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Who let the dogs out? – Red Bluff Daily News

There’s a curious case of cats and dogs around here.

I’m not talking about barn cats or alley cats, stray dogs, missing dogs or any other subgroup. I’m talking about real humans acting as dogs and cats. In real life.

This isn’t a bunch of silly elementary school kids pretending to be animals on the playground. These are full fledged high school students and reports of them are coming out of Red Bluff and Chico high schools, and numerous high schools scattered all across this fine nation. My intel at Corning High (which so far, includes three moms and a student) isn’t reporting barking and meowing furries, just a few minor furries.

I was chatting with a friend’s daughter a few weeks ago, and she claims a human cat with man made cat ears and a tail to match, hissed at her in an academic class at Red Bluff High. Another reported a ‘dog’ barking at her in the hallway this school year. I had dinner with some girlfriends Tuesday night and one told us about an active group of ‘furries’ at Chico High.

Before I pass judgment on this small but growing subgroup at Red Bluff High, I must go back in time to when my film girl was enrolled in a summer film program at Stanford University.

It was the summer of 2010, and the proud parents of about 30 accepted students from across the globe, gathered at Stanford’s beautiful campus to move our kids into the dorms for about three weeks. If I recall, the three-week course was to learn some fancy film software that is probably obsolete today.

Anyway, as we waited to find out what dorms we were going to pack our daughter’s stuff into, I spot a male of a similar age group pouncing on top of a boxwood hedge. I have jumped up on his side of him, elbows outward, hands on chin (think sleeping kitty). Suddenly, he fell to the ground and his giant tail plopped down beside him.

When he fell, not one skipped a beat. The counselors kept talking as if nothing had happened. So I went along with the rest of the group and said nothing. I wondered, though, how in the world was my kid going to handle this annoying human cat for the next three weeks?

I think it would be difficult for me to learn any subject with a human meow or bark as background noise. Is this fair to the other kids in the room? Well, thankfully I’m no longer on a school board and don’t have to make those tough decisions.

In Meade County, Kentucky, students finally took matters into their own hands. After videos were shared among parents and grandparents, a petition to end the practice was created by the students themselves and gathered more than 1,000 signatures.

So what is this movement, where grown people act like animals called? It is the furry fandom, a subculture interested in anthropomorphic animal characters. Wholesome examples of this include all the characters in Robin Hood even though its origins are much darker.

According to Wikipedia, (I know, lazy source) the furry fandom has its roots in the underground comix movies of the 1970s, a genre of comic books that depict explicit content. In 1976, a pair of cartoonists created the amateur press association, Vootie, which was dedicated to animal art. Many of its works featured adult themes, including “Omaha, the Cat Dancer,” a sexually explicit piece of art work.

Furry fandom historian Fred Patten says the concept of furry originated at a science fiction convention in 1980, when a character from Steve Gallacci’s Albedo Anthropomorphics started a discussion. This led to the formation of a discussion group that met at science fiction conventions, comics conventions aka ComicCon. In 1996, phrases like furry lifestyle and furry lifestyler first appeared.

In a 2007 survey, Gerbasi examined what it meant to be a furry. The largest group surveyed, 38 percent, do it as a route to socializing with others who share an interest in anthropomorphic art. Sadly, another percentage surveyed said they saw themselves as “other than human” or desired to become more like the furry species they identified with. hmm.

Let’s just hope the kids who identify in the minority group understand it is physically impossible to become a dog or a cat or, heaven forbid, a black widow or bat or vulture. Yuck.

I can’t wait to find out what civilized people will come up with next.

Shanna Long is a fourth generation journalist and former editor of the Corning Daily Observer. She and her husband of her reside in Corning and farm almonds, walnuts and prunes. She can be reached at sjolong@gmail.com, instagram @sjolong.