When we think about celebrities who inspire baby names, we usually think about people. That’s only fair. After all, humans dominate any list of the rich and famous. But our species doesn’t have a total lock on baby name inspiration. Here, for your consideration, are five decidedly canine baby name influencers.
If you watched a kid-friendly double feature at a 1940s movie theater, you might l have encountered the intrepid German Shepard Rusty. The eight-film Rusty series promoted positive values while spinning tales of a young boy and his dog. The name, which previously had been mostly a nickname, more than doubled in popularity.
The biggest canine star of the 1970s, Benji was a small, mixed-breed dog and a movie headliner. In his first film, 1974’s Benji, he adorably foiled a gang of kidnappers. The number of humans named Benji rose by a factor of ten.
Chance was the American Bulldog narrator of the 1993 animal adventure film Homeward Bound. The name was already moderately common, but it rose to another level of popularity and never came back to earth. To be fair, action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme also played a character named Chance that same year, in an ultra-violent film about hunting humans. But Homeward Bound was a bigger box-office hit, and the name of the film’s Golden Retriever, Shadow, also hit its all-time popularity peak in 1993. The Bulldog definitely deserves a large share of the credit for Chance’s rise.
The film Shiloh, released in 1997, told the story of a boy sheltering the titular dog, a mistreated Beagle puppy. The name hit new highs for both boys and girls in the year of the film’s release. Human name influencer Shiloh Jolie-Pitt was born nine years later.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the all-time champion canine baby-name influencer. The memoir Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog came out in late 2005 and became a beloved best-seller. The book was adapted into a film in 2008. And boy, did human parents take notice. The number of babies named Marley tripled, and the name, which had never previously ranked in the top 500 in popularity, rose to #145 among all girls’ names. All because of one badly behaved but well-named dog.