So, there is a topic that has been on my heart a lot lately. As I travel, as I judge, as I teach, I see a pattern that I’m not sure how to approach.
One of the aspects of puppy-play that makes it so infectious is the fact that it is fun. The release of cares and the fuck-it-if-someone-thinks-I’m-being-silly attitude is liberating. Any puppy who has discovered this headspace knows exactly what I am talking about.
But quickly, a paradox begins. As the puppies become a community of their own, certain responsibilities bubble to the surface: running clubs, organizing events, titleholding, to name a few. The trouble is that these responsibilities are hard. Those who step up to perform them are often unable to just cut loose on a mosh-mat and have fun, because they have obligations at the events. The very puppies who were so into puppy play that they wanted to share it with everyone, are now unable to engage in the very thing that sparked their passion.
As everyone knows, I am an advocate for puppy play. I have also directed and produced puppy competitions. That aside, I have a fear that we are inadvertently destroying puppy headspace by pulling people out of it, in an attempt to perpetuate it. And this is not the fault of the puppy or the fault of the club or the fault of the competition. It is our own fault for placing an expectation that doesn’t match the community. We would never elevate someone to a high leather title and then ask them to stop wearing leather and only dress in drag…because that’s not congruous. And yet, this is the full expectation in the puppy title-holding circuit. A puppy wins the title and then is suddenly expected to run events. They are expected to host fundraisers. They are expected to be mosh monitors. We expect them to stop acting like a puppy, and then often judge them for it if they do (doesn't take this seriously enough)...and if they don't (are they even a puppy?).
This post is not a plea to stop puppies from participating in clubs and events and titles. It is a plea to the community to stop treating puppies like Handlers and Trainers. Yes, there are Alpha-pups who enjoy the leadership and there are service pups who enjoy the work. But at the end of the day, they got involved in the pup community because they are pups. If we stop allowing them to be that puppy, we will lose them. They will lose their zeal. They will lose their desire. They will lose touch with their headspace. And that is a price that should never be paid.
This post *is* a plea for Sirs and Daddies and lay-leatherfolk (who love the movement) to step up. These pups need our support. These pups need us to be mosh-monitors so that they can pup-out. These pups need us to encourage their headspace instead of bury it under unfair expectation. If a puppy is judging a contest, LET THEM MOSH WITH THE CONTESTANTS! What better way for them to get to know a pup or Trainer than to mosh with them or to be cared-for by them? No, we’re not talking about letting them hump each other on the mat. We ARE talking about allowing their pup side to experience something that it needs while getting to know the contestants in a way that their human-side can’t. The same is true for club leaders and event hosts. Others need to step up and help them out. Give them some time to enjoy the pup-stuff that is going on. Give them some free time to relax from the stress of the planning and leadership…this is most likely why they were drawn to puppy headspace to begin with: to escape that stress! We need to help them disperse it, not judge them for needing it!
Plain and simple: we need more Handlers and Trainers. We need leaders to step up, not to take the control away from the puppies, but to help them along this journey that they are on. This needs to happen before we have destroyed a whole generation of puppy-leaders.