Is This Fur-Real? Yes, “Furries” Are Here
Animal enthusiasts gather at local restaurant
Published: Thursday, May 24, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 24, 2012 11:05
Anyone who has been to Wicked Chicken or Blondie’s on a Thursday night has seen them: 40 or so people, mostly male, hanging out at the tables outside the restaurant, eating wings and drinking beer. Some wear stuffed ears or tails, many wear badges, and they all seem to know each other.
“It’s a bunch of geeks hanging out,” said Richard, a man from the group who was there on a Thursday.
But these Furries have a particular interest in anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. This translates to animals that have human facial expressions, can speak and walk on two legs.
Furry fandom is prevalent nationwide, with annual conferences held all over the country, attracting thousands. At these conferences, Furry art, costumes and badges are sold and shared.
The Wicked Chicken group is just one small part of the national fan base. But what does it mean to be a Furry? Many Furries enjoy creating art featuring anthropomorphic animals, as well as performing as animals in full-body fur suits. Most of the people in the group own at least one fur suit, and many own more than five. The costumes are either bought – for more than $1,000 – or made by the Furries themselves.
Furries also have an alternate persona, called a “fursona,” which is how they refer to each other in person and online. When they meet in person, they wear badges that share some information about their fursona.
For the men I talked to, most gratifying part of being a Furry was performing in their fur suits at charity events, children’s hospitals, parades and fairs.
“Seeing the children’s faces, how excited they are to see us, it brings us so much joy,” said Tren Sparks, who has been part of the Furry community for over 20 years.
Everyone had a story to tell about a favorite memory with a child who was delighted with his fur suit. Richard shared a story about a child in the burn unit of a hospital who loved bats. He was acting as Terraluna, a black bat, doing his normal rounds in the hospital, when a nurse came and found him.
She told him about a boy who had burns over 85 percent of his body and really loved bats. When he went down and saw him, the boy lit up, even though he was in a great deal of pain.
“I looked back at the nurse, and tears were streaming down her face, and I was crying inside the costume. It was so gratifying.”
Sparks shared his experiences dressing as a kangaroo, and told humorous stories about the difficulties of maneuvering inside the costume.
Furries typically go out in public with a “handler” who helps them navigate, since their vision and mobility are so impaired. It is also incredibly hot in the costumes, under all of that thick padding lined with fur. But it is quite worth it.
“Seeing the kids faces, this is why we put up with it all. This is why people do this,” said Sparks, after recounting a story about being at the zoo and trying to hand out fliers to kids, but only being able to hand out 15 at a time, instead of one.
So why does the group meet here, and what exactly do they do? The Furries have been meeting long before it was called that. Since at least 1987, they have been meeting every Thursday at the same location. They’ve been going there for the cheap wings and conversation since the building housed a liquor store; they would simply meet at the chicken counter inside Safeway.
By day, the group consists of all types of professions including engineers, veterinarians, students and computer programmers. But they share a common passion for all things furry, not to mention the social aspect of the group.
They will admit that they are pretty geeky and usually introverted, but dressing as a Furry gives them the opportunity to interact with all different types of people, as well as an opportunity to express themselves in a different way.
“It’s like any other group of guys that like sci-fi or something,” said Richard. “We just like to hang out.”
Contact Liz Wassmann at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4958.