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Globe North

Dogs’ names say a lot about trends, owners

Jack Keating and his dog, Margie, at Rotary Park in Wilmington, her preferred walking venue. Margie was named by a dog breeder.

Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe

Jack Keating and his dog, Margie, at Rotary Park in Wilmington, her preferred walking venue. Margie was named by a dog breeder.

Forget about Fido and Spot. These days it’s Bella and Max.

Dog names, like names for children, go up and down in popularity. And the most popular dog names may change a bit from town to town, but generally what’s popular in one place is fairly popular elsewhere, too. That trend holds up nationally, as well.

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The Globe looked at dog names from 13 Greater Boston communities, including Andover, Gloucester, Revere, Wilmington, and Woburn. In all, we examined 50,000 names. The most popular overall were Bella, Max, Buddy, Bailey, and Molly. And let us not forget Lilly, Lucy, Maggie, Daisy, and Charlie.

Those names track closely to a 2012 national survey done by Vetstreet.com, which found the most popular male names were Max, Buddy, and Charlie. For females, it was Bella, Daisy, and Lucy. Bella has been popular since 2006, Vetstreet notes, shortly after the first “Twilight” book came out.

But dog names, unlike names for children, seem to cover more ground. They range from the mundane to the laughable, from the silly to the quaint. And lots of themes emerge. There are dogs whose names are drawn from the world of sports (Brady, Fenway, Jeter), the movies (Al Pacino, Scout Finch), music (Jagger, Bon Jovi), and even food (Dunkin, Big Mac, Noodles, Oreo). Oh, and did we mention animals? There’s Bear, Moby, Moose, and, of course, Snoopy.

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Like the names, the breeds in communities the Globe surveyed also roughly tracked the national figures, with some variations. The most popular in 11 communities were Labradors, golden retrievers, mutts, German shepherds, and chihuahuas. Nationally, it was Labs, German shepherds, golden retrievers, beagles, and bulldogs, according to the American Kennel Club’s numbers for 2012.

So where do owners get names for their dogs? We talked to some to find out.

At Rotary Park in Wilmington, across from the police station, Andrew Stevens was out with Dewey, a 5-year-old Lab, one recent day. And yes, Dewey was named after the magnificent-fielding, laser-armed Dwight “Dewey” Evans, right fielder for the Red Sox in the ’70s and ’80s. (Dewey the dog, alas, is all field, no throw.)

“I was a big Dwight Evans fan growing up,” said Stevens, who lives in Wilmington and works for a Boston law firm.

At the same park on a different, rainy day, Jack Keating was walking Margie. He didn’t pick the name. The breeder had so many puppies, they were named in alphabetical order, and Margie was there when “M” came around.

The retiree has had other dogs, though. Becky was named by his daughter. Then there were two dogs, one red, named Lucy and Ethel — a salute to the old “I Love Lucy” TV shows.

Margie loves her walks and gets to enjoy them twice a day, but won’t walk in the neighborhood where they live, said Keating. She’s afraid of all the traffic.

At the Ipswich River Park in North Reading, a popular spot for dog walkers, Laura McCarthy was walking Bella. Actually, racing Bella might be a better description. The dog was a brown blur as she tore around the park, ripping up pieces of turf with her long nails, her speed affirming her partial greyhound heritage.

McCarthy, a voice-over actress from North Reading, said Bella is a feist, a type of small hunting dog. It’s a mixed breed that is small, fast, rarely barks, and can even climb some trees, usually chasing squirrels.

“She’s like a ninja,” she said admiringly, referring to her speed and silence. Plus, there are no more squirrels in her yard.

Her dog, a rescue from Tennessee, is part greyhound, beagle, and terrier. She came to McCarthy already named with the most popular dog name out there.

Another dog at the North Reading park, Riley, an American Eskimo dog, bears the maiden name of Walter O’Rourke’s wife. The retiree from North Reading said the 11-year-old dog is even-tempered and good with children.

A previous dog, Kimba, had died at the age of 16. The day after the death, O’Rourke picked up Riley to help his grieving wife.

Nearby, an 8½-year-old Jack Russell terrier with the high energy of a puppy strained at his leash at the park. “He weighs 12 pounds and thinks it’s 200,” said Maura DeLeo, who grew up in North Reading and was visiting her parents, Jack and Kathy Tobin, off playing with their grandchildren, Ashley, 6, and Samantha, 4, at the playground. The dog, said DeLeo, has two speeds: stop and go.

His name is Mario — distinctly Italian. He’d originally been named Nemo Shaughnessy.

“My Italian husband, said, ‘That won’t do,’ ” said DeLeo, and the dog had a new name.

Ruby, a mutt, came from a tough background, said owner Samantha Jones, who was out with her boyfriend’s 5-year-old, Kai Gallien. When the Pilates instructor first got the rescue dog, the animal was terrified of men and children, especially if they picked something up. The dog would curl on the floor. Gradually, she’s done better. “It has some kind of dark past,” she said.

Ruby’s name is a short form of Troubador, a favorite horse from when Jones was a child.

Retiree Frank Campilio of North Reading was out walking Ace, a mini schnauzer. When told we’d encountered a few other retirees out walking dogs, the 65-year-old joked, “That’s what you do when you get old.”

Unfortunately, the 10-year-old Ace has gone blind, possibly because of his diabetes. Now Campilio is his guide, or “he’ll bounce off trees or whatever.” He gives the dog two shots a days for diabetes. Sometimes Ace tries to hide because he knows what’s coming.

“He’s a heck of a watchdog, but not violent,” said Campilio. “He’ll love you to death.”

Moose is the apt name for a large, 7-year-old English black Labrador. Anthony Moresco of Lynnfield is his grandfather, so to speak. His son bought the dog but then moved to the city, so the dog ended up with his parents.

“He’s the smartest dog I’ve ever had, and I’ve had dogs my whole life,” said the retired plumber.

No dog story is complete without a celebrity dog. Catie Copley, an English Labrador, works at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston as one of its “canine ambassadors.”

Catie visited a park in Quincy recently with Joe Fallon. Catie has had two children’s books written about her (one translated into French) and has her own business card, a Web page, and an e-mail address. And this celebrity dog has celebrity fans (just ask Fallon, who will gladly share pictures), who include actress Bernadette Peters, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, and rock star Elvis Costello.

Catie, black with some white around her muzzle, can normally be found hanging out at the concierge desk at the hotel, where she is happy to greet those who like dogs. Guests can also walk Catie and another Lab, Carly. She spends her off-time with Fallon, a concierge who lives in Stoughton.

It’s a little unclear how Catie got her name, Fallon said, but the dog is owned by the hotel’s employees. However, old news stories report that her original name was Katie, which was changed to Catie to match Copley. Fallon enjoys his side job as Catie’s assistant.

Is the 12-year-old a tough boss?

“She treats me very well,” he said.

Matt Carroll can be reached at mcarroll@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globemattc.
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