Boys aren’t really made of puppy-dog tails, but at Beyond Vanilla’s iPup this weekend, the puppy dogs are made of men (and women!)
For dog lovers, not much beats the smell of a puppy’s breath, the tenderness of its licks or its unconditional and enthusiastic love for its owner. It’s the best.
Some pups, though, act a bit differently… OK, a whole lot different. These pups are not the four-legged kind — they might be just like you.
"For someone who isn’t into the scene, it can be a bit of a culture shock," concedes one adherent, who goes by the moniker Master Nitemare.
That might be the understatement of the year. Although with Nitemare’s affable manner and sense of humor, he can make the intense kink niche of pup culture sound like an everyday thing.
"For someone who’s never seen it, it can be an interesting thing to behold. But it has a very good energy about it. It’s just really a freedom that most people don’t get to experience," he says.
Master Nitemare (aka Steve) is gearing up for this weekend’s iPup, the International Puppy Training Conference, which runs in conjunction with the B.D.S.M./leather/ kink convention, Beyond Vanilla. He’ll be teaching a workshop on "owning" and caring for a pup.
The IPTC runs like any other conference with registrations, workshops, discussion and social mixers. Only this one has a mosh pit.
Yeah, a mosh pit.
The IPTC Web site describes the pit as "a group of pups all hyped up and playing around in a designated area." Mind you, these guys and gals on their padded hands and knees (with tees and shorts also) will frolic around as if vying for attention at the SPCA to be taken home and adopted.
According to Nitemare, a pup has two goals: play and treats. In the pits, up to 20 pups run around, chasing toys and behaving just like, well, dogs. As a handler, Steve will find himself tending to the pit keeping all pups in order and making sure no one … er … doggie gets hurt, stays hydrated and tosses toys — all that usual fun dog stuff.
So just how does one become a pup?
"I think anyone who has ability to be honest with themselves can get to a secondary headspace. Buddhists talk about a Zen plateau of second existence, so it’s kinda like that, but less spiritual. It’s all physical and that exhaustion is spiritually invigorating," Nitemare says.
The freedom afforded by pup culture relates to the constraints of everyday human existence: car payments, the mortgage and other stressors. Pup-ness is a relief from that.
Sound a little unusual? Nitemare realizes that. But he really wants people not to judge too hastily. While the pup scene is difficult to wrap your head completely around, it’s not dangerous or unhealthy. Besides, he says, everybody has his or her unusual proclivities.
"Everyone, straight and gay, has their own kinks, lifestyles, dislikes and likes. Don’t condemn us for ours. We hope people take time to look into what they don’t know about and not to tell someone they are wrong or they are a freak," he says.
For the uninitiated but interested, Nitemare has simple advice.
"Keep an open mind. Walk into the conference and attend a couple of classes. Go and sit in and watch the mosh pit. That will pull that inner animal out quickly," he says.
Besides, curiosity never really killed the cat. Pups should be OK, too.
Beyond Vanilla 19: A la mode
The Dallas Chapter of the National Leather Association hosts its annual Beyond Vanilla event for the B.D.S.M./leather/kink communities. But don’t think this is a glorified night at the Eagle. Beyond Vanilla is serious about its fetish.
Workshops run the gamut including sessions on sensual flogging, mummification, leather history and even vampirism (just in time for Halloween). The keynote speaker is Travis Wilson, attorney by day and master by night. He is also the founder of Houston’s S & M Ball. The conference will host a Masquerade Play Party Saturday night for registered guests. The Vendor Expo is open to the public… which means you have a convenient place to get that Pyrex toy you’ve been wanting.
The Sterling Hotel, 1055 Regal Row. Sept. 25â€“27. $110. BeyondVanilla.org. The International Puppy and Trainer Conference shares its space with Beyond Vanilla. Separate admission is $40, but attendees to the main conference are entitled to attend iPup for free. Intl-puppy.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2009.