me or ask questions when I wrapped my arms around his giant head and cried. He simply waited patiently. He allowed me to invade his personal space whenever I needed cuddles, and he greeted me with unbounded joy each time I returned home. My relationship with Levi was one that I could be selfish in. His existence was centered around pleasing me.
My baby, on the other hand, required me to be a hell of a lot more selfless. Instead of feeling safer, I worried more about every danger that lurked inside and outside the home. I was the one comforting him while he cried. And he invaded my personal space at all times, every day. This little baby was the selfish one, and I had to put aside my needs to keep him healthy and happy.
But for some reason, that was OK.
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As much as we agonized over the name of our son, we now think that his name fits him perfectly: Gray. It's a name we could picture calling our baby as he came into this world and the name of a man we could picture eventually contributing to that world as he got older.
As for Levi, it's still the best name we could have given our dog. He's so beautifully unselfish, he deserves it.