Pets named for Kentucky Wildcats uplifting for owners

mstory@herald-leader.comAugust 3, 2013 

It turns out, naming your pet for a major Kentucky Wildcats sports figure can impact one's life in unexpected ways.

1. It can boost one's business career.

During the 2009-10 Kentucky basketball season, Beth Simpson moved from Lexington to Charlotte, N.C., to take a new job in pharmaceutical sales.

In part to feel closer to home and in part to ding North Carolina basketball fans, Simpson named a rescue dog she acquired after the move "John Wall" for the best player on that year's UK basketball team — who also happened to be a Raleigh, N.C., product.

When she was introduced to new business clients, Simpson says "they'd say, 'This is Beth, she's a Kentucky fan, but don't hold that against her, she's even got a dog named 'John Wall.'"

When she would return to make subsequent business calls, "you'd be amazed how many people remembered me because they remembered I had a dog named 'John Wall,'" Simpson said.

2. It can make even those who live far from Kentucky feel connected to the commonwealth.

In Santa Rosa, Calif., Tommy Call was watching a Kentucky-Florida basketball game in 2009. His grandfather is a Kentucky native and pulling for the Wildcats remained part of the family's identity long after they moved to California.

Tommy Call had just gotten a female pit bull Shar-Pei, but he "was really struggling" to come up with a name. That night, Jodie Meeks hit a double-clutch three-pointer to win the game for UK.

"After he hit that shot, it just hit me," Call, now 21, said. "We should name the dog 'Jodie.'"

3. It can help you meet new friends.

A police officer near Evansville, Ind., Sam Preston was patrolling in a public park when he found a dog "covered with dirt, fleas and smelling strongly of skunk," he said.

After no one came forward to claim the dog, Preston and his family decided to adopt her. They named the dog "Keightley" in honor of the longtime UK men's basketball equipment manager, the late Bill Keightley.

"You'd be amazed how many Big Blue fans introduce themselves to us after they hear me call her name," Preston said.

4. A pet named for a UK star can even make you feel close to your childhood.

The first UK men's basketball team Jim Campbell remembers is "Rupp's Runts," the 1966 Wildcats who finished as national runners-up. Nine years old at the time, Campbell's favorite player on that team was Louie Dampier, the sharp-shooting guard.

Now 56 and living in Clarksville, Tenn., Campbell has a cocker spaniel named "Louie Dampier."

"I never met Louie," Campbell said in reference to the real Dampier, "but I've always idolized him. So when we adopted (the dog), I told my wife, 'We've got to name him 'Louie Dampier.'"

5. It can provide a memorable interaction with your favorite Kentucky Wildcats player.

Amy Wilton's favorite player on Kentucky's 2012 NCAA championship team was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. When she got a Cairn Terrier, she named it "Mr. Kidd-Gilchrist" and calls the dog "Kidd."

Once, the real MKG was doing an autograph signing at Lexington Pro Card. Wilton took "Mr. Kidd-Gilchrist" to meet Mr. Kidd-Gilchrist.

"I was holding 'Kidd' until we got up to the table where Michael was signing," she said. "We put him down on this plastic folding table."

The real Mr. Kidd-Gilchrist — one of the more fearless players ever to wear UK blue — "seemed scared to death of this little 10-pound dog," Wilton said. "Everyone in the place thought it was funny. Even Michael's mom was laughing."

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com.

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