When I was a kid, there was a show on NBC called “Here’s Boomer,” about a likeable, shaggy dog who led this wandering, hobo life. It was an unremarkable series, a kind of knock-off on the more popular Benji films of the day. The show had become such an arcane piece of TV trivia, in fact, that I actually thought I might be the only person alive who even remembered or thought about “Here’s Boomer.”
Then I read this article a few days ago, about a Pittsburgh man who was so affected by the show, that he actually decided to become a shaggy dog himself and have his named legally changed to “Boomer.” My first impression upon reading this was, “Boy, the people of Pittsburgh have changed a lot from the tough, hardscrabble steelworkers of the industrial age.” My second thought was, “What a sad, lonely man.” My third thought was, “Well, why not become a dog, if that’s what he wants to do?”
I guess you could say I’m a little conflicted about this story. Part of me thinks that, as long as you aren’t doing something that’s destructive, criminal or harmful to somebody else, you should be free to do it. By all accounts, Gary Matthews, or Boomer, just enjoys barking, eating from a bowl on the floor and occasionally sleeping in his dog house. What harm is there in that?
Another part of me, the “judgy” part, thinks perhaps Boomer should get some psychiatric help, and also worries if this story isn’t indicative of a larger trend. There is, after all, a sub-culture of people called Furries who like to wear animal suits and pretend that they are cute, cuddly creatures. Most Furries treat this as a hobby, but what if many of them, like Gary Matthews, decided to pursue their passion full-time? A lot of kids, like Gary and myself, loved “Here’s Boomer,” and the 1976 Disney movie, The Shaggy D.A. Could these media now be considered gateways to a mid-life crisis spent chasing garbage trucks, digging holes in the yard, and marking territory on various hydrants and mailboxes?
Finally, how does local government respond to activities by men who decide they want to become dogs? Does a leash law go into effect? We can’t just have these Boomers running loose on the city streets, can we?
“It won’t come to that,” you might tell me. “This is an isolated incident,” you might add. But, in this age of social media and attention-seeking me-too-ism, is there really such a thing as an isolated incident? Gary Matthews may be the first American to attempt the transition from man to Man’s Best Friend, but will he be the last?
I think we better have some extra Pooper Scoopers on hand, just in case.