The wackiest pet names and how they came to be

Chew Barka’s name refers to the apricot toy poodle’s main activities during his trial overnight with eventual owners Michele and Peter Manzelli III. Chew Barka and cat Pico de Gato topped Veterinary Pet Insurance’s 2012 lists of the wackiest dog and cat names.
Lisa Flam writes

For the fourth year in a row, Veterinary Pet Insurance scoured their pet database of more than 485,000 animals for the wackiest-named cats and dogs around. Meet the pets who inspired these madcap monikers, and the creative owners who came up with them.

Chew Barka

Once their younger child turned 5 and was off to school, Michele and Peter Manzelli III were feeling a bit lonely. They decided against trying for a third child; instead, despite Peter’s allergies, the Chelmsford, Mass., couple decided a dog might just fill the void. So they brought home an apricot toy poodle (a hypoallergenic breed) for a trial sleepover in 2010.

Unsure if they would keep the 6-week-old, 2-pound pup, they weren’t thinking of names quite yet. But his feisty antics, combined with their son Peter’s love of “Star Wars” (he wanted his sister, Gianna, to be named Yoda) led to the pooch’s unusual name.

“All he did was chew at things and bark at everybody,” Michele told

“We started calling him ‘Hey, Chew,’ ‘Hey Bark,’ because that’s all he was doing,” Peter recalled. “We all looked at each other and said ‘Chew Barka — that’s a perfect name for him.’” The little puppy was therefore named after Chewbacca, the huge, furry Wookiee warrior, and despite sinking his teeth into all of Michele’s flip-flops and gnawing on the area rugs, he was in the Manzelli home to stay.

“Of course everybody fell in love with him,” Michele said, adding that her husband is doing fine with the help of daily allergy medication. “After one night, we couldn’t give him back.”

Though her now 12-year-old son and husband are the “Star Wars” fans, it was Michele who concocted the dog’s name. Her creativity earned Chew Barka the top spot on Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.’s 2012 list of wackiest dog names.

The Manzellis get a great reaction to it. “They love it because he’s so little,” Michele said. “He’s furry all over, but he’s not ferocious-looking. He’s very-timid looking.”

These days, Chewy, as he’s called, doesn’t bite the Manzellis’ belongings as much. But he still makes a lot of noise. “He’s a good protector,” Michele told “He barks at everybody who walks by.”

And Michele, who works part-time from home, and Peter, who also works at home sometimes, aren’t feeling quite so alone, especially when Chewy snuggles with them at night.

“He’s just like a heat-seeker,” she said. “He loves to cuddle up.”

Pico de Gato

The scientific wordplay that led to the names of Vince and Caroline Rye’s two cats leaves many people scratching their heads.

When the San Diego couple brought home their first cat about four years ago, Vince, a physicist, had the idea for the name Mu. It was a combination of the scientific symbol Mu, meaning micro, and the little kitty’s meowing.

“He thought it would be funny, and when we were trying to think of names, he’s like, ‘I’ve got a name that’d be pretty ironic,’” Caroline explained. “He has a sarcastic science sense of humor.”

But the name worked. “It’s was very fitting and he still meows a lot today,” she said.

About a year later, the family brought home another kitten. “Since he was a little baby at the time, we were trying to think of things that were smaller than ‘micro’ or Mu, so we were playing with different words and Pico came up,” Caroline explained. “We were trying to think of something to go with it.”

So they drew on several elements from their lives. The couple often call cats “gatos,” Spanish for cat, and they love Mexican food, with Rye often making homemade pico de gallo.

“We were thinking ‘pico’ is smaller than ‘micro,’ and if we’re going the scientific route, since we always call our cats ‘gatos,’ pico, gato — it just kind of went together,” Caroline said. The name “Pico de Gato” was born, and now it sits atop VPI’s 2012 list of wackiest cat names.

Fittingly for a pet with a food-inspired name, Pico is fond of human food. He begs for cheese and has enjoyed grilled steak burritos, Caroline said. “He goes crazy for it.”

The cat even found his way into a box of doughnuts. “He had a doughnut in his mouth like ‘this is mine,’” Caroline recalled.

But despite the cats’ names, they’re mini no more. Caroline told that Pico now weighs about 18 pounds, surpassing the once-micro Mu by a pound or two. The big kitties better stay spry, as the Ryes’ 9-month-old daughter, Caitlin, is on the move. “She squeals when she chases them,” Caroline said.

Leave a Reply