ABOUT BARBARA LAMPERT
Barbara Lampert is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in relationships. She’s been in private practice in Brentwood, California for over twenty years. She considers her work a calling and loves what she does. She has a doctorate in medical sociology and two master’s degrees – one in psychology and one in sociology. Barbara has adored dogs her whole life. They’re her passion! She notes that for a lot of people, their dogs are their best friends. She loves helping people know that’s ok – that a soul-satisfying relationship may be found with any being and needs to be treasured. Besides her love of dogs, Barbara is an avid gardener and finds herself gardening in much of her spare time. She sees her garden as a work of art. She loves being in nature – the miracle of growth, the ever-changing landscape, its beauty. Today Barbara lives happily in Malibu, California with her husband David (married twenty-eight years!) and their six-year-old Golden Retriever, Harry. Barbara hopes that Charlie: A Love Story will be a tribute not only to a magnificent dog but to all dogs everywhere. You can visit her website atwww.charliealovestory.com. Website | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Official Tour Page
Could you please tell us a little about your book?
Charlie: A Love Story is about Charlie, an indomitable, joyful and very wise Golden Retriever, and the beautiful love between Charlie and me. It takes place in Malibu, California. When Charlie turned eleven years old and started having some health problems, a journal I was keeping about my garden quickly became mostly about Charlie.
My book is a very intimate look at the relationship Charlie and I shared. I’m a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, and so I bring that sensibility and understanding to Charlie’s story as well. Charlie was my loyal confidante and best friend. He had a zest for life and an uncanny emotional intelligence.
Charlie: A Love Story is about devotion, joy, loss, and renewal, about never giving up or giving in. But mostly it’s about an extraordinary dog and an extraordinary relationship.
Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?
Actually, I didn’t think of my writings about Charlie as a book until three years into my writing about him. Here’s how that happened: I was keeping a gardening journal, when Charlie at eleven years old began having some health problems. Because Charlie and I had always been so close, naturally it was upsetting seeing him dealing with these problems. So very quickly my gardening journal became mostly about Charlie. Writing about him was cathartic.
But what really made me want to write about him was his attitude as he faced these health challenges. He was like a Buddha, joyful in the face of each of them. Having been around lots of dogs and heard lots of dog stories, I’d never seen or heard anything like what I was experiencing with Charlie.
Writing about him went on for about three years. Then one day I started reading some of my journal entries to my husband David and he said, quite matter-of-factly, “It looks like you have the makings of a book.” I agreed. So I started pulling out all the entries that had to do with Charlie and so began the process of putting Charlie’s story together.
Who or what is the inspiration behind this book?
Without hesitation and unequivocally: Charlie! His very being inspired me. His attitude, his joy in the face of problems, his pulling out of situations that no one thought he could or would, his very strong will, his sense of humor. That he was so gentle and yet so strong. A being like no other I had ever known. I couldn’t not write about him.
What do you feel sets this book apart from others in the same genre?
Thank you for this question!
I strongly believe that my book is very different from all the other dog memoirs I have seen. And I’ve seen almost all of them and read so many of them. Dog memoirs are of great interest to me, not just because I wrote one but because I love reading about dogs. And there are some really good dog memoirs out there – they’ve gotten much better over the years. Though I still love so much Arthur Vanderbilt’s Golden Days: Memories of a Golden Retriever, published in 1998. Maybe the best book of its kind. I was thrilled and honored when he said he would endorse my book!
So here’s what sets my book apart:
Unlike a lot of dog memoirs, Charlie’s story is mostly about Charlie –there’s not much about me or my husband or any one else. There are several anecdotes, but those are mostly about Charlie’s younger days, with a few anecdotes about his pack members and one about a vacation we all take. There are no ongoing side stories. Unlike a lot of dog memoirs, my memoir is not overly cute. Nor is it a comedy about an uncontrollable dog or an author’s life that’s out of control. I like what Alan Caruba, a book reviewer from Bookviews had to say about Charlie’s story: “It is a great relief to read a memoir that does not involve some kind of confession regarding the numerous ways people find to screw up their lives.” I tell the story the way I think Charlie would want it to be told, always giving him the respect his nobility deserves.
