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Tag: pittsburgh

Boomer: The man who wants to be a dog


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)

Darling won’t you ease my worried mind

Layla — a dog most appropriately named for this particular story — has become the subject of a custody battle in Pittsburgh.

A pit bull mix, she served as an unofficial helper to her owner, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. But when he moved to a new apartment, Layla, lacking documentation as a service dog, wasn’t allowed to live there.

Tim McGill began working to get Layla certified, and in the meantime asked some friends to look after his 3-year-old dog.

Now McGill has gotten the certification, but he can’t get his dog back.

McGill served in the Army in South Korea and Iraq and left the service with a brain injury, anxiety and flashbacks, KDKA in Pittsburgh reports.

A doctor recommended a dog, and — though Layla wasn’t a certified service dog — having her by his side helped, said McGill, a tattoo artist.

McGill says he moved to a Lawrenceville apartment to go to the Art Institute, but that, without any documentation that Layla was a service dog, she wasn’t permitted to live there.

So he asked a friend, Laura Stratemier, to watch over Layla until he could get her certified. In exchange, he offered to repay her with free tattoos for both her and her husband.

Stratemier admits she was only supposed to have Layla for two weeks, but said that as time went by — six months worth of it — she realized the dog was better off with her.

By the time the certification papers for the dog came through McGill, Stratemier was unwilling to give Layla back.

KDKA reports that local animal control officials are looking into the dispute.

Man wants new name: Boomer the Dog

A judge in Pennsylvania has rejected a Pittsburgh-area man’s petition to change his name from Gary Guy Mathews to “Boomer the Dog.”

Mathews, 44, is an unemployed computer technician and a follower of the “furry” lifestyle, which celebrates giving human characteristics to animals. He sought the name change because he’s a big fan of the short-lived 1980s NBC show “Here’s Boomer.”

His obsession with the Boomer character led him to create a giant dog costume made from shredded newspaper, which he now wears at home and to conventions.

Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald W. Folino, after hearing Mathews request Tuesday, denied it on Wednesday on the grounds it could cause confusion and possibly put “the public welfare at risk,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The denial, which came in a page and a half-ruling, sounded almost as convoluted as the request:

What if, the judge wrote, Boomer the Dog witnessed a serious auto accident and telephoned police? “The dispatcher on the phone queries as to the caller’s identity, and the caller responds, ‘This is Boomer the Dog.’ It is not a stretch to imagine the telephone dispatcher concluding that the call is a prank and refusing to send an emergency medical response.”

“Right now I’m not sure what I’m going to do next, I’ll just have to look into it,” Mathews said after the decision. “All I know is that I’ve been trying to realize my identity for a long time, like many people have I guess.”

Furries, the Post-Gazette reports, have become fairly common around Pittsburgh, which for five years has hosted the movement’s largest annual convention.

Dog kicked to death before Steelers game

A Steelers fan in suburban Pittsburgh killed his girlfriend’s 13-week-old puppy Sunday because the dog was misbehaving before the football game came on TV, police said.

The puppy was kicked to death on the same day that it as announced that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was donating money to Kansas City police to buy a new police dog.

William Woodson, 22, of Bridgeville, was being held on $25,000 bail in the Allegheny County Jail, pending a preliminary hearing on animal cruelty, scheduled for next Monday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The puppy, a pit bull named Flip, had been the source of recent arguments between Woodson and his girlfriend, according to police. A witness saw the dog being kicked down the street and called Bridgeville police. By the time police arrived, the dog was dead and Woodson was gone.

Woodson’s girlfriend told police he kicked the dog because the pup would not walk with them. Police located Woodson at a friend’s house.  “He admitted the dog would not behave prior to the Steelers game and that he became upset at it,” the affidavit said.

Kansas City police on Sunday announced they’d received an $8,000 grant from Steeler quarterback Roethlisberger’s foundation, which  distributes grants to police and fire departments in Pittsburgh and in the cities of the Steelers’ road opponents. The $8,000 will pay to replace Rambo, a Kansas City police dog that is set to retire at year’s end because of arthritis. The Chiefs beat the Steelers 27-24 on Sunday.

A quarterback we don’t despise

benPittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — instead of commiting crime — is taking a bite out of it, with his donation of two K-9 unit dogs to Detroit,  the city where he won the first Super Bowl.

Roethlisberger, in Detroit yesterday to play the Lions, is paying for both dogs. They replace a pair of retiring dogs that left the Detroit Police Department at the end of the year.

Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans told the Detroit Free Press he was grateful for the donation.

“We are deeply appreciative to the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation for this grant,” Evans said. “In these difficult budgetary times, we must rely more and more on outside sources of funding to support our officers’ efforts. This grant will provide our officers additional resources to protect the citizens of Detroit.”

The quarterback created the the foundation to distribute grants to police and fire departments in Pittsburgh and cities of each regular season road opponent for the Steelers.

“It’s incredible to see the strong bond that is formed between the dogs and their partners both on the job and at home,” Roethlisberger said in a statement.

Steeler hopes to avoid euthanization of dog

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison is hoping to find a way to avoid having his it bull, Patron, put down.

The dog bit Harrison’s 2-year-old son, James Harrison III, last Wednesday, and since then has been lodged at Animal Control of McKee’s Rocks, where Harrison originally said he would have him euthanized after a mandatory 10-day quarantine.

The dog became agitated when the toddler began crying last Wednesday at their Franklin Park home. The dog bit both the child, who was released from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital and is now home, and the child’s mother, Beth Tibbott. A friend of Tibbots was also injured as they tried to separate dog and boy.  Harrison was not at home during the attack.

Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, said yesterday that they were seeking an alternative for Patron, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

With the toddlers  improvement — “the baby was actually walking [Monday], there is no muscle or nerve damage, no infection,” Parise said — Harrison wanted to see whether there was a way to avoid putting Patron down.

“I just got done talking to James,” he said yesterday afternoon, “and he would love to find a home for him, but only if it was a home that would provide maximum security. This decision is not being made lightly, and it would have to be in the best interest of the welfare of the animal as well as of people.”

Son of Steelers linebacker stable after dog bite

Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison’s toddler son was believed in stable condition at a Pittsburgh hospital after being bitten on the thigh by the family’s dog.

The boy’s mother, Beth Tibbott, was also treated and released for a bite she received when she tried to get the dog off the child, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Harrison, 31, the NFL defensive player of the year last season, could not be reached for comment. He was not home when the incident took place, friends said.

At the Harrisons’ home on Matterhorn Drive, a family friend said that Harrison was at the gym in the late afternoon when she, Ms. Tibbott and the child, James Harrison III, were outside in the fenced yard, where the dog was kept in a crate.

The friend said the dog, a pit bull, bit the baby on the thigh when it was released, and that Ms. Tibbott began screaming and threw herself on top of the baby.

Steelers management said in a statement Friday: “We are aware of this unfortunate situation. We express our concern for his family and hope that everyone involved makes a complete recovery.”