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Staff photo by Mark Kennedy / Keeper is a new puppy in the Kennedy family.

We have a new dog — Keeper. Like a goalkeeper in soccer. Or: "Look at him; he's a keeper."

I don't have many skills, but I've been told I'm pretty good at naming things. At the newspaper, any time someone needs to name something, I get a call. I came up with Keeper.

I don't consider this bragging because naming things is not a high-demand skill, and it pays literally nothing. Saying you are good at naming is sort of like saying you are good at digesting cough drops. Nobody cares.

I thought Keeper was an original name until I found out that Emily Brontë — author of "Wuthering Heights" — had a dog named Keeper in the early 19th century. I'm old, but not that old. Still, I'm willing to drop the original claim in deference to the novelist and instead call the name timeless.

Keeper was an impulse purchase. We bought him from a breeder in Henagar, Alabama. For almost 24 hours, the dog's unofficial name was "New Puppy." When I called to make his first vet appointment, I told them to make it for "New Puppy" Kennedy.

My naming prowess is not as recognized at home, so I realized that I would have to negotiate with family for naming rights involving the new dog.

Our younger son, 15 years old and an outdoorsman, nominated River.

Our older son, 20, thought Nash would be a good name. Our 9-year-old dog's name is Boise (as in Boise, Idaho), and our older son thought that sticking with a state capital (Nash being short for Nashville) might be good.

I was lukewarm about Nash, but my mind immediately started ticking through alternative state capitals that would work as dog names: Madison, Pierre, Bismark, Lincoln, Topeka. "He only weighs 10 pounds," I thought. "How about 'Little Rock'?"

Thankfully, I rejected all of those before any of them left the privacy of my brain. The key to naming is to let all the options flow over you like water.

After much contemplation and staring at the little dog's picture on the internet, I was stuck on Keeper. I texted the three other family members and got two positive responses and one tacit no comment. I thought that was the end of it, but the naming debating went on for several days.

I looked at Boise and asked what he thought. I imagined Boise telling me telepathically, "Why don't we call him, 'The Little Dog Who Stayed Put In Alabama.'"

Boise, it turns out, is not hostile to Keeper but it's taking him a few days to get used to the idea of having another pet in the house. Keeper is a licker, and Boise is a bit too stiff for such public displays of affection.

When we arrived to pick up Keeper on a country road in Alabama, his breeder said that Keeper was the boss of his litter, but he was the last to leave the kennel.

"I think he saw the other dogs leave first and felt bad," she said. "But I'd told him we'd find him a family."

"Yep," I said, lifting the puppy and looking deeply into his eyes. "He's a keeper, all right."

Keeper is not the perfect specimen of the Cavapoo mix. His hair is too wispy and straight, his brown spots are too sparse and his eyes look like they are ringed by brown goggles.

But when you are assessing forever friends, those things don't matter at all.

Keeper is also playful, funny and smart. He can already retrieve a ball and does giant hops in the air just to amuse himself.

But most importantly, he is grateful. You can see it in his eyes. Of all the attributes of living things, I find gratefulness the most charming.

So this young male dog deserves a name that signifies trust and loyalty.

I'm also grateful to have him and committed to his care.

Promise, Keeper.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6656.

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