Also unlike a lot of dog memoirs, which begin when the dog is a puppy, Charlie’s story begins when he is eleven years old. So it’s about a dog in his later years. More than unusual!
Also, my dog memoir is not told along with a plea for rescuing dogs (though I consider this a good thing) or for opposing research experimentation on dogs (though I consider such experimentation unthinkable) or some other dog cause. My book is told purely for the sake of telling the story of Charlie.
Because Charlie’s story comes out of my gardening journal, there are various references to the garden, to gardening activities, to the lessons to be found in caring for a garden, and to the miracle of growth and beauty that are very much a part of the gardening experience. That miracle is the contrasting background for Charlie’s later years and his health problems. Though Charlie’s later years were beautiful, because of who Charlie was.
And because I did not intend to publish the gardening journal entries that led to Charlie’s story, most of the writing is uncensored and very intimate. Additionally, Charlie’s story is told as it was actually happening. I certainly didn’t know what was coming, which is apparent in the story. In contrast, every dog memoir I’ve ever read is told after-the-fact.
Another differentiation of my book from other dog books is that, while it’s very real, at the same time it’s told in an often artistic, sometimes dream-like style. Many of its sentences are fragments, resulting in a colloquial shorthand of the sort one might expect to find in a not-for-publication journal. And surrounding Charlie’s story with the garden and garden images reinforces that mood.
A final but significant point that I believe really sets my book apart is that I don’t know of another dog memoir that’s been written by a psychotherapist who actually specializes in relationships, which in fact is who I am and what I’ve been licensed to do. I know what makes for a good relationship. So I tell Charlie’s story from that perspective. Charlie and I had a great relationship, with so much reciprocity and so much understanding of one another. So the book is the story not only of a great dog but also of a great relationship – and how a person can find that not just with another person but also with a dog. Hopefully readers will be encouraged to feel ok about having deeply meaningful relationships with their dogs or any other pet.
I’ll stop here. I hope you get a sense of how different Charlie’s story is from any other dog memoir.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from life so far?
There are so many lessons I’ve learned, and it’s so hard to narrow them down. But I’ll try my best.
Trite but true: Life is short! Make the most of your time, don’t waste time, live in the moment and love the moment, because once it’s gone, it will never be there again.
Because life is so short, do at least something you absolutely love. Pay attention to your natural talents and choose from one of them. Work hard at that thing you love. Your life will then feel meaningful. And be sure to play as much as you work, and maybe more.
Find what you think is magical in the world, and make sure you spend time either doing it or having it. For me, it’s dogs! I love them so much – it’s so important to me to be in their presence, to love them, to play with them, to watch them, to care for them. They give far more than I can give, but I try. And give as much as you can. It’s the highest form of spirituality and will make you feel good. Dogs know this!
What is your favorite past-time?
Playing with my dogs is my favorite past-time. With a Golden Retriever, much of that playing has to do with a ball. We have hundreds of balls in our home: balls of all shapes, balls of all sizes, balls of all colors, lots of balls that make noise and that are soft, light, and rubbery. While we play inside the house, playing outside is the most fun. Running around the garden, around the meandering pathways, chasing after the ball, searching for it. The excitement that revolves around that ball is, well, there’s nothing like it!
Thank you for this inspiring interview – excellent questions!
ABOUT CHARLIE: A LOVE STORY
Charlie: A Love Story tells of the beautiful love between Charlie, a Golden Retriever, and the author, Barbara Lampert. It takes place in Malibu, California. When Charlie turned eleven years old and started having some health problems, a journal Barbara was keeping about her garden quickly became mostly about Charlie.Charlie: A Love Story is an intimate look at an incredible connection between a canine and a human. And as a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, Barbara brings that sensibility and understanding to Charlie’s story as well. Charlie was Barbara’s loyal confidante and best friend. He was indomitable, had a zest for life and an uncanny emotional intelligence. Charlie: A Love Story is about devotion, joy, loss, and renewal, about never giving up or giving in. But mostly it’s about an extraordinary dog and an extraordinary relationship.