Mutt's in a Name?

NEW YORK, NY -- Fido, Fluffy, Polly. Enough with the predictable pet names. Why not call a dog Belle, or a cat Duke, or a parrot Sparky?

For animal lovers, naming the beasts is not taken lightly. We like to come up with names that reflect our pets’ personalities as well as our own and, this being New York, we prefer those names be unusual.

If you’re stumped, conduct an office poll. That’s what Matthew Morris of Chelsea did, offering a swank meal to the person who thought up the best name for his Weimaraner. The pup got a great name Truman and the clever co-worker got dinner at Odeon.

After taking in an orange tabby whose forehead was clearly marked ''WM,'' I named him William. A few months later, he found a home with Bronx residents Ian Keldoulis and Sahara Briscoe, who explained a fascinating bit of feline lore: Cats marked ''M'' are favorites of Mohammed so William got the elegant new name Moustafa.

Creative naming is an occupational hazard for animal rescuers. Just ask John Contino of Mighty Mutts, whose adoption van and table can be spotted every Saturday at Union Square and 14th Street.

''Naming over 1,000 animals ain’t easy!'' jokes Contino, who named a handsome pit bull Eastwood because, well, the dog bore a strong resemblance to Clint.

Often, simply observing the pet will yield a fine name. I called my smallest pit bull Pici (pronounced pit-sy), which is Hungarian for ''little one.'' A polydactyl tabby cat with seven digits on his forepaws and five on his rear ones (versus the usual five up front and four behind) got the sensible name Toes.

Sometimes, a pet comes pre-named, especially if he’s been adopted.

Observing my tan dog Pepper, who knows why her previous owners hung that name on her: There’s nothing particularly peppery about her. ''That’s a silly name,'' said a little boy who stopped to play with Pepper one day. No argument here but she knew her name, so it stuck.

Upper East Sider Shane Akira’s beloved cat already knew his name, too Mr. Dingles. ''It’s ... him!'' Akira says with a laugh and a shrug.

If you just can’t live with a preassigned name, tweak it. A majestic Chow-Rottweiler mix I know started life with the utterly unworthy moniker Tinky. Today, long-suffering Tinky responds just as eagerly to Tiki, an infinitely hipper and more dignified title.

Fiction provides a wealth of name options. Because she appears to be part Russian Blue, my gray cat is named Ludmilla, after the character in Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov’s ''The Master and Margarita.'' Charlotte Barnard of Greenwich Village is a Shakespeare fan, so she named her tabby cats Puck and Caliban. (Then she married Robert Sawyer, a poet, who promptly renamed them Pee Wee and Bingo!)

Historical figures are inspiring, too. Our beloved old beagle, now deceased, was called Darwin because, well, Darwin’s boat was the Beagle, and ... OK, so it was a stretch, but the name suited the little guy. Meanwhile, my pantherlike black cat is Huey, as in Newton.

Consider naming a pet after someone you admire. I named a great-looking mastiff mix after my grandfather: In my eyes, Bela the dog was as handsome as Bela the man. Of course, my dad didn’t quite see eye to eye with me on this, thinking I’d dissed his dad. Bela was later adopted by Kohle Yohannan of Westchester, who promptly renamed him Woofer (go figure).

Italian food names are fun: Chef Seen Lippert named her cats Nocci (nuts) and Miel (honey). Currently up for adoption at the Humane Society of New York is a very sweet cream-colored Persian cat named Spumoni, after the deliciously creamy dessert.

If creativity runs dry, keep it simple. Racking my brain to come up with a name for a gorgeous elkhound, I settled on Elke, as in Sommer. Later, I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Ms. Sommer. A great lover of dogs, the actress was charmed to learn I’d named one after her!

Foreign lands and languages can supply excellent names, especially if you take a cue from the nationality of your pet. How about Mackenzie for a Scottish terrier? Or Dutch for a keeshond, the national dog of the Netherlands? My late, great Siamese cat was Pakorn, a suitably regal Thai name.

Whatever you name your canine, avoid tongue-twisters. The idea is to choose a name that’s easily hollered out in case of emergency i.e., if you lose control of the dog’s leash and he starts heading straight for traffic. Also, avoid any name you’d be embarrassed vocalizing at top volume on a crowded city street.

Hortense? Try again.