The annual cousin’s reunion. Tables filled with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, casseroles and enough dessert to give someone sugar shock. Every year we have a family gathering in my dad’s big barn with a pot luck lunch and plenty of reminiscing and entertaining banter. This past year Clementine, our tiny bulldogge puppy, tagged along. She enjoyed the day tussling and playing with my parent’s Boston Terrier, Lola. While I’m certain that God made Clementine especially for me, I’m also convinced that He had Lola in mind as well. I think Lola needed a friend and God sent her a best friend in Clementine.
As I observe Lola brimming over with excitement each time Clementine comes to visit, my heart is filled with joy. Lola rushes to grab the most interesting and desirable toy in the room to offer up to her cherished companion. When cookies are doled out, Lola generously drops her cookie at Clementine’s feet as a love offering. Lola loves to run, and by run I mean bolt through the yard like a shot. Lola is fast. Clementine isn’t. At least not by Boston Terrier standards. It’s heartwarming to watch Lola instigate a game of chase only to slow down or stop and roll over, belly up, so that Clementine can not only keep up, but tackle her. The cultivation of this sweet little friendship has been a blessing not only to Lola and Clementine, but to me. To witness the generosity and kindness expressed by these pups as they pour out love in its purest form is transformative. There are never any false pretenses with dogs. No ulterior motives. But that pondering is deep and wide and for another day.
As the day’s festivities unfolded everyone took an interest in meeting Clementine, the tiny pup that was bottle fed. The little miracle puppy. She soaked up the attention and pranced around with her most adorable wiggle-butt maneuvers. Everyone was smitten. My uncle looked on with a smile and then asked her name. We told him her name was Clementine and he nodded amusingly. The name was her litter name and it simply stuck. We chose the theme of folk songs for that litter of pups and among the list of songs was Clementine. This little nugget of a pup wore the name so well that we decided to keep it and began affectionately referring to her as our little tangerine. You know, like the Cuties Clementines? She was no bigger than a tangerine for many weeks and she was also sweet with a twist of tart, so the analogy seemed fitting.
What’s in a name? When God gave Adam the privilege of naming all of the animals, he was charged with the responsibility of calling forth their personality, their very being. It wasn’t a string of letters, verbiage or simple words that were given in the garden of God. A name is much more than that. A name encapsulates a being’s very nature, personality and character. Is it really any different as we name our companion animals today. We look into them and catch a glimpse of who they truly are and we give them a name that we believe best sums them up. It’s why naming a new puppy is fun and, at times, challenging. Finding just the right word to pin onto a furry little creature that we already love with an intensity we can’t articulate is no small task. It can take much time and thought to settle on the perfect name for our beloved pets. But sometimes names suddenly emerge without any reflection or forethought. Like an angel dropped them out of the sky, they suddenly spring forth and fit perfectly. Turpentine is such a name as that.
After a day of eating, touch football and catching up on the happenings in everyone’s lives, we all began to box up leftovers, put away the tables and engage in long drawn out goodbyes. In the south goodbyes turn into conversations that last at least another hour. In the course of time, my uncle again approached Clementine and as he listened to everyone talking to and about her, he let out a chuckle. He admitted that up until that moment he thought we were calling her Turpentine and had went the whole day referring to her as such. That gave us a good laugh and we began to affectionately refer to her as Turpentine when she was being defiant, stubborn and just plain ornery. Turpentine, or The Terp for short, has become her alter-ego title. As sweet and affectionate as Clementine is, she is equal parts sass and attitude. I’m always amazed that God could pack so much personality into such a tiny package. She’s independent, opinionated and strong-willed. She’s adorable, charismatic and affectionate. As with anyone, words fall short of accurately capturing who this tiny fireball really is. She’s my sweet little tangerine, Clementine, most days, but sometimes she’s a shot of turpentine.