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Jackie Hope: Explaining the furry phenomenon

Did you know there are furries among us? You're thinking about your grammy's pink plush bedroom slippers, aren't you? No way, Jose.

Furries are real people with real trans-species identification issues. Not to put too fine a point on it, furries are folks who dress up like plushies, hang out with other folks who dress up like plushies and live the "furry lifestyle."


The website says furries are artists and cartoonists and fans who explore human values by expressing themselves as furred creatures. Of course they do.

Furries consider themselves to be "fictional mammalian anthropomorphic characters," and they first appeared in herds at sci-fi conventions in the 1980s. Uh huh, nerds in hair suits living out their free time as extras from "Animaniacs." Betting they have a whole lot of free time on their hands/paws, too. There is even a poster on the website, "DON'T WORRY BE FURRY." Be worried. Be very worried.

Can't you just hear their conversations at Comic-Con?

"Whoa, duuuuude, that is a totally awesome pelt you're stylin'! Like, are those whiskers polyester or cotton?"

"Bummer, bro, I just shampooed my tail and I really need a good conditioner."

"Yeah, I found these sewing directions on Pinterest. I met my girlfriend there, too. She works nights at the San Diego Zoo."

Is this what happens when we spend our childhoods with Cookie Monster? Were the furries denied puppies and kitties or duckies and bunnies when they were little?

Maybe we should blame the Baby Boomers, who gave us the Beatles, The Monkees, and Meat Loaf. Man, your mom thought Davy Jones was way out, didn't she? Wait 'til you show her a pic of your new Internet friend, who looks like Mr. Snuffleupagus.

These guys don't restrict themselves to "Sesame Street," either.

Say you're shopping for a fun fur jacket on eBay, and you search up a rockin' style modeled by a coy cutie. Look closer. The model is wearing a matching fun fur hat. No, wait, that hat has ears ... and eyes ... and a little button nose. Eeeewwww! It looks like she lopped the top off Yogi Bear, and is wearing his head as a 'toon trophy. Quick, call PETA.

Please tell us furries are vegans. Anything else smacks of cannibalism. Do they get Whiskas stuck in their whiskers? Oh, snap! They eat kiwi fruit. And what do they have as pets? Dogs dressed up as little humans? Wow, that would make PETA furry-ous.

You may think furries are only an East Coast/West Coast, big city phenomenon. They're not. Just go browsing at the local big box store. No, you won't find any furries grazing there, because they seem to live most of their lives in virtual reality, only coming out on Halloween and for the blessing of the pets on St. Francis' feast day.

What you will find at the big box are furry creature hats on the racks where you used to find beanies and earmuffs, furry creature mittens where you used to find those one-size-stretches-to-infinity gloves, and bolts upon bolts of fun fur fabric where you used to find, uh, bolts and bolts of fun fur fabric. OK, so some things never change. But you can see where we're going with this: if there is furry merch at the big box store, then there might be furries -- gasp! -- anywhere. Yes, they're here!

But don't despair.

Winter is approaching, and furries will soon be going to ground in their basements, stocking up on Cheetos and hibernating until the spring CoreCon convention in Fargo. Um, BTW, since accessing that furry website, we've been getting some really hairy email messages. Especially when there is a full moon.

So we're dressing up as Yogi and Boo-Boo for the next Comic-Con.

What you going as?