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Human Pups: The Incredible Story of Men Who Live as Dogs

dog-mantal-illness  Human Pups: The Incredible Story of Men Who Live as Dogs dog mantal illnessA new documentary about “pup play,” the (often though not always sexual) act of dressing and inhabiting the role of a dog while another person takes on the role of handler or trainer, is about to be unleashed on Great Britain’s Channel 4, bringing new focus to a subculture that—according to some members—is ready to go mainstream. [2]

Nell Frizzell at The Guardian explains:

Secret Life of the Human Pups is a sympathetic look at the world of pup play, a movement that grew out of the BDSM community and has exploded in the last 15 years as the internet made it easier to reach out to likeminded people. While the pup community is a broad church, human pups tend to be male, gay, have an interest in dressing in leather, wear dog-like hoods, enjoy tactile interactions like stomach rubbing or ear tickling, play with toys, eat out of bowls and are often in a relationship with their human “handlers.” [1]

DOG-DUMB-ASS  Human Pups: The Incredible Story of Men Who Live as Dogs DOG DUMB ASSIn the documentary, viewers are introduced to Tom, a theater engineer, whose relationship with his fiancée Rachel, ended after he realized his pup identity and moved into a relationship with his trainer, Colin.  “I wouldn’t say it was the catalyst [of our breakup], but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he tells The Guardian. “Then I had this moment of panic because a puppy without a collar is a stray; they don’t have anyone to look after them. I started chatting to Colin online and he offered to look after me. It’s a sad thing to say, but there’s not love from the heart in me for Colin–but what I have got is someone who is there for me and I’m happy with that.” [2]  In the documentary, we see Tom, AKA Spot, take part in the Mr Puppy Europe competition in Antwerp, a mix of beauty pageant, talent show and Crufts; David, AKA Bootbrush, talk to camera in a leather dog mask; two pups walk through London pretending to wee on lampposts to raise awareness of their identity; and lots of men jumping up for “treats”, barking and wagging their mechanical tails. [1]

Rachel-and-Spot  Human Pups: The Incredible Story of Men Who Live as Dogs Rachel and SpotTom’s discovery of puppy play came about gradually. He knew he liked sleeping in a collar, had a fetish for skin-tight clothing – Lycra, rubber, even off-the-peg cycling shorts – then came a dalmatian zentai suit he found on eBay, a £1 orange lead from Pets at Home until, eventually, a man in a club walked up to him and said: “Oh right, so you’re a pup.” [1] “We never had dogs when I was growing up,” Tom continues. “However, I’ve always shared a good bond with animals – they’re always very calm around me.”  Tom, who has previously slept in a dog crate, spent over £4,000 on his obsession and requires “a lot” of talcum powder to get in and out of his costume, is aware that many people find his hobby strange.  “Some people understand it better than others,” says the lighting manager, who lives in Tring, Hertfordshire. “I don’t push it onto them if they don’t want to know, as that is unfair to both them and me. But most of my close friends also practise puppy play and so they will get me puppy related treats when I see them.” [5]

While pup play isn’t a new phenomenon, its previous existence has mostly been behind closed doors—either at home, in chat rooms, or in private clubs. (“Members of my pack, we spend a lot of time together at home just being dogs,” explains a human pup named Kaz. “There’s nine of us and my partner is our handler. A big part of it is a feeling of family and belonging; we’re there to look after each other.”) [2]

dog-idiots  Human Pups: The Incredible Story of Men Who Live as Dogs dog idiots

Aren’t they looking like a buch of loons or what?

So what, according to human pups, is the appeal of pup play? In the Golden Age of Pet Obsession, domestic dogs live incredibly cushy lives. [4] For some, like Tom, it’s about freedom, fun, and animal instinct:

You’re not worrying about money, or food, or work. It’s just the chance to enjoy each other’s company on a very simple level. [1]

Dogs don’t have to go to work or agonize over all sorts of human problems — they don’t even have a sense of the future.  [4] In other words, being a “pup” it’s about being given licence to behave in a way that feels natural, even primal.. [1] For others, like Kaz, it’s about expressing one’s true canine identity:

Even when I worked in PC World I would sometimes walk up to people and nip at their shirt. I got in trouble once; someone walked into the PC repair centre and I had part of their dad’s computer in my mouth. But the other staff knew I was like that to everyone. They didn’t find it weird. [1]

At home, he eats out of a dog bowl:

It’s just nice, it makes me feel comfortable…But I always eat with a knife and fork and at a table. Otherwise it’s time-consuming and you can’t watch TV.

