The kink phenomenon of pup play, role-playing the persona of a puppy, shows no signs of slowing down in its popularity. Local organizations such as SEA-PAH, PDX-PAH, and VAN-PAH are incredibly active, and even on more vanilla bar nights, you might see a fellow with a pup mask and a tail wandering about. Like the leather community, the pup community holds many title competitions, including our regional competition, Northwest Puppy, which has sent many winners to victory at international titles at International Puppy Trainer Contest.
I recently got to chat with Pup Turbo, Northwest Puppy for 2016 and current reigning International Puppy. He’s passionate about his kinks and sharing them with the community. I inquired as how he first had an inkling that a dog’s life was the one for him.
“I first heard about puppy play from someone who was my best friend at the time,” he indicated. “They kept going over to a person’s house who I knew they had little in common, and I couldn’t figure out what they were up to. Finally, they told me that they go over there, take off their clothes, put a tail in their butt, and act like a dog. I thought: wow, that’s strange, I don’t know about all that.”
“Being an academic, I researched it,” Turbo noted. “A few weeks into my research I thought: You know, this sounds like fun. So, I tried it on my own. It was intriguing, so I ordered some knee pads and mitts in early 2013… cheap ones because I still wasn’t sure. I was living in North Florida at the time and couldn’t find other pups, but a trainer came up a couple of weekends to show me what being a pup was about. As it turns out, he said I was a natural. I was hooked.”
While pup play is often a stop along a journey filled with fetishes, for Turbo, identifying as a pup was much more personal.
“I had only come out as gay, and then queer, three years prior to ordering those first kneepads,” he explained. “Puppy originally wasn’t about me being kinky, it was a way to live presently and cope with PTSD, depression and anxiety where other methods had failed. When I walked into my first puppy event, my first thought was, “What are all these leather biker dudes doing here?” I didn’t know the connection to leather or other kink communities. By the end of that weekend, though, I had learned a ton about leather tradition and was even gifted my first piece of leather.”
Where did the name Turbo come from?
“After a few months of being a puppy without a name,” Turbo shared, “I realized that I was not going to be collared and owned anytime soon, so I needed a name. I’m a car guy and a former street racer, and was known for my BMW with the monster turbo I had installed. I even have that turbo tattooed on my shoulder. I wrote out a few names and took a couple days speaking them aloud and imagining calling a dog with them, and Turbo stood out. At the time, I thought someone might claim and rename me, but that won’t be happening now. Turbo is my name.”
Pup play extends to Turbo’s work life as well. Pup Turbo is an academic, a PhD student who has focused his work on the dynamics within the pup community, “how people in the puppy community use space in the formation and maintenance of their identity,” or for short, “puppies in the city.” Among his work, he’s volunteered to plan a BDSM panel as part of “Sex Week” at Portland State through the Queer Resource Center, which has gotten him both positive and negative attention.
“My pup play panel caught the attention of Michael Strickland, who filmed part of my talk to put on his right-wing blog. The same guy was arrested soon after for pulling a gun on a group of Black Lives Matter marchers. Thankfully he was not so dramatic at my presentation and the community gained some new members, including my beta! It’s interesting though, that as puppy grows, the mainstream will start to take notice and judge us as they will. As an academic, I can put myself out there and live openly as a puppy and as kinky, but not everyone is so fortunate.”
Competing for an international title is a big deal, and winning after a comparatively short time in the community, I wondered what his experience was like.
“It was quite a ride winning the title, and different from other contests I have seen and participated in,” Turbo pointed out. “There were the introductions, the speeches, and the interviews of course, but instead of a “fantasy scene” as many contests have, this one was structured much like the Westminster dog show. At first I was apprehensive about this part. I’m a rather strong-willed and independent dog. But this format was actually quite liberating. Sir Pounder was competing for the Trainer title with me, and we were able to integrate his very structured handling style with my energetic behavior. In the end, I was really able to be the dog I see myself as, rather than being an entertainer.”
For those curious about pup play who haven’t tried it, Pup Turbo recommends to dive right in.
“Jump in, explore, find your niche!” he exclaimed. “There is room for almost everyone. You don’t need an owner to be a pup. Likewise, you don’t need a pup to be a handler. You can get involved in planning events, helping facilitate moshes, bring treats! These are all needed and all valid ways to be a handler without putting a collar on someone’s neck. There is no one way to be a pup or handler and don’t let anyone tell you different. I identify as a retired racing greyhound… that’s more dog than pup, but that’s fine. I always thought of myself as beta and submissive, but now I’m an Alpha and Daddy to a wonderful pup. Life is fluid, our identities are fluid. Allow yourself the freedom and flexibility to try new things.”
Next up for Pup Turbo is a lot of traveling and representing his title. He’ll be attending Mr. Puppy Europe next, and of course International Puppy and Handler Weekend July 6-9 in St. Louis, among other events.
“My mind is always on future research,” he explained, “so it will be interesting to see how puppy play is done in other parts of the world, how space is used, and how gender, race, class and other opportunities for inclusivity are approached in those places. It’s a big world and I’m just a small academic dog, but I want to leave my mark as far and wide as I can!”