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 considers them the magic on the planet. Barbara has had dogs most of her life and hopes to have at least one by her side always. 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.
Barbara was generous with her time in doing the interview and answered in depth so I've broken up the interview into two parts. Part one, which you're reading now, is about her book and a little bit about Charlie, while part two is more about Barbara, Charlie, and her other dogs.
"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. As Barbara says in her book:
“Charlie’s a big dog, not just physically but in every way. He has a big heart, a big smile, lots of courage, a big appetite, and a great, big, generous spirit. Charlie’s the emotional core of our family, the most solid being I have ever known, and wise beyond his years. Charlie and me. It’s a great love affair, a once-in-a-lifetime connection.”
"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.
"Charlie: A Love Story" was released in January of this year by Langdon Street Press and is available in paperback and ebook format. You can find Barbara online at her website and on facebook. For more information on Barbara's blog tour, click here.
Julie: You are stopping by on a release tour for your recently published book. Tell us a little bit about it.
Barbara: First I want to thank you for hosting me on your site and for coming up with such good questions. They’re inspiring.
Charlie: A Love Story is about an indomitable and joyful Golden Retriever of mine, Charlie, who conducted himself like a Buddha in the face of his life’s challenges. He had a zest for life and an uncanny emotional intelligence. Charlie and I were joined at the hip. He was my loyal confidante and best friend. So my book is about this astonishing dog and our extraordinary relationship. I’m a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, and so I bring that sensibility and understanding to Charlie’s story as well.
Charlie’s story, which takes place in Malibu, California, begins when he is eleven years old but also includes a number of reminiscences of his younger days as well as some stories about his pack members. Because it emerged out of my gardening journal, his story is surrounded by gardening and garden images. And because it is in journal form, Charlie’s story is told while it is happening and is mostly uncensored, providing an intimate look at Charlie and our incredible bond.
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.
Julie: What inspired you to write this book and share these incredible memories with the world?
Barbara: Unequivocally, Charlie was the inspiration for my book. Though one could argue that because Charlie’s story came out of my gardening journal, maybe my love of gardening had at least a little to do with it. Let me tell you how Charlie’s story came to be a book.
I’ve loved and been passionate about dogs my whole life, starting, I’ve been told, in infancy. For most of my life, I’ve had at least one dog, and at one time my husband David and I had four dogs and two cats. I love all animals, but particularly dogs. I’ve thought of each of the dogs and cats I’ve had as special, but a confluence of factors brought Charlie’s story together.
For several years, I’d been keeping a gardening journal of my landscaping activities. Occasionally, I would write about Charlie in my journal. But when he became eleven years old and started having some health problems, my journal entries quickly became more and more about him and less and less about gardening.
Charlie and I had always been extremely close – we just hit it off. Early on I recognized his stellar and unusual character, but I was amazed at how Charlie, at age eleven, dealt with his health problems. He seemed to have a very deep understanding of what was going on, and just about nothing got him down. He was both determined and joyful. Indomitable and wise. He was inspiring.
At first I was hesitant to turn my journal into a book, because the writing was so personal and intimate, and because, being such a private person as well as a psychotherapist, I didn’t know if I’d be comfortable doing that. But my overriding thought then was that it would be Charlie’s story, that not only did I want to pay tribute to this magnificent dog, but also I felt that the way he handled life could be an inspiration to others, just as it was to me.
I knew that Charlie was not only a once-in-a-lifetime dog but also a once-in-a-lifetime being. And that ours was a once-in-a-lifetime relationship. I needed to write about him, and his story needed to be told.
And so Charlie’s story emerged in a very natural way, not written after-the-fact but as he was living his life. It never occurred to me that those journal entries about him would become his story, a book, and my tribute to him.
Julie: What were some of the highlights of your life with Charlie?
Barbara: Mostly when I think about Charlie I remember how funny he was, how emotionally smart, how wise he was, and how good I always felt just being around him. I have such wonderful memories of this magnificent dog!
