There are dog lovers, and then there’s Gary Matthews — the 47-year-old Pittsburgh man who loves dogs so much that he wants to be one.

Matthews’ affinity for canines began when he was a child. He nicknamed himself “Pongo,” after the dog in “101 Dalmatians,” but at the age of 12 he became a fan of the NBC series “Here’s Boomer” and changed his nickname to “Boomer.”

Gary MatthewsHowever, it was the Disney comedy “The Shaggy D.A.” that gave him the idea of actually living as a dog.

Today, whenever he gets the chance, Matthews dons his shaggy dog costume he constructed from paper and becomes his alter ego, Boomer.

Matthews strolls the streets as Boomer, he eats out of a food bowl and sleeps in a 6-foot doghouse inside his home. He’s even perfected his Boomer bark.

"I looked up to 'Here's Boomer' and picked up some of his personality and behaviors,” Matthews wrote on his website. “When I bark, what you hear is the result of listening to my TV tapes and learning Boomer's voice from the soundtrack. Things like that have combined with my personality to make me a better dog."

When he’s not in his canine costume, Matthews keeps his inner dog alive by styling his long hair into dog ears and wearing a collar with a tag that reads “Boomer.”

But while his friends and family may have accepted his nickname, the state of Pennsylvania won’t give it legal recognition.

In 2010, Matthews tried to change his name to “Boomer The Dog,” but Allegheny County Judge Ronald W. Folino rejected the request on the grounds that it could “put the public welfare at risk.”

Folino argued that if Matthews were to call 911 to report a car accident, the dispatcher might not take him seriously if he identified himself as “Boomer The Dog.”

But Matthews isn’t discouraged. Regardless of his legal name, he’s “Boomer” at heart.

Learn more about Matthews’ canine lifestyle in the video below.

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Laura Moss writes about a variety of topics with a focus on animals, science, language and culture. But she mostly writes about cats.

Man wants to live life as a dog
Gary Matthews eats, sleeps and dresses like a canine, but the state of Pennsylvania won't allow him to change his name to 'Boomer The Dog.'