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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 4, 2010

Koa fits big bodies and big hearts

By Lee Cataluna



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Can you name a teacup poodle "Koa"?

Well, you can name your dog anything you want, but if it's lighter than 8 pounds and fits in your handbag, you'll spend a lot of time explaining the name at the dog park.

Koa is a name with certain connotations and an image that doesn't quite go with an Austrian crystal collar or Burberry doggie raincoat.

If you've lived in Hawai'i for any length of time, you've crossed paths with a Koa. Either you've had a dog named Koa, you lived next door to a dog named Koa who kept you up nights barking at ambulance sirens, or you've waved to Koa as he passed by riding in the passenger seat of his owner's truck on his regular evening cruise around the block.

Search Google for dogs named Koa and more than 300,000 listings come up. There's even a line of dog T-shirts called Koa Dog.

The Los Angeles Times started a database of dog names in L.A. County. Koa made the list, though Chihuahuas named Princess were by far the most popular or the most common depending on your point of view.

Koa is not just a popular dog name, it's a doggy lifestyle. Koa is the dog who boogie boards. Koa is the dog who can catch sand crabs. Koa can go pig hunting with Uncle Stanley on Sunday morning and snuggle up with Auntie Stanette to watch movies on Sunday night. He's a modern-day Spuds McKenzie, the party dog, the family dog, the family protector. He likes rice with his Purina, knows not to bite toads and, when he thinks no one is watching, lets his favorite kitten drink out of his water dish. He da man. He da dog.

The story of the name has been told before. The translation means "brave, bold, fearless, valiant." Koa also means "warrior" or "soldier." Some people say they named their brindle pit bull Koa for the pretty flecks of gold in his coat that resemble the grain of fine koa wood. In any case, it's a solid name. When a little boy is named Koa, chances are the parents were going for the warrior image rather than the wood grain, though.

But can a teeny dog carry off that grand name? It's got to have a lot of heart in that little body to make it work. For that matter, can you name a cat or a horse or a Jackson's chameleon Koa? The intention of the name comes from the namer, so all's fair, but it's a little like naming a duck Rover the charm is in the contradiction.