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Tag: national geographic

Boomer: The man who wants to be a dog

boomer

Dogs crave attention. Humans crave attention. So it’s only logical to assume that, being both, Boomer the dog, also known as Gary Matthews of Pittsburgh, requires large doses of it.

He got some from ABCNews.com last week. Although there haven’t been any major developments in his life or legal case, the website ran a lengthy feature on the 48-year-old retired technology worker man who eats dog food, wears a collar, barks at cars and wants to have his name legally changed to Boomer the Dog.

Matthews petitioned a court in 2010, but his request for a name change was denied. He appealed that ruling, and lost again in 2011 – a development he laments on his website, Boomerthedog.com:

boomernocostume“I believe that everyone should be able to choose the name that they would like. We didn’t get a choice when we were born, we were given names. Since we can build the identities that we choose to carry on in life with, why can’t we choose a name that goes along with it, recognized by everyone, even on official ID?”

The original judge ruled that the request for a name change was frivolous, but Matthews said plenty of other cases have been approved, including, a man in Oregon who had his named changed to Captain Awesome, and a man who legally changed his name to that of his band and is now known as the Dan Miller Experience.

Matthews — who was featured in June on the National Geographic Channel program “Taboo,” in an episode called, “Extreme Anthropomorphism: Boomer the Dog”– wears a costume made out of shredded paper and considers himself a furry. He can often be seen wandering around Pittsburgh, his hometown.

“When I go out, I get the feeling and I wave to people as a dog,” he said. “I go to local festivals because kids like the costume. That’s my way of reaching out to people and spreading the word that I can be myself in life. They see that you can have fun in adulthood. But I am kind of a loner dog.”

“Sometimes I sleep in my dog house, which is up in the attic –  I built it myself,” he added.

He enjoys Milk Bones and eats dog food (canned), but not all the time. “I eat regular human food, too, like pizza,” he told ABC.

Matthews said he got the name from the television series about a stray dog called “Here’s Boomer,” which ran from 1979 to 1982.

But he traces his obsession with dogs to long before that.

“It’s been a long process,” he said. “It started when I saw “The Shaggy DA” in 1976 when I was 11 years old. I went with my Dad to see it. I was already a dog freak and collecting pictures of dogs. I saw this movie and there was something different about it — the dad transforms into a big sheep dog. I had never seen that idea played out anywhere.”

“I started playing dog and getting into it,” said Matthews. “It was like a kid thing. Sometimes, I would bark or maybe get into a big box and peek out with my paws over the side of it like a dog would do. In a couple of years, I really got into it. … Maybe I was looking for a personality to have.”

Matthews said he lives off a trust fund left to him by his parents.

“Going public with being a dog isn’t just about the name change,” he said. “That’s only the most recent thing that I’m focusing on, because really, being a dog is about everything — it’s the way that I live.”

Matthews said he often got teased when acting like a dog as a child. “I got flak for it,” he said. “My parents didn’t like it. Earlier on, they saw it as a kid thing and they laughed. But at a certain point in time there are adult expectations and they want you to go off to work and date. Society wants to straighten you out.”

Other children teased him and he was sent to a “special school” for teens with social and emotional problems, but he insists there is nothing wrong with him.

“I see it as a lifestyle,” he said. “I just live differently.”

(Photos: From Boomerthedog.com)

More animal emotions: Chimps mourn a friend

chimpdorothy

 
As a footnote to our discussion yesterday on animals and emotions, we bring you the story of Dorothy, a female chimpanzee in her late 40s when she died last year of congestive heart failure.

As the photo above shows, a crowd of fellow chimps gathered and watched solemnly as she was wheeled to her burial.

The November issue of National Geographic magazine features the photograph, which has since “gone viral,” turning up in websites, TV shows and newspapers around the world, according to a National Geographic blog

The photographer, Monica Szczupider, is a volunteer at Cameroon’s Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, where Dorothy had lived for eight years. The center houses and rehabilitates chimps victimized by habitat loss and the illegal African bushmeat trade. 

After a hunter killed her mother, Dorothy was sold as a “mascot” to an amusement park in Cameroon, where she spent the next 25 years tethered by a chain around her neck, and was taught to drink beer and smoke cigarettes for the amusement of onlookers.

In May 2000, Dorothy was rescued and relocated along with ten other primates. As her health improved, she cared for an orphaned chimp named Bouboule and became a close friend to many others, including Jacky, the group’s alpha male, and Nama, another amusement-park refugee.

“Her presence, and loss, was palpable, and resonated throughout the group,” Szczupider said. “The management at Sanaga-Yong opted to let Dorothy’s chimpanzee family witness her burial, so that perhaps they would understand, in their own capacity, that Dorothy would not return. Some chimps displayed aggression while others barked in frustration. But perhaps the most stunning reaction was a recurring, almost tangible silence.”

High-flying dog chosen for new Weezer album

weezer
 
Weezer lead vocalist Rivers Cuomo was perusing the pages of National Geographic when he came across a reader-submitted dog photo that he thought would make a good cover for the group’s next album.

