How I got involved with the television show Taboo
Timeline and behind the scenes
I went to court to try to change my name to Boomer The Dog in 2010. The local newspaper wrote a story about it, which was picked up by a local TV station the next day, and they sent cameras to my house to do a little piece, and in turn that story was syndicated across the country by the Associated Press.
Several months later I started to get calls from some casting companies and producers, who had seen the name change story and were wondering if there was something more to it. I barked to them on the phone and by e-mail, and answered questions about what it's like to be a Dog, the history behind it, and how Furries fit into the picture.
I did 2 'pitch films' for production companies, which they could use to try to sell their show to interested networks. There was no guarantee that I'd be chosen for a show by doing these films, but I wanted to do it, and thought it would be good experience in front of the camera.
Producers and casting made contact like this over several years on and off, and sometimes casting people would call to see if I was still interested in doing something with my story. In the Fall of 2012, I heard from a casting company that hadn't contacted me for over a year. She asked if I was still available, and then wrote back, 'I might have something for you, the producers really like your story!'
Within days I was barking with Taboo's people, through e-mail and including a speakerphone call with two producers at one point, and they were hopeful about doing the Boomer The Dog story!
There was a lot of communication back and forth as we got to know each other, question and answer. I'd reply, they'd do research and ask more. It was a pretty thorough process; I sent scans of my Dog drawings, and later was asked for photos around the house and yard.
Finally I got the word - the network wants to go ahead with your story!
"I plan to go all out with it, do and bark it all, I want to be the most memorable Furry guest they'll ever have!" -To a Furry friend in e-mail, just after I found out that I was accepted.
We still had more to do, working out things like filming locations, looking at anything to see where it would lead, like the solitary park that I went to as a pup, when I needed some Dog time and to think.
Finally the filming dates were set up, three weekdays starting December 11, so I checked over my costume and Dog house and made sure I had everything ready that we'd need to shoot, like my old Dog picture books, favorite stuffed animals and artwork to show.
The two producers flew in from LA the night before shooting to get a feel for the location, and then the rest of the crew followed the next day, with camera, lighting and sound equipment.
The first day was mostly interviews at my Dog house and other indoor filming, since the weather was cold and rainy. We still had enough to do, starting at 10 am and not getting done until 9 pm! It's true that it's a lot of prep and setup time between filmed segments, which seems to be the way movies are done.
The interviews were pretty long, and we were in the Doghouse room which has a lot of insulation in the walls, so with the high power lighting it got really hot in there! Microphone battery and camera disk changes gave us a little break every so often though..
I had to learn the right way to answer questions in those interviews, that is, the producer asks a question, then I phrase the question in my own way, and then answer it. For example, a question might be, "When did you start to feel that you were a Dog?" I'd answer, "I think I started to feel Doglike when..."
Being used to regular conversation, it took a little while to get into answering that way. Think of how the contestants on Jeopardy! often forget to phrase their answers in the form of a question, and you can see how easy it is to slip up.
We covered everything from my Canine history in school and hardships it caused, how family and friends felt about it back then, how I started to wear my collar and tag, how my costume came about, and the steps I took trying to get my name changed.
In the afternoon we all went North of the city to K9 Kingdom, an indoor Dog park. I'd never been there and it was awesome, I got to interact as a Dog with other Dogs! The other pooches sure didn't know what to think when this new, giant Dog came on to their playground, but eventually I made friends with a few of them.
Back at home I was on camera showing how I make repairs to my costume, using a hot glue gun.
Day 2, it has stopped raining, and we decided that this was pet store day! First though it was an interview on the couch in the living room this time, where I got to show my old picture books from when I was in junior high. Next we got to me eating Dog food, usually something I do when in more of a Dog mode privately, but I was able to do it for the camera.
Ron then came over, and I was pretty hyped up on the pooch already, so I played a little game of fetch with him in the back yard in my costume. Next we headed to the pet store in Regent Square, with Ron taking me in costume all the way, riding in the back seat like any other Dog.
Before we got to the pet store it was lunch break, which presented a particular problem. I would have to be out of my costume to eat, but I'd never take the costume off in public, so the team got permission for me to come into the Square Cafe, go into one of their bathrooms and change into Human clothes so that I could have lunch. When I walked into the cafe, the diners really lit up and responded to the big Dog, and when the producer saw that she was wishing they were filming!
We had lunch, I got in my costume again, and then we went to the pet store. Ron parked across the street and let me out, and we had to go to the intersection to cross. The camera was rolling from the other side of the street, and I'm hoping that it caught a touching moment when some kids came up and were interacting with me the Dog. Someone was walking their big brown Dog, and he was interested in me too.
At the pet store I got to pick out my favorite treats, and I had to really decide because this was an organic pet store, so it's not the usual commercial stuff I'd get. The pet store people were nice too, I'd never been in there before, but they made me feel welcomed.
Day 3 and they are shooting scenes in the city, B-roll and 'hero shots' out in the back yard. Then it was the transformation scene, and I loved it, best thing of the day. I ran through the scene first in my daily wear, dropping down to all fours and continuing to walk. Next I got into my costume and did the same thing again, so that they could combine them later into a morphing bit.
To me that was like a dream, I've seen The Shaggy DA and other movies where someone turns into a Dog, and I'd always wish that I could be on screen doing that very thing!
Final interview time, and we got to some of the harder questions, meaning the more Human stuff, like sex, Furries, fetishes, relationships with others, what my appearance is when I see myself as a Dog, my ideal partner and how I feel about what people think of me being a Dog.
Ron came in and did his interview and gave his impressions on me and the whole Dog thing, and how he helped me to find the Furry scene. I really liked how honest and direct Ron was about it.
That was a rap. The crew broke the equipment down and packed it, and I got hugs from the producers before they had to leave. You have all of this excitement, and suddenly all of this excitement is packed up and gone. Still, we'll always have a connection and memories from doing this show.
I can't bark enough how professional and yet into this everyone was, and I thought we all made a connection over the story and the Doggishness, and they were feeling it too. It was great, just great..
I'd been on TV news a few times before, and radio shows, but had never done a TV show like this. I felt at ease with barking my story, and part of the enjoyment of the whole process was feeling like I was Boomer on the Here's Boomer show, and thinking what he would do, and how he was said to be so enthusiastic and 'on' in front of the cameras, like he was made for performing. It seems like I captured a little of the feeling of what it must have been like for him.
Back when Here's Boomer was on, I'd think about being an acting Dog in his place, or an understudy of his and being on TV doing those clever things he did, so I guess it's kind of like following him now, pretty cool.
The filming happened six months ago, and if anyone is wondering why I didn't post this article sooner, it's because I signed an agreement not to bark about my appearance on the show until it was scheduled to air. That might seem devious, but really it's not.
If the word gets out in advance that your segment is going to air, but if it's dropped from the schedule for some reason or changed, that advance publicity would play with people's expectations. There's also the chance that if it's announced, that another producer might want to film you and jump ahead in airing their own show with you in it.
A bow and tailwags to the people at Taboo..
Post-Gazette article on Boomer's name change effort