By Gary Lloyd
I’m working on my sixth book, Sonny Days, the story of our rescue dog Sonny and other inspiring canine stories. I’m still in the latter phases of getting this book put together, but I wanted to share an excerpt from it.
The below excerpt comes from Chapter 3, which I titled Settling, and it focuses on the naming process after we adopted Sonny.
As we played with him in the floor that night, I scrawled a list of potential names on a notepad, and I fell asleep thinking about them, the brown dog in his small crate beside our bed. I had never named a dog before, and I wanted it to be perfect. In middle school, I named a crab from my biology class “Pincher,” and I was determined to improve upon that fiasco. I included Lamont for fun, as well as nine other names, including Winston and Crash. The others I do not remember now. I suppose they did not stand out in my mind or fit the personality of the little brown dog. I introduced him on Facebook officially the day after we got him, on March 9, 2015. “Finally have a name for the little guy,” I posted along with a headshot of the brown puppy. “This is Sonny.”
I was not quite sure how I came up with it at first. I suppose it just fit him. It sounded great, at least to me. I knew I wanted a name with multiple syllables, but not one that was too human-sounding, like Christopher or David or Kevin. That would have been downright peculiar. I did a lot of thinking on his name and several famous Sonnys in the aftermath of making it official.
Sonny Bono, the late husband of Cher, made sense, because lyrics included in the duo’s most famous song, “I Got You Babe,” go like this: “They say our love won’t pay the rent, before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent.” We loved the new puppy, but we had spent paychecks on a metal crate, collars, enough squeaky and chew toys to fill a trash can, fistfuls of treats, and truckloads of food. Sonny Corleone, the eldest son in The Godfather, also fit certain aspects of the puppy’s personality, most notably his hasty and rambunctious tendencies.
The puppy’s first few weeks alive, a tumultuous time in which he had to be tough even if he does not remember it, bring to mind the hard exterior of Sonny Crockett from Miami Vice or the steely glare of professional boxer Sonny Liston. As a teenager, one of my favorite punk rock bands was New Found Glory, and one of the band’s softest songs, titled “Sonny,” was the lead singer’s favorite from the 2002 Sticks and Stones album, according to an article in the Florida newspaper New Times Broward-Palm Beach. The song was written about the singer’s grandfather, and he said it has helped others when they have lost someone special in their lives. Sonny came to us in the year after my grandmothers died, so he certainly helped fill a void. Finally, I must come back to Adam Sandler. I left out a name from my list of his movie names on purpose, and it is because Sonny Koufax from the movie Big Daddy is not cheesy, and I do believe this is the character that stood out the most to me when choosing Sonny as the puppy’s name. The character lives in New York City and works one day a week as a toll booth attendant despite having a law degree. A five-year-old boy is dropped off by a Social Services worker for Sonny’s roommate, who is the boy’s father, and the two become inseparable. Sonny teaches the boy various things, and the boy helps Sonny get his life back on a positive path. There are hilarious moments, of course, but this movie is inspiring. Sonny, the character Adam Sandler portrayed, was stirring. I love that movie.
Jessica had a different spin on the meaning of the name Sonny. During that first spring with the lab-hound, it rained seemingly every day. It was not the occasional afternoon shower, either. There seemed to be flash flood warnings for weeks, and I found muddy puddles in the flat spots of our back yard. And this puppy, well, he had a bladder apparently the size of one kernel of corn. At eight weeks old, which Sonny was the day we adopted him, he should have had a bladder with a capacity of roughly an hour and fifteen minutes. Delete the one hour, and you had Sonny’s bladder capacity. He peed in the house constantly. There was no forewarning, either. He would pee on the living room carpet, I would take him outside to begin the association of urination and the outdoors, and he would pee in a new carpeted spot upon re-entering the house. He was so small at the time, too, and there are fifteen wooden steps from our back deck down to the yard below. There are gaps between each step. Because of Sonny’s diminutive size, he could not venture into the yard on his own, lest he fall through one of those gaps and critically injure himself, if not die. This meant every time Sonny needed to go outside, I was forced to cradle him like a football in the crook of my right arm, a large umbrella held up high in my left hand. We performed this same routine what felt like dozens of times each rainy night. The sky would be black as crows, and the cool night breeze would make my eyes water. I would take each of the fifteen steps slowly, careful not to slip on the rain-soaked wooden steps. Every time, I clutched Sonny as tight as possible, hoping I was not activating his eager bladder. When we reached the grass and I set him down, mostly he just stood there, eyes wincing as the rain drops fell on his brown head. He would not pee. He would just look at me, puzzled as to why I had set him in the rain. We would come inside soaked, and after just a few minutes of drying him off, he would relieve himself on the carpet again. Jessica had the same experience when I was out covering city council meetings and football games for the local newspaper. She set an alarm on her cell phone to notify her every fifteen minutes to take him outside. She would often stand there for twenty urine-less minutes or longer before bringing him back inside, where he would pee a few minutes later. When we were both home and it was getting late, we would both take him outside and wander the back yard with him, hoping for even a trickle of urine. We would take turns meandering across the grass with him as the other stood on the deck stairs, shining a flashlight. Sometimes this standoff went on for forty-five minutes and there would be no pee. I considered pitching a tent and sleeping in the back yard on those late nights.
So, how do you pull the name Sonny out of a story full of carpet stains? Beats me. But Jessica’s theory on the matter makes me smile. Rain is quite the metaphor. It can symbolize hard times, burdens, tears, and gloom. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Into each life some rain must fall.” Author John Steinbeck said, “One can find so many pains when the rain is falling.” During these early weeks with Sonny, I left my position as a newspaper editor, and that is as far as I will go on the subject. It was unexpected, and it also came five months after buying our first home. Talk about a hard time, a burden, tears, and gloom. I pressure-washed driveways for fifty bucks per home, most of them belonging to family or family friends, before landing a full-time job as the director of golf at a local golf course. Those times were not only difficult financially, but also emotionally and spiritually. How do you respond to your career, your passion, slipping away from you in the blink of an eye? How do you, believing you are a good person, keep the faith when you have to start your professional life over five months after committing to pay a monthly mortgage for thirty years? It was a thunderstorm of a time, with lots of metaphorical rain. But, as Jessica pointed out to me, the sun often seems brighter in the sky after a storm. It is inconceivably sunny. That was how Jessica thought about the meaning of Sonny’s name: a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel.
Check back for updates on the release date for Sonny Days.