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I Wanted to Name My Dog Biggie Smalls

Posted in: Blog by amy on April 23, 2023

What else would you call a six-pound Chihuahua Min Pin?


Payton in her Biggie Smalls t-shirt

Payton finally can wear something that represents her figurative size. The pink Notorious B.I.G. t-shirt is fitting for this six-pound Chihuahua Miniature Pinscher mix who snuck her way into the heart of this big dog lover.

Now, when I say I’m a “big” dog lover, I’m talking about the size of a dog.From the time I was born, I was surrounded by the largest breeds. My first dog was an Alaskan Malamute. Then, my dad became enamored with Irish Wolfhounds. From the time I was three until I was 21, we always had at least two Irish Wolfhounds in our modest-sized house. That’s an extra 300 pounds roaming around our home.

The author, her dad, their Irish Wolfhound, and their Alaksan Malamute, circa 1974


The author’s father (who was 5’11”) and one of their Wolfies, circa 1985


“Big Poppa”

I loved it though. We were known in the neighborhood for having Wolfies, and I was proud of my gentle giants. I knew that one day I would have large dogs of my own. The first dog that I lived with as an adult was a rescue dog named Duke. He was (and still is!) 90 pounds of gorgeous sweetness.

When it was time for another dog to keep Duke company, we went to the dog shelter and somehow came home with a little dog named Gus. It was out of character to get a white, fluffy dog, but Gus’ story got us. He had been hit by a car, needed surgery, and needed a good home in which he could recover and be blanketed in love. How could we say no?

Gus became the love of my life. He followed me everywhere and seemed to be appreciative of the endless affection we bestowed upon him. I was now officially a small dog lover, as well.

Unfortunately, Gus wasn’t with us for too long. His memory is forever with us, and he is the subject of a children’s book I wrote called “Goodbye Gus.”He taught us a lot about loving, losing, and opening our hearts again. As a matter of fact, we opened our hearts the day after losing him when we returned to the dog shelter and came home with another small, white, fluffy dog.

“One More Chance”

Cosmo and Duke became instant friends. Then, it was time for a third. (I love things in threes.) Yet, this particular dog was one I resisted. The owner of the shelter put this tiny dog in my arms and told us that she was the greatest, bravest, sweetest dog who would get scooped up in minutes.

I was not sold. I looked at this tiny dog who was smaller than most cats and imagined what my friends and neighbors would think. My family literally used to enter our dogs in our town’s “Biggest Dog” contest every Fourth of July. Now I was considering having the town’s smallest dog.

It’s amazing how many stories we tell ourselves about who we are, what we are capable of, and who and what we like. We convince ourselves that we are something, when we may actually be a lot of things.

I’ll never forget talking to a psychologist when I was 22 years old. I had just returned to the suburbs of Chicago after several months in Colorado’s mountains. I said to this doctor, “I don’t know if I’m a North Shore princess or if I’m a tree-hugging mountain girl.”

Without hesitation, he said, “You can be both.” That statement was life-changing for me. It freed me from this innate need to keep myself contained in a safe, labeled box.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I may be.” Lao Tzu

My identity was tied to being a big dog person. But, thanks to years of therapy and some heavy convincing, I agreed to let the kids meet her. My daughter Danielle took one look at her and said she loved her and that she was now ours. Everyone felt that way, and she carved her way into our hearts instantly.

Danielle meeting Payton for the first time and falling instantly in love


Her name had been Prada. We knew we wanted to rename her. I voted for Biggie. Everyone else voted for Payton. I lost out as the football lovers in the house won. She was named after the original “Sweetness,” Walter Payton.

To me, she represents authenticity and a layered identity (which is why she deserved the name of one of the world’s most legendary rappers). Payton emanates strength and courage. She was found wandering the streets in the dead of Chicago’s winter. They guessed she had been out there for about three or four days. This girl was just born tough … and sweet.

Payton, Duke, and Cosmo (from left to right) — Payton thinks she’s the fiercest guard dog of the bunch

*All of the subtitles in this article are names of songs by Biggie Smalls (aka Notorious B.I.G. and Biggie).

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