Charlie was funny from day one, at thirteen weeks old. For starters, he did not want to go outside, not even to play, to walk, or to do anything. We had to carry him out. He just wanted to stay in the house. What dog doesn’t want to go outside?! Yes, he would relieve himself outside and was trained almost instantly, but that was about it for the great outdoors. And all his life, he seemed to prefer being inside the house rather than going for walks or going away. On walks when he was finished, he would sit, and I could not move him (one hundred pounds or more most of his life), unless I indicated we would be going home.
Charlie seemed to have a sense of humor as well. If he got into our bed at night, he would instantly fall asleep with his head on the pillow, just like a person. And no one could get him up – he only wanted to sleep in that bed. And then there were the times when I might be lying on the floor and he would come over, lay himself across me, and actually pin me down. I’d be laughing so hard that, even if I’d wanted to, I couldn’t get up, and he would have a huge grin on his face – he thought that what he’d accomplished was wonderful.
Charlie had a mind of his own and was very determined, which often made him very funny. It wasn’t just me – our housekeeper used to call him “Funny Charlie.” He would make strangers laugh. What was it? I think it was that he was for the most part very well-behaved but then, when he would want something, there was no stopping him. He was so determined as to be indomitable.
Charlie’s life was long and rich, and he enriched my life so much as well as enriched the lives of the numerous people and dogs he encountered. He was a big, gentle soul. As examples, he saved a little bird the size of a thimble, he protected a rescued Sheltie whom we brought into our family, and he would be very upset if one of our other dogs was ill. Charlie was so attuned to the world around him. And then when he started having some health problems at age eleven years, I couldn’t believe how stoic, wise, and accepting he was. In the face of whatever he had to deal with, he was calm, and he’d always become joyful when he’d gotten through it. As I’ve said, a Buddha. A being to learn from. A being that I and lots of people wanted to be around. Charlie was one big highlight of my life.
Julie: What inspired you to make a garden journal, which, I understand, turned into a story about Charlie?
Barbara: Good question! I myself wonder why I started keeping a gardening journal, particularly because I’d never done that before. Maybe it was because I’d undertaken such a large project – landscaping almost an acre. Or maybe it was because I was having so much fun doing it. It was exciting. Or maybe it was because there was so much to keep track of – I was doing it by myself. Or maybe it was because I started having so many interesting experiences in the garden as well as when I went to nurseries looking for plants.
While I was landscaping our property, I was living in my own world. It was so much fun writing about what I was doing in the garden and what gardening needed to be done, about the designs I had in my head, and about the plants I was getting, what they needed, their beauty, and the way they were growing. It’s interesting how all this got pushed to the background when Charlie started having his health problems. I still wrote about the garden somewhat, but that definitely took a back seat as Charlie needed more attention and I became more and more concerned about him. As Charlie’s story unfolds, the garden, the plants, my gardening activities start fading far into the background. After about halfway through his story, there are very few garden references – Charlie gets my undivided attention. But there is always a beautiful garden and garden images surrounding my Charlie.
Julie: Could you tell us a little more about your non-writing life?
Barbara: While I love to write, my profession is that of a psychotherapist, and doing this work is how I spend most of my time. I’ve been licensed as a Marriage Family Therapist for more than twenty years and consider my work my calling. I’ve been curious about people and have helped people with their problems most of my life. So it was only natural that I would do that professionally. I love what I do!
I specialize in relationship issues. I work mostly with individuals but also with couples, dealing with anxiety, depression, and various other mood problems as well as with character disorders, mainly the narcissistic personality. I see my job as helping people extricate themselves from the various situations in which they become entangled.
Julie: Could you tell us a little more about your writing life?
Barbara: To begin with, I’m not a writer by profession. I need to fit my writing into my day. Also, I’m the type of person who writes only when the mood strikes. For a few years, while I was journaling about Charlie and my garden, I was writing every day, no matter what, but once I began working on turning my journal entries into a book, my new writing became much more sporadic, and still is. When I do write, it’s usually in the back room of our house or in my psychotherapy office – places that are very quiet and beautifully decorated, with comfortable chairs, places where I know I won’t be interrupted. All of which are very important features for me. I often write on yellow legal pads, and though lately I’ve begun to use my computer, my favorite medium remains my yellow pad.
Thank you Barbara for taking the time to answer our questions. For more on Barbara, Charlie, and Barbara's other dogs, go to part two of the interview. You'll also find a giveaway at the end of that post.