Fauci is a 2021 trending pet name — maybe animals can help humans reconnect after the pandemic

The pandemic has even affected the way we name our cats and dogs.

On Tuesday, the good humans at Rover.com, an online marketplace catering to our furry friends, released its annual list of “Canada’s Most Popular Pet Names and Trends of 2021.” As the company let me know in an embargoed release the night before — I was sworn to secrecy under the threat of fostering an aggressive ferret named “Lauren Boebert” — pet naming this year was influenced by COVID-19.

Maybe a friend adopted a cat and named it “Delta” or “Zoom,” two new feline additions in 2021. Or perhaps there is now a dog on your block named “Rona” or “Fauci,” both of which debuted in 2021 as trending canine sobriquets.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is a fascinating public figure. To some, he’s a good man who has tried to steer the world through a once-in-a-century health crisis with reason and scientific expertise. To others, he is a showboating Satan. The polarization is bizarre.

On Monday, Fox’s Lara Logan compared Fauci to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. Wow.

I will simply point out nobody is naming their cats or dogs “Lara Logan.” What happened to her? She was once an emerging superstar in the foreign correspondent ranks. Now, she’s having Tupperware parties with Maria Bartiromo as they compete to see who can cram the most Crazy Flakes into a Super Cereal Storer.

According to Rover, space travel also inspired pet naming in 2021. Dogs named “Mars” spiked by 496 per cent this year. Huge, yes, but not as big as “Venus,” which had a 722 per cent increase. If I ever got a dog — and my daughters are now threatening to run away if we don’t — I’d be partial to “Andromeda” or “Cassiopeia.”

I’ll tell you who should be disturbed by this new pet name survey. Our prime minister. There are undoubtedly snoozy Saint Bernards named “Biden” and dachshunds in Munich named “Merkel.” But according to Rover, in a line that made me spit out coffee on Tuesday, “there are no dogs or cats named Justin or Trudeau in Canada.”

I have no idea how Rover can state this as fact. Then again, I have yet to stumble upon a preening poodle in fancy socks that condescends to other dogs in the off-leash park with woke platitudes while running up the national debt.

Other trending pet names in 2021 came from Canadian athletes and popular culture: “Maggie,” “Penny,” “Andre,” “Twyla,” “Moira,” “Lucifer,” “Arya,” “Stark.” “Norm,” as in the late and eternally great Norm Macdonald, is now a popular dog name. Meanwhile, “Drake” witnessed an 83 per cent rise. More Canadians this year named their pets “Britney,” or turned to “Star Wars,” as “Leia,” “Obi,” “Yoda” and “Boba” became statistically significant. Pet names based on superheroes included “Loki,” “Pepper,” “Thor” and “Bucky.”

It seems Canadians also turned to food and booze when naming pets: “Pepper,” “Olive,” “Oreo,” “Maple,” “Cookie,” “Honey,” “Guinness,” “Tito,” “Caesar” and “Pinot.” The name “Donut” went up 122 per cent this year, presumably by Canadians who never entered a Tim Hortons to sample the new Timbiebs Timbits.

I apologize for so many lists, which are no fun to read. But indulge me so I can get through the obligatory Toronto highlights for 2021. Top Male Dog Names: 1. Milo. 2. Leo. 3. Charlie. 4. Max. 5. Teddy. Top Female Dog Names: 1. Luna. 2. Bella. 3. Coco. 4. Daisy. 5. Lola. Top Male Cat Names: 1. Oliver. 2. Oscar. 3. Leo. 4. Simba. 5. Finn. Top Female Cat Names: 1. Luna. 2. Lola. 3. Bella. 4. Sophie. 5. Daisy.

When I emailed my editors on Tuesday morning to notify them of today’s subject, I’m sure they were thinking, “I’m sorry, what? You’re writing about pet names?” Yes, and I’d do it again tomorrow. When Lara Logan compares Dr. Anthony Fauci to Josef Mengele, we humans have crossed the Rubicon of decency. Somehow, and this has accelerated during the pandemic, we have gotten remarkably good at demonizing anyone and everyone on two legs who does not share our beliefs.

So here’s my admittedly sketchy theory: loving animals might just be what we humans need to reconnect with one another. Let’s say I get my daughters a dog soon — if you have any breed suggestions, please email me — and I’m walking my new dog named “Salma Hayek.” I know in my heart I would welcome any sidewalk chit-chat with other dog owners, even if their beast was garbed in a MAGA sweater.

Our connection would be forged as animal lovers. Politics would cease to matter in those chance encounters. My beloved Burmese cat, born in 1999 and named Satchel Maui Meowy, went to kitty heaven earlier this year. She was the greatest. I can’t tell you how much my heart still aches. Missing her wakes me up at night.

This pandemic triggered a massive increase in pet ownership, no matter the naming trends. Hopefully, abandonment rates do not shoot up when life gets back to normal. Pets offer something we humans still can’t manage for each other: unequivocal love.

There are no trolling terriers or hostile Himalayans. All a cat or dog wants — even if you’ve named it Siri or Google in 2021 — is to be part of the family.

Love your pets. Love your neighbours.

Whether Fauci is a dog or a misunderstood human, we are all in this together.

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