When I was a kid I used to think I was Ariel from the Little Mermaid. I used to tie up my legs and sit in a baby pool in my backyard with my little training bra and just chill the fuck out being all mermaid-like. But then I grew up and traded my imagination for menial part time labour and mild alcohol abuse, like normal folks do. Some people never make it, they’re just stuck in some Freudian developmental limbo to cope with reality and people start calling them special, or retarded or in the case of 44 year old Gary Guy Mathews, 80s TV star “Boomer the Dog”. A few weeks back I caught a segment on him on some news channel and thought it was sad as hell. Boomer has been living like a dog since he was a teen, kind of like Teen Wolf except instead of Michael J Fox growing hair all over his body, imagine Crispin Glover putting on a suit made of shredded paper. Given that he occasionally force-feeds himself dog food, I’m gonna go ahead and bet he’s never gotten laid in his life so I felt compelled to at least give him a little deserved female attention over the phone. After we got through talking I realized that he was happy as a dog with two dicks, so who cares if he sniffs his own ass? As if you’ve never tried to do that before.
Vice: Hi Boomer! I saw you on TV--you’re pretty famous now. How did that happen?
Boomer: Well, my court date was the 11th of August, since it’s a name change I had to publish a public notice in the paper several weeks before that. Someone gave the media a tip, so they had a reporter and a camera guy from TV come out. I really didn’t expect anything too much actually; I was expecting maybe a local article. Name changes are something that’s been in the news like with movie stars. Wrestlers changing their names--it’s pretty reasonable.
How did this all start?
About being a dog then, you mean. Well actually I saw this show called Here’s Boomer, and I know you’re from Canada so if you know about old shows you probably know about The Littlest Hobo, which is kind of the same idea. It’s like this stray dog that goes to cities and towns and helps people out. Here’s Boomer was inspired a lot more by the Benji series. (Continues to go on and on and fucking on about Here’s Boomer)
And then you transformed into a dog?
I watched this movie called The Shaggy D.A., it’s a Disney movie, apart from this series that they had out. I saw this at the theatre. I had my dad take me to the theatre and I really liked it, I didn’t know what it was, because I was already into dogs. I was really in awe of this guy who could change into a dog. He changes into a big sheepdog. So I would play-transform into a dog and I kept enjoying that and didn’t really think of myself as an actual dog then, this was 1976 when the movie came out. So I didn’t realize I was a dog yet and I kept thinking about it, and got another dog in 1979--and it was something that built up in me, and I kinda got a feeling that I was like that.
OK, in the summer of '79 I was real hot and I came in from outside and I laid on the basement floor and I had this waking dream of actually transforming into another dog named Muffin, it felt like I was stuck in the floor because I was really into the whole emotion of changing into a dog. And I laid there for like 15 minutes, thinking about how I would break it to my parents about how I had transformed. It was like, wow, that was a turning point moment for me, and I still wasn’t’ sure about being one but I thought back about being a Shaggy D.A., and I knew I was like that. Like, in spirit, I’m some kind of dog; my persona is the Here’s Boomer character. I always called myself Boomer in school, I always barked about the show being so great, and they’d say "Hey Boomer" or "Hey Dog" and that was before Snoop Dogg came out and all that--that was way before all the "dogs" were in hip-hop and all that stuff.
Ah, makes sense. So you’re a Snoop Dogg fan, huh?
I like soul music, rock, progressive rock, jazz, some hip-hop, I’ve never really been into pop music, but I’m all over the place. I’m not into any real hard rap, not something that is negative. Positive music I really like--disco dance stuff, house music that’s real happy, I like that stuff. It’s feeding into me, I’m listening to it so I should be affected by it--so it should be happy. I could take something that’s not as happy if it’s very real. If it’s exaggerated street violence music or something I wouldn’t really like that. I even like some Lady Gaga, but I’m not crazy about pop music.
What does your family say about your lifestyle choice?
It’s been canine-style for all these years, the ones who know me know what it’s about. My parents (they’re not around anymore) they took it as something that I just do, when you’re in your family for so long and you're just a certain way they’re going to adapt to it. So it’s a part of what I am, even though I had trouble with my school because of my issues--they thought I had issues--so I was checked out psychologically and things like that but I guess I did it for so long that my family was calling me Boomer in later years. It took them a while to switch over and call me Boomer but they eventually did. The neighbours who know me understand, and just know that I’m this dog-person. People would say, "Oh you know, some people have religion and they believe and they go to church and all that and you have being a dog, that’s something different about you." They might think, well, they have an unusual religion or an unusual belief and I do too.
