There are even conventions to unite maskers from around the world.
Now the U.K. channel is going to the dogs with its latest bizarre documentary, Secret Life of the Human Pups, which, as you might expect, follows a community of men who are not content with just owning a canine, but want to be one.
Man’s best friend is the most popular pet in the U.K. with animal charity the RSPCA counting 8.5 million pet dogs across the country in 2015.
However, that figure doesn’t include the 10,000 people Brits who have taken cosplaying to a new level. According to Channel 4, these “grown men covet doggy treats, belly rubs and squeaky toys.”
The idea for Human Pups, which airs Wednesday at 10pm, came to director Guy Simmonds after he “stumbled across some pictures [of human dogs] on the internet,” he tells Newsweek . “I’d never seen anything like that before.
On the surface you’d think it was a few people dressing up as dogs behind closed doors. But the more we researched it, the more surprised I was to learn how large the community was in the U.K. They’ve got their own social networking sites, events and competitions.”
What motivates this hidden society to dress up as dogs? Simmonds says he came across a “broad church of people from all walks of life” who turned to “puppy play” for different reasons. “We’ve come across librarians, security guards, even CEOs of huge corporations who wanted to remain anonymous. There are gay, straight, transsexual, aesexual pups.”
In the documentary, one pup viewers meet is Chip, 42. “Life is getting more hectic nowadays, so much pressure on work and life,” he says. “Some people drink, there’s drugs… You’ve got to be civilized in our society. When you’re in puppy mode, all that goes away. We don’t care about money; we don’t care about what job you’ve got, or the bigger car.”
Puppy play as a form of escape from the pressures of everyday life is also true of Tom, a 32-year-old sound and lighting technician. He was named Mr. Puppy U.K. 2015—a Crufts-like competition that sees human pups show off their talents—as dalmatian Spot.
Tom has dressed as a human dog for 10 years and spent over £4,000 on custom-made costumes for his alter-ego. He even sleeps in a dog cage and, like a real dog, lives with a “handler”—a human who takes responsibility for the pet—named Colin.
“I do theater work, I hide in the dark, I do the sound and the lights,” says Tom. “I don’t want to be seen at work. I don’t want to be in the public eye. But in my pup life, I want to be the center of attention.” Read more: