New York City has yet another group to add to its growing list of 31 genders. The human “pup” represents a movement of people who identify as dogs and enjoy acting as dogs do. The movement grew out of the BDSM movement and has continued to develop over the past 15 years with the increasing involvement of online social media.
Human Pups tend to be gay, male, and enjoy dressing in leather outfits and dog-like hoods, eating out of bowls, and playing with dog toys. The Pups are often in a relationship with their human “handlers,” who please them with tactile interactions such as rubbing, tickling, and scratching. They often wear mechanical tails which they wag for full effect.
A documentary called the Secret Life of the Human Pup explores the lives of the human animals, many of whom compete in an annual dog beauty pageant for the title of Mr. Puppy Europe and the chance to also compete in the International Puppy Contest in St. Louis. The furry competitors participate in beauty pageants, talent shows, and social events with other doggy contestants.
The documentary shows some pups pretend to urinate on lampposts around London in order to “raise awareness” of their identity. Watch the trailer below:
In an interview with the Guardian’s Nell Frizzell, a human pup and theater engineer called Tom explained his instinctive pull to the doggy world.
“You’re not worrying about money, or food, or work,” he said. “It’s just the chance to enjoy each other’s company on a very simple level.”
Tom further discussed his fetish for sleeping in a collar, wearing skin-tight clothing, and hanging out at bars in a dalmatian suit he found on eBay. He also revealed his breakup with his former fiancee Rachel, who apparently was not ready to marry a self-identifying dog. Tom rebounded by entering a gay relationship with his new “handler” Colin.
“I wouldn’t say it was the catalyst, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Tom told Frizzell. “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.”
David, an academic writer, told Frizzell he enjoyed puppy play as a form of escapism from the real world.
“It’s so totally non-verbal,” he said. “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.”
David explained his fascination with grasping the “positive elements of the archetype of the dog; the loyal companion.” David explained that while some of his fellow pups are solo, his “puppy identity” is focused on his bond with his handler Sidney, whom he’s been collared to for the past 10 years.
“If anyone comes near him I growl like a little bull terrier,” he said. “And I’m a people-pleaser in my human life. I get a great deal of pleasure from making other people happy.”
But Kaz, another pup who enjoys playing with other pups and eating out of a dog bowl, wants to break stereotypes of pup identities being solely focused on sex.
“People automatically jump to the conclusion that this is gear we wear to have sex,” he said. “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. 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.”
Kaz explained he and his puppy friends are just like any other person who wants to be accepted in society as dogs are.
Follow Pardes Seleh on Twitter.