There have always been people who feel out of place with mainstream society.
But one man has taken it a step further by living as a “human pup” because he had “never felt like a human.”
Kaz James said that he felt “weird” and unable to relate to others until he allowed his pup persona to come out in his late teens.
The 37-year-old store manager, from Salford, Greater Manchester, regularly dons his alter ego by barking at friends, carrying stuff with his teeth, and even eating Bonio dog biscuits.
When he’s not at work, he wears customized rubber outfits, masks, dog leads, harnesses, and even had a fur suit made.
Kaz, who wrote “How to train a human pup,” moved to Greater Manchester from Norfolk in 2005 and diligently follows the mantra “be dog.”
“My whole lifestyle is about being a pup,” he said. I go about and live my day-to-day life relatively normally. That includes things like putting collars on and at barking at people I know in the street. If I see pups out in the village, I will bark at them. I get funny reactions from passers-by all the time.”
Some of the reactions are positive but while he appreciates them, he does it to express his inner animal.
Kaz said: “It’s very much a form of self-expression, what I choose to wear depends on what I’m doing. If I’m going to work, I’m picking things that are fairly mild like a t-shirt that says ‘pup’ on the front. It’s an extension of myself and dressing how I feel.
“It makes me feel really great when people say I look really good, and it’s great that people get a kick out of it, but it’s not specifically done for other people.”
When he’s done with work or finished socializing, Kaz looks forward to relaxing at home and eating food out of his dog bowl.
He explained: “I feel a sense of peace being a human pup. Little things make me happy like eating my dinner out of a bowl using a knife and fork. I don’t eat at people’s tables when I go to friends’ houses. I can be a normal person in a restaurant. I’m trained and can deal with humans, but I don’t like it, it makes me feel uncomfortable.
“I don’t eat dog food, I eat regular food like a normal person. But I do eat Bonios, they’re quite nice. There are loads of dog treats you can get that are human-friendly, which are actually quite good for you.
“I get ones that are a cereal and sugar glucose mix, a really basic dog biscuit, which taste like a vanilla-flavored digestive biscuit.”
His wardrobe sports two rubber suits and dog leads and he also owns a custom-made fur suit shipped over from Canada.
He said: “It does get hot in there, it’s like walking around wearing a carpet. It’s great for winter if you’re going to wear it in summer – invest in air conditioning. Those who make the custom rubber suits and fur suits are artists – you’re paying for a piece of custom artwork.
“Having an entire fur or rubber suit of your character is a really great experience. It gives me the chance to be the best version of myself when I go out.”
While he has never felt right as a human, it was his discovery of a like-minded pup play community that convinced him to start being himself.
Kaz said: “I didn’t ever feel like a human, I always felt like a dog that was really out of place. I never really had a name for it, being a pup wasn’t a thing I knew about. When I met other people like me I felt I could be myself.
“I was known by my friends for hello to them by grabbing hold of the collar of their shirt in my teeth and biting or licking them, very canine-type behaviors. It was always how I was. The first time I heard the term of being a pup was through a pup I met online. I then met other pups and learned a whole new language of this other world.
“It was a liberating moment knowing there were other people like me, having felt properly weird for the longest time.”
Kaz found out about the existence of an online pup community when the Internet was installed at home when he was 17.
Kaz, who is single, said: “I realized that my behaviors were quite dog-like in childhood, probably from the age of six. No-one ever talked about it, it was never mentioned. My parents took early retirement and we moved to a farm in Norfolk.
“It wasn’t until the internet arrived in our house that I started chatting to people online – mostly through groups and message boards. I was living with my parents and I would sneak downstairs at three in the morning to get on the internet to look for this stuff.
“I would hold a pillow over the 56k modem so you couldn’t hear the modem noise. I was worried that if I ever spoke to anyone about it, they would be like ‘you’re a nut job.'”
It was only when he moved in with friends at a house-share at 18 did Kaz allow his playful pup side to come out at home.
Kaz, who co-founded Kennel Klub, said: “During that time, as I was finding out I was a pup, I met my first owner and he ended up living in that house with us. It was quite a learning curve for my friends who had gone to school with me and seen me be relatively normal and then learn all these interesting things about me.”
And while many outside the community mistake human pup as a fetish, the movement tends to emphasize reconnecting childhood fun and even romance.
He explained: “For me being a human pup is an all-encompassing thing. A lot of pups gets into the play side of it very easily, but for me, it’s my whole life. Some parts of pup play can be really romantic, for example being collared is very romantic, it’s easy to fall madly in love with someone who does all these fun things with you.”