If He Barks Like a Dog

Pup Atlas offers a glimpse into Austin's Puppy Play Community

The sun was setting on a summer day in Texas as I sat across the table from someone so full of energy his seat almost vibrated, reminiscent of a playful puppy who has been told to sit but wants to play. And he was, in a manner of speaking.

Pups at the carnival (Photo Courtesy of Scott Ian Ray)

Scott Ian Ray, or Pup Atlas, is the leader of Austin’s puppy play community. In between us on the table sat a foam beginner’s pup mask.

“I was with the entire leather community for about 12 years, but the puppy community officially for the last three,” says Ray. “Going to the pup competition [in Illinois] was my physical statement into the community; it brought it all together.”

The pup community has a history in Austin with low-key events popping up occasionally, but in the past three years the community has seen tremendous growth, thanks in large part to Ray. In fact, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas are jumping on board to help bring a tail-wagging good time to the entire state of Texas.

Born from the leather community, puppy play was originally a form of dominant/submissive humiliation style of BDSM. Now, it has transformed into a community all its own. This community offers people a safe place to escape the real world and to explore who they are. It has become its own identity.

“Sometimes pups are asocial until they put the mask on,” says Ray. “A lot of this is identity positivity and making sure that people feel comfortable in their own skin.”

Dog days of summer (Photo Courtesy of Scott Ian Ray)

Ray is in charge of setting up events for pups and trainers alike to have that safe space to roll over and have their bellies rubbed. A usual pup gathering can be found at safe bar space, like the Iron Bear, with mats laid on the ground to protect knees and knuckles while trainers and handlers line the mats with water bowls to ensure that the pups stay hydrated. “You sweat like crazy under all that leather,” Ray points out.

This liberating aspect of the community is what attracts shy and asocial people to the community. “The fact that you get to automatically be social in a club, everybody wants to come up to you, pet you, and be happy around you,” says Ray. “You can bark at boys and be very upfront about your emotions, that’s the best part.” A word to the wise though: Treat these pups like one would any other pup and ask if it’s okay to pet them before just reaching out.

Being that it was born out of the leather community, there can be sexual undertones at events or in the relationships between handler, trainer, and pup. “If it is set up to be that, then it will become that,” explains Ray. “At the competition, you could see the sexual aspects in private areas, and it was obvious that there was some heavy petting going on.”

Aside from the leather masks, harnesses, and chew toys are hearts of gold. The members of the pup community are advocates of giving back, hosting events for local charities. Just recently, Pup Atlas delivered a sizable donation to Austin Pets Alive! to use for their facilities. “We just want to be of service to the community. We want to be puppies and have fun, but we want to raise awareness for great causes.”

For anyone looking to release their inner hound dog, research is the first step in deciding whether the pup community scratches your sweet spot. There are plenty of resources at one’s paws to learn how to be a good dog like Sirius Pup (Jyan Delamotte) on YouTube, or the Feast of Fun podcast.

Rivers trying the beginner's mask on for size (Photo Courtesy of Rivers Wright)

“A good way to see if the community is for you is to start barking. If you like something, bark at it,” says Ray. “You have to feel it deep down, get comfortable with barking, and buy knee pads.”

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