The pet play lifestyle is full of so many voices that make it unique and vibrant. To showcase this, every month we will be shining the spotlight on a particular human animal or Handler in our community. Let's hear what makes every pet player special!
2021's year of features is coming to a tail-wagging good close with the newly-crowned LA Pup 2022! This amazing guard dog's howls bring the pet play community together with joy, inclusion, acceptance, awareness and love. We are proud to amplify some of their words here. Introducing...
Please introduce yourself and how you identify in pet play.
Hai woof bork! My name is Pup Kieran Hound (she/they/he) and I am a Doberman guard-doggo within pet play (it's a good fit for being tall, lanky, intimidating when I need to be, while mostly being a happy zoomie dorky derp the rest of the time!). I chose the name Kieran as it's a derivative of Gaelic meaning "little dark one," a nod to my Celtic ancestry and it's often used as a warrior name.
How did you discover your pet play identity?
I first witnessed pet play when I saw my first kink play: pony play out at a Burning Man festival in Georgia in 2012. I was struck by the sheer elegance, beauty, class and grace of three people with a two-wheeled pony cart making absolute theatrical equine magic come alive. I HAD to learn more!
In my first few years of kinking, I felt out the headspace of a pony. I stepped into pup play thanks to a friend from my college in Georgia traveling out to LA to visit, having recently come out as gay (it wasn't easy nor welcoming at our school to do so). He had met two pup players at a local leather bar, and I knew just enough about pup play that I asked if they were puppies when I came over to visit them all. They exploded with joy and invited me to meet all their pup player friends and then come out to support one of them in the LA Pup 2015 Contest (the very first one). Then, starting to mosh with SoCal Creatures in 2019 absolutely sealed the deal with stepping into the paws of a pup player!
The biggest thing that I learned from it was this deep joyful energy of being in a pup headspace. It was such a beautifully intoxicating and liberating feeling, and it was that energy that drew me into pup play as a personal practice in 2018. I call it my "joy practice" and for good reason!
What are your favorite pet play activities?
I go absolutely bonkers for squeaky toys and rope tugging! You can often find me at moshes with a bucket of toys that I enjoy dumping into the playful chaos. My favorite thing is zooming from toy to toy, and also tossing a tug-of-war rope to nearby pets or handlers, and whining at them to play with me. I get super duper into it and will do my best to tire my opponent out so I can win.... or at least get some good-doggo scritches!
How, if at all, do your intersections of identity influence your pet play?
I'm so glad you asked! This is meaty goodness of thought that I love delving into. A heads-up... I consider this intrinsic to navigating the world as a mindful human, so I'm okay if the following brain-sharing seems confusing, daft or even off-putting to some. That's to be expected. Let's zoomie in!
As a white able-bodied bisexual genderqueer human (whew, that's a mouthful!) who, more often than not, passes for straight and cis in the world, I keep in mind my intersections in a few different ways while at play parties and moshes:
1) Due to my white skin color and Western European colonizer ancestry, I am more readily accepted/listened to/given benefit of the doubt and less non-consensually fetishized in both public and private spaces (even when in full pup gear) than Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other pet players of color due to the lingering white supremacy in U.S. culture. It's my daily work to be mindful of not perpetuating that harm by pretending that my skin color doesn't carry these privileges or pretending that my default experience is "normal." I recognize that I have made harmful mistakes in the past and will in the future, as I believe that racism is a lifelong aspect of white people to deprogram within the mind.
Practicing anti-racism is the best way I know to learn to share resources and create more equity in our community. Racism and anti-Blackness exists within pet play spaces too, and if me and my fellow white pet players aren't conscious of this, it's way too easy to unconsciously enact harm, hoard resources and marginalize our fellow players. We are not responsible for our first thought, but we are responsible for our second thought and first action. I steadfastly believe that we must be the change we want to see in the world, especially when it feels overwhelming and impossible. Doggos/critters don't give up and we are stronger together! We chip away at racism with our daily actions and therefore make it a safer place for all.