DOG-RETARD  Human Pups: The Incredible Story of Men Who Live as Dogs DOG RETARD

dog-lunacy  Human Pups: The Incredible Story of Men Who Live as Dogs dog lunacyBesides that, what does ‘being a puppy’ actually entail?  “To live the life of a puppy allows you to find enjoyment from simple things in life,” yaps the 32-year old human Dalmation. “From chewing toys to being praised as a ‘good boy’, it is a chance to escape from your hectic normal life and have fun in a relaxed atmosphere. [5] For David, a writer who works in academia, puppy play is an escape from the analytical world. “It’s so totally non-verbal,” he tells me. “It’s pre-rational, pre-conscious. It’s an instinctive, emotional space. But within every puppy is a person. This is part of my identity, but it’s only part. I’m also a vegetarian, play the piano; I have a parrot. I was planting tomatoes on my allotment this morning. I can go months without going into pup space.” [1]

Then, of course, there is the sex. Puppy play is often part of a larger sexual practice that crosses over with leather folk, furries and BDSM. But, as Kaz is keen to point out, not always. “People automatically jump to the conclusion that this is gear we wear to have sex. I used to get asked awful questions like, if I liked having sex with dogs. But it’s certainly not that, and it’s not always sexual. Members of my pack, we spend a lot of time together at home just being dogs.” [1] But as the world becomes increasingly open to a wider range of sexual identities, some human pups are looking for broader acceptance.  “It feels like you can be gay, straight, bisexual, trans and be accepted,” says Tom. “All I want is for the pup community to be accepted in the same way. We’re not trying to cause grief to the public, or cause grief to relationships. We’re just the same as any other person on the high street.” [1][2]

carl-jung-1-sized  Human Pups: The Incredible Story of Men Who Live as Dogs carl jung 1 sized

Carl Jung

The psychiatrist Carl Jung argued that our conscious minds contain intuitive, emotional, sensation and thinking archetypes. Are the sort of men drawn to puppy play simply exploring their intuitive self? “Absolutely,” says David. “Puppy play is exactly that – play. There is an immense amount of pleasure from gambolling around in a club playing with squeaky toys because you’re making people laugh, you’re being a cute little puppy. The gay scene can be very serious, scary and offputting. But if you’re going in with a little puppy hood, ears and a tongue, you look cute. You’re allowed to bound around and be enthusiastic, mischievous and friendly.” [1] What is the attraction, for pups and their handlers? “You are trying to grasp the positive elements of the archetype of the dog; the loyal companion,” says David. “Some pups are solo, of course, but for me the puppy identity is focused on the bond between me and Sidney, my handler. I’ve been collared to him for 10 years. If anyone comes near him I growl like a little bull terrier. And I’m a people-pleaser in my human life. I get a great deal of pleasure from making other people happy.” [1]

[1] Nell Frizzell, The men who live as dogs: ‘We’re just the same as any person on the high street’, The Guardian, Wednesday 25 May 2016 13.08 BST
[2] Madeleine Davies, Forever In the Dog House, These Men Live Their Lives as ‘Human Pups’, Jezebel, May 25 2016  11:50am
[3] Mark Frauenfelder, Documentary about men who live as dogs, Boing Boing, 10:31 am Wed May 25, 2016
[4] Gabriella Paiella, These Men Who Want to Live As Dogs May Be the Only Sane People Left, The Cut, May 25, 2016 9:51
[5] Jonathan Wells, Barking mad? Meet the man who likes to dress up as a dog, The Telegraph, 25 May 2016 • 3:53pm
[6] Joe Gullo, Who let the dogs out? Documentary looks at men who live as dogs, News10, May 25, 2016, 12:52 pm


About Bill Wallace

Bill Wallace is a self-fashioned writter, a computer programmer and cybermarketer from Quebec City, Canada who decided to enter the political arena after his disillusionment with the socialist system under which he was living in the French Canadian province of Quebec.

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