Amen! What do you do for a living?
Well right now I’m unemployed. When I first got my early janitor jobs--I had that for a few years--I didn’t bark about being a dog or anything then, but I did wear my collar under a turtleneck shirt so that no one could see it and I could still get the feeling of wearing it, but no one could see it. I had this little cartoon dog from the newspaper that I would tape onto my cart. They didn’t really know about it, but later on, I wanted to express myself or be more confident in who I am and then finally--well everybody knew by then anyway--finally it was something I couldn’t hide, that was for the last 15 to 18 years or so, that’s why I have collars on all the time.
Are you wearing your costume right now?
No, not today. As far as the costume, I built that three years ago, but before that I had masks I made out of shredded paper. And I’ve worn it a lot to anthropomorphic conventions, or I’ll wear it out if I want to get the feeling, or if I’m bored or something I would put it on and walk around the block and people would blow their horns and stuff and I really like the costume even if it’s just paper.
So there are more of you out there? What do you do at these conventions?
Anthropomorphic conventions are mostly an artsy crowd; people get into it for costuming. Furries are all kinds of different creatures that are half animal half human. Now I’m sure Toronto would have all kinds of furries up there. Normally, in most of the country you’d never actually meet a furry until you go to a convention. So you find out about it on the net and you go to this one meeting place and you get to meet everybody. It’s a really big meeting experience, you get to hang around and kind of let loose at these conventions, that’s mostly what it’s about. I know very few, if any, who have tried to live like an animal for this long of a time but I met another friend from Cleveland, Ohio and I found out that he’s also a dog, and it’s been years and years and I haven’t met anyone who was as into it as much as me.
Do you meet any ladies there?
Not really, I think the better place would be online first because there’s so much going on that you can never hang around with anybody for too long, it’s too busy. Online is where it would happen, but I haven’t, no, but I’ve barked to people lately. You know, it’d be neat to find a puppy girl who was like me, it would be interesting but that’s never happened. That’s the amazing thing, being into it as long as I have--and I’ve looked around--I’d like to meet anybody who’s into it, but especially puppy girls, they haven’t been around.
Yeah I guess so, but I fill my time with my furry buddies, with just friendship and friends and all that stuff.
How has the response been?
I have to bark this, that I’ve had a lot more positive response than negative. Maybe one of my friends will have me over and their roommates don’t get it and they’re worried, they might have heard something, or read something on the net about animal people, or CSI, or costume people or getting killed or something. Wherever their impression comes from, then that’s what they’ll think. That’s happened a few times. Especially with the news now, that changed everything. Even before that though I always got a better response than anything that was bad.
People always cheer for the underdog. Get it? Anyway, how do you go about living like a dog-man?
I have a dog bowl and things like that. I don’t use them exclusively, but I always wear my collar and I have my puppy ears on which is just my hair tied up to look like puppy ears, and when I go outside I carry my squeaky toy with me under my arm. I’ve tried other things to get closer, I’ve tried with the dog food in the past, everyone asks if I have milk bones and yeah I’ve tried those too. I eat regular, everyday food, I haven’t totally gotten into having dog food, but if I feel like I need to get into it more, if it comes up as a need--and it’ll tell me, "I want to feel more dog right now." Like the squeaky toy, I never had thought until 2003 to actually have a dog toy, and just having something like that made me feel good.
Are you a biter?
No, I'm protective mostly, if I’m thinking in the lines of “Here’s Boomer”, I’ve absorbed the style of the helpful type of pet. I might, if there was a reason and I actually went nuts, if that would help the situation I think I would do that, because sometimes you have a crazy reaction meeting certain types of problems, but if someone was threatening, sometimes a crazy reaction would throw people off enough to be helpful.
So what’s the plan now, Boomer?
I’m going in for an appeal, I’m working with a counsel right now to see what we can do. To counter all of the bad things that the judge said could happen. We’ll say why that wouldn’t be, maybe go in with a doctor to give reasons why it might be better for me to have one identity instead of being Boomer the Dog with this other name, because what I read psychologically, it’s better to have a congruent identity; to be one with yourself.
You know, transgendered people have the option of surgery. If it were ever possible, would you ever go that route?
I really wish they do figure it out so that I can do that! I don’t know if it’ll happen. But I used to, probably in my late teens when I was really thinking heavily about it. I used to think about, wow, I can transform and yeah, I’m really gonna do this. But later, when it dawned on me, it was like reality saying, “this is not gonna happen” and I would get really depressed, it’d be something I’d try not to think about. But over the years since then, I’ve made peace with it.
Good for you Boomer, thanks for barking with me.