Inside the Mind of Barbara Lampert
Barbara Lampert, author of Charlie: A Love Story, agreed to give us an interview!!!!
Charlie: A Love Story gives you a beautiful glimpse at the relationship the author, Barbara, had with her golden retriever. I hope you enjoy this wonderful interview. I sure did!
- Did you have dogs when you were a child?
No, I didn’t! And that was quite frustrating. I begged and pleaded, promising I’d take care of any dog I was given, but the answer was always “no.” So instead, my parents gave me a parakeet. I named him Lovey, and he lived for thirteen years, which is a really long time for a parakeet. I really did love him tremendously. He was so smart. I taught him how to talk. He would follow me from room to room. And when it was bedtime, I would call him, and he would come from any room he was in, and then I’d put him in his cage. Now that I think about it, he sort of acted like a dog. I felt very close to him. One day I had him on my finger in the back yard (something I did regularly with him), and he just flew away. Well, for four hours I was hysterical. My mother, our neighbors, and I all went looking for him. Finally, I walked back to the house and went to the back yard, and there he was, sitting on the back porch in front of the screen door, waiting to come in. He had a little twig in his back from his travels. Needless to say, I never took him outside on my finger ever again. I was so happy that he was smart enough to find his way back. It was a great reunion!
Wow…that was really lucky! So glad to hear you found him again.
- How did not having a dog as a child affect your relationship with the dogs you had in the book?
After being deprived of a dog for all those years, it’s made me really happy to have not only one dog but a number of them at a time. I will never be without a dog. My dogs get so much love and attention (maybe too much!). Fortunately my husband is also a dog lover, so that means that our house and our lives pretty much revolve around dogs. But we love that, because dogs give so much. It’s wonderful to shower them with love and play with them as much as is humanly possible.
When Charlie came along, he seemed to exemplify the kind of dog I’d been longing for as a child. He and I wanted to be with each other as much as we could. He was so emotionally wise, he soaked up love, he was so loyal, and he loved his family more than anything. He was more than interested in forming a strong bond with me. Well, I could go on and on about Charlie. But really I’ve loved every dog I’ve ever had so much. Each of them has brought something different to my life. If I could, if my lifestyle allowed for it, I’d have many more dogs. Dogs are magic for me!
- Did you always want to be a writer?
Such an interesting question, and so appropriate. No, I did not always want to be a writer, but I’ve always wanted to write at least one book. I’ve always loved books. To me, in a way they are sacred. Writing Charlie: A Love Story just kind of happened. I’d been keeping a gardening journal while I was landscaping our property in Malibu, on almost an acre of land, when at eleven years old Charlie began having some health problems. Very quickly, that journal became about Charlie, and soon I had so many entries about him that my husband David told me I had the makings of a book. I agreed. I love to write, but most of my identity now has to do with being a psychotherapist. Though actually I’m thinking of writing a book about gardening, my garden musings, and the lessons gardening can provide. (See my answer to question 7.)
- How does being a therapist affect how you handle your dogs?
I was going to say that it probably has no effect, but when I think about it, being a therapist probably has some effect. I probably tend to focus on their emotional lives more because I’m a therapist. I’m very conscious of their moods. I can tell when something is bothering them. I try to make them as happy as possible, because I know that’s the feeling they love the most. Dogs are basically joyful. That’s the psychological world they live in, as far as I can tell.
- When did you realize Charlie was the dog of a lifetime?
Probably when I first got him. He had such unusual ways, which drew me in, and then he started being very attached to me. At first, he did not want to go outside. What dog doesn’t want to go outside? As a puppy, he sat with me while I was studying to become a licensed psychotherapist. What puppy wants to sit still? There’s so much more, but I think you get the sense.
- What made you decide to use your gardening book for Charlie?
What caught my attention when Charlie turned eleven and began having some health problems was his attitude. He was like a Buddha. He was joyful after each health event, some of which were quite serious. But for Charlie it was just a matter of getting through them and getting back to his wonderful life.
Fran Lewis, a book reviewer at Goodreads, put it well in her review of my book:
“Charlie had a special glow, energy, strength that most of us wish we had in times of illness, strife and stress.”
- Did you ever finish that gardening book?
Funny you should mention that! As I said above, I’m already thinking about writing another book, which I can’t believe. And not just thinking about it but actually planning on doing it. I’m pretty sure it will be about gardening, my thoughts in the garden, the lessons to be learned in the garden. I love to garden, but not as much as I love dogs. Dogs and gardens, in that order, bring me so much pleasure!
If you’d like some helpful pointers…we the Non-Gardeners-Who-Would-Like-To-Be would love to have a book to read that isn’t all technical. I for one would love to plant a garden, but all I know is which side of the plant goes up!
- How long did it take you to write Charlie: A Love Story from start to finish?
I thought I was finished in 2003, which would have been about three years. However, shortly after that I discovered the world of editing, which added another several years. Keep in mind that I have a full time job as a psychotherapist, and so my writing had to be fit around that. I certainly do not plan on taking as long with my second book. If nothing else, I’ve learned so much from this experience that publishing the next book should be so much easier! Famous last words.
Actually, I’m told the second book is always harder…but I’m sure you’ll do awesome! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us!
Thank you for your wonderful questions! They were thought-provoking and fun to answer.