Pets for Vets volunteer Cheryl Wassus packed up her 1-year-old Bernese mountain dog Link and headed off to the Motor City Furry Convention last weekend, ready to educate fellow animal lovers about the great work her organization does.
What she found were some lovers — but not the kind she expected.
Wassus thought the “furry convention” was for cat and dog owners, but it was actually for furries — people who enjoy dressing up as cats, dogs and other furry creatures, and are often turned on by the act.
“This is just a whole subculture I wasn’t even aware existed,” Wassus told New York magazine. “The only furry I’d ever seen was at Easter, when somebody might put on one of those gigantic Easter-bunny costumes at a local egg hunt.”
After some initial embarrassment — “Link was just a little curious why people were wearing tails, so he was doing some tail-sniffing and checking out people,” she shared — Wassus found herself learning a lot about the community.
“I was asking a lot of questions: Where do you get these [costumes]? Where do you come up with something like this?,” she said. “I was talking to one of the moms [of a furry] while I was sitting at our booth, and she said a lot of these kids just aren’t understood. Her son got into it, and she said sometimes they don’t have the confidence to move around comfortably — socially, in groups — but they put on these costumes, and they’re transformed.”
Pets for Vets staff gave a presentation on their work during the convention — the Motor City Furry Convention had chosen the organization, which pairs military veterans with specially selected shelter dogs, as its benefactor for the weekend — and “I saw some tears,” Wassus said. “People were definitely listening and paying attention.” They certainly were: $10,000 was raised for Pets for Vets over the course of the event.
So now that she’s in the know about furries, how does Wassus feel about her experience? “To each his own,” she said. “This seems pretty harmless. I saw little pieces of humanity I’d never seen before.”