Today's pets have cuddled, cooed and purred their way to elevated status in the family—and, in our alienated world, sustain deep emotional connections with the humans whose lives they share. From doggy day care to special toys and foods, the increasing anthropomorphism of the family pet is seen everywhere, especially in pet names. Max was the most popular name for new puppies for the 6th year in a row in 2008, according to PetData, an outfit that licenses animals throughout North America. For "girl" puppies, the favorites are Maggie and Molly. Quite a few conspicuously human-sounding names landed in the top 100 of New York City's dog database, too, including Bella, Sophie, Lily and Oliver.
"Animals are surrogates for children and appeal to our predisposition to nurture," says Sam Gosling, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. "We've even selectively bred dogs to make them more like children—to have big eyes and small noses, to be attuned to our emotions and to give unconditional love."