And that’s how Sidney, the high jumper above, came to grace the cover of “Raditude.”  The album comes out Oct. 27.

The shot of Sidney was entered in a reader-submitted photo contest sponsored by the magazine. When Cuomo spotted it, according to Spinner, he decided to track down the photographer.

The band then lucked out big time. When they got in touch with the winning photographer, Jason Neely of Middletown, Conn., to seek his permission to use the shot, it turned out he was a big Weezer fan. Here’s Jason’s Flickr page.

There’s a cat in the photo, too, though it’s difficult to spot.

Friends indeed: Orangutan and dog

An orangutan named Suryia and a dog named Roscoe — both now residents of a South Carolina animal sanctuary — will be showing up today on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

And the unusual friendship — reminiscent of the one we showed you between Tarra and Bella, the elephant and dog who are buddies at a Tennessee animal sanctuary — will be part of an upcoming National Geographic Channel program as well.

Suryia and Roscoe, a blue tick coonhound, live at The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) in Myrtle Beach.

The pair encountered each other two years ago when Roscoe followed institute staff home. He was spotted by Suryia, who came over to introduce himself. They’ve been fast friends ever since.

“As soon as he saw Roscoe, Suryia ran over to him and they started playing,” Bhagavan Antle, founder of TIGERS told UK’s Daily Mail. “‘It was unusual because dogs are usually scared of primates but they took to each other straight away.”

“‘Roscoe looked really thin and a little lost so we fed him and took care of him … We made a few calls to see if he belonged to anyone and when no-one came forward, Roscoe ended up staying.”

Suryia, while helping to raise baby primates at the sanctuary, always takes some time to spend with Roscoe, swimming, rolling around in the grass, or going for walks.

“Suryia will take Roscoe for walks around the enclosure and even feeds him some of his monkey biscuits,” Antle said.

DogTown goes to Emmylou Harris’ rescue

When singer Emmylou Harris contacted DogTown — the last hope shelter operated by the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah — for help with an unpredictable German shepherd mix, they reacted much as I would have, rushing to her estate/animal shelter in Tennessee to offer their assistance.

(I would have gotten there quicker, and most likely listened to her music on the way.)

Instead, Best Friends animal behavior specialist Sherry Woodard got the call, and her work with Gunnar, a dog deemed too violent to be adopted, is featured in tonight’s episode of the National Geographic Channel’s “Dogtown” series.

While the 12 time Grammy winner doesn’t get a lot of screen time — she’s goes off on tour shortly after Woodard arrives — Gunnar makes some major headway, first accepting Woodard, then accepting another dog who’s intended to serve as a role model for him.

Harris runs a small shelter at her home in Nashville, which she started in honor of her dog Bonaparte.

Gunnar was found on the streets of Nashville, and Harris suspected he met with some ill treatment there, leading to his fear and lack of trust with humans. The four-year-old dog has bitten a dozen of her shelter volunteers, Harris said.

Hoping to get Gunnar socialized enough to be adopted, Harris called in several trainers, and DogTown was her last hope.

Tonight’s “DogTown” episode also tells story of Little Girl, a painfully shy Catahoula mix from a California shelter that shut down, and Theresa, an abandoned pit bull with a mysterious obstruction in her stomach.

The show airs at 10 p.m. tonight on the National Geographic Channel.

Rescued from a pit — tonight on DogTown

 

Dumped into an underground death pit, two homeless dogs named Haley and Hana are rescued and rehabilitated on tonight’s episode of National Geographic Channel’s “DogTown,” proving once again that dogs are a lot more forgiving than us more “intellectually developed” humans.

The dogs are believed to have spent two months in an underground cave in Ethiopia where locals periodically dispose of unwanted dogs, unfortunately while they are still alive. With no food or water, they may have survived by consuming the bodies of other dogs that died in the cave.

Best Friends Animal Society behavior consultant Sherry Woodard works with the former street dogs to help them overcome their fears and improve their social skills.

Also on tonight’s episode are the stories of Hugo, a 100-pound bloodhound, returned to DogTown after seriously biting a family member, and Ava, a golden retriever whose paw has been ripped apart by a coyote trap.

Skin deep: How Aristotle got his fur back

A “bad” dog, an “ugly” dog and a gaggle of “unwanted” beagles all prove that, deep down, they were not those things at all in the season premiere of “DogTown” Friday night.

All three stories show the benefits of looking a little deeper than the surface, but it’s the tale of Aristotle, a scab-ridden and a hairless mutt, that’s going to tug your heartstrings the hardest.

A terrier mix rescued from a hoarding situation, Aristotle comes to DogTown with a skin condition that has left him a pitiful sight — his hair has fallen out, his skin is covered with scabs, and he has no apparent eyelids.

Veterinarians at Best Friends Animal Society, the southwest Utah sanctuary where the National Geographic Channel program is centered, set out to make a diagnosis on Aristotle and relieve his itching, in hopes his coat might grow back and he might get adopted.

Aristotle’s story is one of two told in “The Survivors,” the first episode of the new season of “DogTown,” which airs Friday at 10 p.m.

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