There is one relatively new tribe within the LGBTQ+++ community that had always baffled me, the ‘Human Pups’. This is where like-minded folk don full-face dog masks, rubber body suits, harnesses or collars and meet at ‘Pup Socials’ to play, fetch ball, fight and receive walks and petting from their handlers.
I just could not understand the appeal and although I had bumped into pups in various bars, I have never felt the desire to roll over or sniff butts with them.
I did once unintentionally affront one handler when I casually greeted his pet with, “What’s new… Scooby Doo?”
Ironically, it was the handler that snarled, “He doesn’t look like Scooby Doo!”
I looked from handler to pup and back to handler again and said, “Weeeeeeeeell… he does a bit.”
The pup cocked his head in an approachable manner and let out a series of friendly yaps, which I took to mean that I hadn’t put his cold wet nose out of joint.
The handler did have a point though, the pup didn’t really look like Scooby Doo… more Dynomutt or Ace – The Bat Hound (Yes, Batman really does have a crime fighting dog. Google it.).
The costumes are actually very cool… and I was about to have my views of this subculture within a subculture turned on its head.
I was going out to the cinema with Robin, a mate that I have known for more years than I care to mention. We had arranged to meet at a bar on Hurst Street before the film. Unbeknown to me, a pup social was taking place upstairs in a separate function room, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a litter of human canines coming and going around the place. Although I may not have understood the appeal of this fetish, they always added welcome variety to a night out.
As Robin and I stood chatting, two pups scampered up behind my friend and started to scratch him behind the ear. Without turning around, Robin immediately leaned into the scratch, stuck out his tongue and began to pant in appreciation.
The two guys departed, and Robin carried on as though nothing had happened, but then, registering my perplexed expression, said, “Oh, you have probably just learned something new about me.”
Robin is someone for whom I have a great fondness and respect. The winner of ‘Best in Show’ at Chuffs in my opinion. When we first met him, my partner and I both agreed that he was perfect boyfriend material for some very lucky man. I now had an opportunity to talk to someone that I held in high esteem about this strange new world and learn all about a dog’s life.
Robin explained that it wasn’t necessarily all about sexual fetishism, as the events attract a mix of gay, straight and bi men and women. It is more a form of escapism. A way of taking on a role, separate from the normality of everyday life and entering a fantasy, devoid of responsibility. It’s not unlike attending the increasingly popular Comic Con and cult TV events and losing yourself in the role of a Starfleet officer, Minecraft character, superhero or favourite incarnation of a particular Timelord.
The more I listened, the more pleased I became that this unique practice was represented by the many stripes of the all-embracing Rainbow Flag.
I knew it was an ignorant question, but I had to ask, “Do people pick up poop?!”
“At some events… but that’s hardcore.”
“Are there feeding bowls?”
“Yes, but they are hard to drink out of when wearing the mask. You need a straw.”
“Do you own a mask?”
“No, not yet. They are really expensive.”
It must be a costly business. The masks can cost hundreds of pounds then there’s the suits, the harness, collar, chain, toys… worming tablets, pet insurance, vet bills and kennel costs… not to mention tins of Chum, dry food and maybe the treat of some pâté if they are good.
Much later that night, as we left the cinema, two guys spotted Robin from across the street and barked out a loud, “ARF! ARF!””
Robin responded in kind.
I suspect it was the same two guys from earlier in the bar, but minus their masks.
I loved the fact that they had this secret signal that allowed them to acknowledge a fellow pup while out in public in their civvies. It was like the masonic handshake.
Back at the bar, Robin and I had one last drink together, but I could tell that the pack was calling and he really wanted to be upstairs playing with his friends. It was time to release him back into the wild.
“Go on, go have fun! I’ll be fine down here on my own.”
Robin hugged me goodbye and headed for the stairs.
As he reached the threshold, I called, “Hey Robin!”
“You be good dog.”
His eyes narrowed into a hard stare more associated with Paddington Bear than Scooby Doo… then left.
Months later, long after Robin had moved to London, I saw an advert for discount pup masks. Remembering how expensive he had told me they were I forwarded the link. Moments later I received an image in reply of Robin and his new boyfriend tucked up in bed, both wearing dog masks. The response had come back so quickly that it left me wondering if this was just their standard bedwear?
Way back when my partner and I first met Robin, I recall him saying that one day he hoped to have the same settled lifestyle that he perceived we had. He wanted the partner and the dog. It looks like he’s got both… in the same person.
Robin changed my attitude to a facet of the gay community that I didn’t previously appreciate. It took this young pup to teach an old dog new tricks. Xxx