2) Being able-bodied, I can be physically very rough and tumble when I know my play partner would like to engage in play like that. At the same time, I must be mindful that my pup play is a very large palette, and I can choose ways of play and interaction that blend well with people of all ranges of bodily ability. My play is about connection and meeting people where they are - it's not about showing off or challenging anyone without their enthusiastic and informed consent! It's all about evoking pure puppy joy!
3) As for passing for straight and cis, I feel I exist in an odd liminal space that often feels between cis and trans. I experience body euphoria and have cultivated a love for my whole body, but it still feels very limiting when people only believe I am a woman, or attempt to define me by my anatomy. The gender binary has been confusing to me from a very young age and my mind does not know how to "act" as one gender. I am a continual flux of influences, energies and desires that cannot be pinned into one neat gender box. At the same time, I realize that cis/straight people assuming I am also cis/straight means that it's more likely I will encounter transphobic/homophobic language that's passed off as "funny" or "normal." Keeping with my guardian energy, I feel it's my duty to keep a perked ear out for toxic aspects of language and speak up to correct it and shine light on it (including within myself). Silence is agreement. When we know better, we do better.
What inspired you to run for the LA Pup 2022 title?
When I first started pup play, it was to help pull myself out of a dark depressive hole that many factors had contributed towards. I recalled the pure joy of those pup playing humans I met through my old friend, and I wanted to cultivate that and remember what it meant to just play. It turned into a photo journal practice of creating an Instagram to record light-hearted moments in my pup gear. Meeting Wiley Wolfe through FetLife (we first connected with a shared love of primal play) led to my joining the first SoCal Creatures moshes. I felt brave enough to take my play from borking around alone in my bedroom into a group mosh space.
It was at the SSC moshes that I met Pup Star Orion (zooming around in a ball pit in full Bull Terrier style!) and I started to learn that pup play could be way bigger than me simply having tea with my stuffies while in pup gear (although that's still pure and important!).
He truly embodied the energy of a service pup, just like the working service bio-dogs that I'd see out in the world. I knew that bio-dogs made our lives so much richer and better, and so seeing Orion's pup play service was like a light-bulb moment: the joy of being a pup could be spread to others, sharing with them the courage and boldness to be their full selves. To me, a pup is a versatile study in so many seeming contradictions: selfless yet fiercely autonomous, one single being yet part of a pack, and armed with fangs and claws yet a big ole bundle of loving floof.
I decided to run for LA Pup 2022 as a nod to the numerous pups that had reached out to me in both digital spaces and in person to let me know that my play had made them feel better and I'd helped them feel seen. I was giving back, even if I didn't fully realize it at the time. I realized that my play wasn't just for me... it was also founded in service. I saw that I was a part of both a local and an international pack of pup players, and with that encouragement, running for LA Pup 2022 felt like the next step. I realized that it wasn't about "winning" the contest... it was more about bounding more deeply into the community and putting my joy into additional action. Being named LA Pup 2022 was a vote of trust from a cohort of leather family leaders. I'm deeply humbled and grateful. With that nod and trust, onwards I go to give back within that sacred trust until I pass it onto the next pup. Awwwoooo!
How do you hope to see (and help) the pet play community grow and improve during your title year?
I will be working to expand the in-person and digital representation of pet play to represent it as something that is enthusiastically welcoming and open to everyone, of all backgrounds, orientations and genders. More and more, we are an internationally connected community thanks to social media, and I believe we can harness (lol kink puns) this to our benefit. There are SO many incredible pups and pet players who are carving out creative joy through their play but perhaps live in small towns or countries without a local supportive community. They have a lot to teach those of us who are in bigger cities and do have community. I'd like to create more shared dialogue and brain sharing between near and far pet players, perhaps even a kinky pet conference! When we truly see each other, we know we're not alone and that spark creates powerfully positive echoes throughout our kink AND vanilla lives.
What do you love most about pet play?
The absolute sheer joy of channeling the goodness of the animal spirit. The vulnerability, the reactivity, the goofiness and the heart: all of the goodness that we as humans so often can forget that we have. I fully believe that pet play brings us more in harmony with the best of our humanity. Big WOOF of love!
To keep up with LA Pup 2022 Kieran Hound, follow them on Instagram @kieranhound