by David Cook

The man on the other end of the phone asked for her name, then snorted and said, ‘I prefer dogs myself.’

Cat Person also preferred dogs, but she couldn’t face getting into conversation with this snickering gibbon. Instead she grunted and replied: ‘I’d just like to order a pizza, please.’

Her parents had told her, ‘Ooh, we just liked the name Cat, we didn’t even think about it,’ and Cat wondered how they could possibly not have thought about it. It was only a marginally less obvious error than if Mr. and Mrs. Mouse were to name their firstborn Mickey. But things were what they were. She could have changed her name, but thought there would be lots of paperwork and she did enough of that in the office.

Then she met the future. He was new, working on the reception at the gym in her rundown bit of South London, and his nametag said ‘Hello, my name is Dog Person.’ She read this unbelievingly, membership card hovering in her hand. He saw where she was looking, gave her a half-grin and said, ‘Thing is, I prefer cats.’ Then he glanced down at her card. To his credit, only a slightly raised eyebrow gave away any surprise. ‘That’s a coincidence,’ he said.

His name had been Rex, he told her, and his mates used to laugh and tell him Rex was a dog’s name. Then one evening, after two or three drinks too many, he’d accepted a bet. Sure, he could have backed out the following morning in the cold light of sobriety, but a bet was a bet, so he changed his name. Now he liked it. It was unique, he said, as if Rex Person hadn’t been an unusual enough name to begin with.

‘Was there a lot of paperwork?’ she asked. There wasn’t, apparently, but she was already beginning to feel that maybe her name wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

So that was where it began. Cat found her visits to the gym becoming more frequent, and it wasn’t long before Dog asked her out on a date. They chatted, laughed, flirted and dated some more until Cat and Dog realized they were in love. It wasn’t long until they moved in together. And that was when the question arose. The big question, the one that all men and women in love are obliged, one day, to consider.

What about pets?

Dog preferred cats and Cat preferred dogs. Petty arguments began. Cat spoke at length about how loving dogs were, always in need of attention, and Dog said that was the exact thing he didn’t like about dogs, and that cats were better because they were independent and would go off and do their own thing. Which was, of course, exactly what Cat didn’t like about cats. For a while they fought, like two particular sorts of animal.

Eventually they compromised and adopted a rabbit instead. At first, neither were that keen on poor little Hot Cross, but after a couple of weeks of him wrinkling his nose and demolishing carrots, they began to dote on him. He was always there for a cuddle if you wanted one, but wasn’t bothered at all if you didn’t.  Perfect. Then they got another one to keep Hot Cross company, then a third, and then suddenly they found themselves with ten of the creatures.

So that sparked the other big question that all men and women in love are obliged, one day, to consider.

Should we open a rabbit sanctuary?

It was an easy one to answer. Soon they opened Cat and Dog’s Rabbit Shelter, quickly changing the name to the Bunny Barn when people kept calling to ask about adopting dogs and cats. They never looked back from that moment and soon after were married. Then, finally, came the time for them to answer the third big question that all men and women in love are obliged, one day, to consider. The answer was positive and it wasn’t long until Cat gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. It seemed only appropriate to name her Bunny.

Bunny Person is all grown-up now and when she has to tell people her name they smile and say things like, ‘I prefer hamsters myself.’ She complains to her Mum about this from time to time and is told, ‘Ooh, we just liked the name, we didn’t even think about it,’ and she wonders how they can possibly not have thought about it. She’s considered changing her name, but she asked her Dad about this and he said, ‘Well, there’s a lot of paperwork.’ Her Mum raised her eyebrows at that, but Bunny doesn’t know why. Now she is dating the guitarist from a local heavy rock group. He goes by the name of Ferret, which he prefers to his real name, Adrian. They’ve talked about marriage. Ferret insists that, if they do wed, he will take her name. He likes the idea of being a Ferret Person.

And Bunny swears to herself that if she and Ferret have children, the poor boy or girl will not be named after a domestic animal. Until years later that is, when Ferret suggests the name Birdie to his heavily pregnant wife and she thinks, ‘Ooh, I like that.’ 

‘I prefer fish myself,’ said the reverend at Birdie’s baptism.