When my friend Cass first got her kitten, we decided to name her “Omheezaya.” Zaya means “destiny.” Many women, and a few men, bear this sonorous word in their names. But Omhee? That means “putrid” or “smelly.”

So why would we name the cat “Putrid Destiny?”

In Mongolia, if a child has suffered sickness or bad luck, the parents might take the child to a Buddhist lama. The lama will give the child a new name. Sometimes a “bad name” can ward off wicked spirits. So children might go by Nergui (No name), Bibish (Not me), or Muunohoi (Bad Dog!)

And our poor little Omhee had a tough early life. We found her in the Anna home, a home for former street children. But most Mongolian kids don’t know how to care for kittens. So they threw her around and caught her like a Koosh ball. So, when we “rescued” the cat, we gave her a funny name. Putrid? It’s love. We want to ensure only good luck will come her way from now on.

kenny, me, and jasmine with Omhii

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