All hail King Charlie of Labrador The name and breed are the most popular within the Perimeter, according to a scan of pet licensing data
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Charlie is calm, smart and incredibly food motivated. He knows how to sit, shake a paw and play fetch. He’s great with kids and friendly with neighbours. By all accounts, Charlie is a pretty typical Labrador retriever.
“He’s a wonderful dog,” says owner John Wang.
The black doe-eyed pooch is also the accidental double winner of a low stakes popularity contest that extends well beyond his South Point cul-de-sac. According to City of Winnipeg pet licensing data requested by the Free Press, Labrador retrievers and Charlie (tied with Bella) are the most popular dog breed and name within the Perimeter.
It’s unlikely Charlie will let the distinction go to his head. He already holds the title of Very Good Boy, after all.
Wang is a first-time dog owner. After years of pleading from his daughter, Chenxi, he finally caved and started looking for a canine companion amid the pandemic.
“It was really challenging for our family,” Wang says. “The kids were at home with nobody to play with.”
The family settled on a Lab for the breed’s popularity, intelligence and friendly demeanour; they purchased Charlie as a puppy in 2021 from a local breeder.
“My daughter was so excited,” Wang says of the day they brought him home. “Every day she was holding him and sometimes sleeping with him, he was very small and very cute.”
She picked the pup’s name and took charge of his training. Charlie knows how to sit, shake and fetch thanks to the countless hours Chenxi, 10, has spent watching YouTube videos and reading dog training books.
Cats, dogs share popular names
After Labradors, German shepherds, golden retrievers, Shih Tzus and Siberian huskies round out the top-five most popular dog breeds in Winnipeg. The top names include Luna, Molly and Bailey.
The most used dog names have cross-species appeal. The top three names for cats in Winnipeg are also Luna, Charlie and Bella (in that order), with domestic short, medium and long-hair felines making up the bulk of local house cats.
Back in 2015, however, naming a cat after the moon seemed like uncharted territory.
“Eight years ago, Luna wasn’t a huge pet name,” says Ainslee Asham. “Now, everybody’s cat is Luna.”
Asham’s Luna, a tuxedo cat with striking green eyes, is a social butterfly who greets visitors at the door and has learned to come when called. She lets out a signature squeak whenever she jumps and knows how to pose for a photo.
The older sister to a dog named Buck, Luna has a passion for marathon naps and knocking things off shelves. By all accounts, she’s a pretty typical cat.
It was love at first sight — or rather meow — when Asham met the small black and white kitten at the Winnipeg Humane Society nearly a decade ago.
“She just sat there yelling the entire time I wasn’t petting her, so it felt like she picked me, she wanted me,” Asham says. “But she just wanted anybody, really.”
Luna is a beloved family member who has inspired at least one tattoo — Asham has a commemorative moon — and a handful of nicknames: Tuna, Toonie, Looney Tunes, Tuna Fish Casserole.
Her given name is displayed proudly in a little purple heart on her collar. Asham opted to have Luna microchipped and licensed when she was spayed many moons ago. It’s peace of mind in case her indoor cat ever escapes.
The city launched its cat licensing program in 2015 and has seen significant uptake among local pet owners. In 2021, Winnipeg Animal Services sold 48,123 dog licences and 27,737 cat licences.
“Winnipeg is leading in cat licensing and compliance per capita, compared to other cities,” says Animal Services general manager Leland Gordon. “It’s been very successful.”
Pet licensing fees are the primary source of funding for Animal Services, which receives roughly 8,000 service calls annually for lost pets, animal-related emergencies and bylaw infractions. Fees also support the agency’s shelter and adoption program and 50 per cent of cat licensing revenue is dedicated to low income spay and neuter programs.
“We don’t have anywhere near full compliance because it’s a fee and some people just don’t want to pay it,” Gordon says. “But we’re grateful for the people who are licensing their pets… so that animal control systems can be in place and animal shelters like ours can operate.”
Visit winnipeg.ca/animal for more information on responsible pet ownership.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.