Channel Four recently screened a very strange documentary, The Secret Life of Human Pups, about the little known practice of people – mostly men – going to great lengths to dress as pups and to do some serious role playing. Most of the programme focused on theatre designer Tom/Spot who is currently Mr Pup UK who lives with his handler Colin, but who had been engaged to Rachael who he is still close to.
Apparently the scene in the UK includes some 10,000 people, so is a sizeable group who spend large amounts of money on latex suits and prosthetics, who play with toys, eat dog food and are increasingly organising a social scene.
My initial reaction was, this is yet another case of affluenza, behaviour that would never happen in less developed countries or in the past, but the upper echelons of UK society – mostly men again, have form here with the elite dressing as babies etc., so no surprise the pup movement grew out of the sex industry. What is surprising is that participants repeatedly denied there was anything sexual about it.
‘Puppies’ came out with comments like, ‘Everybody loves a puppy. If I’m a puppy, people will like me.’ They spoke of needing to escape from modern life. In particular, fleeing from its complications – a puppy doesn’t need to speak; they communicate in grunts, woofs, they get rewards from handlers when they behave, and the handlers also gain from the role play. One spoke of the high number of puppies and handlers who were bullied at school. The scene offers a safe place for them to bond with others. One handler spoke of having his family abroad, so he organises social events to provide him with an alternative ‘family’.
It’s not strictly a British phenomena; the Mr Puppy Europe was an event in Belgium that attracted 5,000 people, though unlike the UK, there is a far more sexual element to it, with lots of bared buttocks on display and crotch stroking.
One pup claimed, ‘Nobody in this world is normal. Everyone has their quirks.’ True, but this is a really extreme form of behaviour.
Tom/Spot was incredibly open in his behaviour, and ex fiance Rachael claimed he was her first love, and that she still loved him, seeming unable to move on, claiming she would take him back any time. But Tom claimed ‘The pup needs me, and I need the pup.’
It seems to me this is odd behaviour, but it is carried on by people who are successful, holding down jobs and hurts no one. If it helps damaged people cope with problems that cannot be dealt with by more conventional methods, then it has value. These people have found their own way of coping with their problems, and that is a very long tradition in these islands. I do feel sorry for Rachael, and wonder how many other partners have been sidelined by this, but if it makes them happy, …..