Not a furry figment of my imagination
It turns out that when it comes to being a furry, one size definitely does not fit all.
Since my article on furries ran in The Press on Saturday, furries from around Australasia have posted their concerns and anger online, via email to Fairfax Media and on various forum sites.
Many claim the article was a furry figment of my imagination.
I apologise wholeheartedly to any furries and associates who I may have offended by the article. It was not my intention.
It was simply my first time interviewing what I thought were furries.
After all, how was I to know that just because someone is wearing a costume and claiming to be a regular furry, they may not be one?
To illustrate the article, we used pictures of furries taken by our sister Fairfax paper in Melbourne, The Age, which depicted people attending MiDFur in Australia.
Those photographs should have clearly displayed captions indicating that those pictured were not those spoken to for the article, but were attendees at the popular Australian MiDFur convention.
When contacted yesterday, Mr Wolf said he felt ''saddened'' by the reaction to the story. He also apologised for making me feel uncomfortable during the interview.
He said the pair moved to Christchurch only a few months ago from the United States, where such groups are more common.
He did not mean to cause any offence, he said.
They are simply here for a short time to visit extended family, including an elderly unwell relative.
FurcoNZ organiser Joe, whose fursona is Kamadan Uncia, called into The Press yesterday to speak with me about ''New Zealand furry fandom''.
He said the people I interviewed did not represent the average furry.
''I have no doubt there are people like the original couple that you interviewed. They exist, but they do not represent the majority view of the community,'' he said.
''They are a minority, not the majority. I cannot speak for all of fandom, but for me it is largely about performance and art.
''The majority of us are just ordinary people who like to put on costumes and perform. The biggest misconception is that it is all about sex and wild parties.
''We have previously done events at the Auckland Zoo, performing for children. We do a lot of charity work.''
Joe has several suits, including a snow leopard, a tiger, a gazelle and a zebra.
He loved the thrill of performing and enjoyed making people smile, he said.
He expressed his concern that Christchurch furries would be stereotyped as being like those I had interviewed.
Furries had, he said, an agreement among themselves that they would not talk to the media for fear of being misrepresented.
He acknowledged that I had contacted him, seeking comment before the story was published.
''Usually the media just want to sensationalise any stories about us so we generally just do not get involved.''
He admits that if ''you ask thousand furries 'what is a furry?' you'll get a thousand different replies''.
''There is no one answer to what it means to be involved in furry fandom,'' he said. ''Most are just ordinary people.''
Pete ''CynWolfe'' Smith, the chief executive of MidFur, a family-friendly furry convention held annually in Melbourne, was joined on a conference call to me yesterday by Moskintia, the blue dragon pictured in this story.
''In the furry community, we have fursonas and generally we do not use our real names. Most furries have no problem using or providing you with their fursona name. The way you were treated was inappropriate. That sort of behaviour would not be tolerated in the furry community we belong to.''
He said that of those who identified as furries, only about 30 per cent were fursuiters.
Smith tells me that of all the furries in Christchurch (he says there are nine or so that he knows of), I could have chosen to interview, I must have inadvertently stumbled on a fringe group who are in no way affiliated with the warm and friendly Kiwi furry community.
''With any group anywhere in the world you have a few bad seeds,'' Smith said. ''Every single group in humanity has this. It is not something uniquely furry.''
He says the people I spoke to sounded like lifestylers - not furries - and that ''as such they do not accurately represent furries''.
''I am the chairman of a large furry convention, the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere,'' Smith said.
''I know a lot of the furries in New Zealand and Australia and I do not know any furries that share the views of the people you interviewed. I think you were just unlucky.''
Moskintia is concerned by the inclusion of his photograph and the potential inference that the dragon is the one I refer to in my original article. This is not the case.
''Like myself, the others depicted in the photographs were upset to hear that they were insinuated to be part of the fetish crowd when that is not what we do.''
Luckily, Moskintia is a nice dragon and, rather than breathing fire on me, takes the time to point out mistakes born of my furry ignorance.
''We do a lot of work with children and are carefully vetted. Anything like this can be very damaging to our reputations and livelihood,'' he said.
''I have had people ring me up from around the world asking me if the article was of those pictured. It's gone worldwide.''
Smith said that had received feedback from furries as far afield as Germany and the US.
''There is a lot of media attention on furs and people can not seem to get past the fact that they are adults who are reliving their childhood,'' he said.
''I have been the chairman of one of the biggest furry conventions in Australasia for five years and have never stepped inside a suit.
''There are common elements to what a furry is but to each person it means something different.
''We are proud of what we do. Over the years we have donated more than $45,000 to charities in Melbourne alone. We pride ourselves on the fact we do stuff like that.''
Moskintia points out that professional fursuiters like himself are serious about what they do.
He and those pictured in the original story raise money for charity; love bringing joy to children's lives and regularly visit hospitals to cheer up the sick. They appear on children's television shows, create cartoons and are involved in movie productions both as actors, artists, editors and illustrators.
Via email, later, Moskintia adds that a fursuiter is proud of their suit or suits.
''The suit means a lot to its owner. It is very rare for a suiter to allow another to wear their suit. All the suiters I know would be appalled to even think about having their suit used for anything other than performing or display. It is hard to keep the fur clean,'' he wrote.
When Moskintia's much-loved Siberian husky died from a tumour he had a suit constructed in its likeness and wears it with pride each year at the RSPCA million paws walk.
''It makes people smile, that is why we love what we do.''
Now that I have a better idea of what it means to be a furry, Pete and Moskintia have kindly extended me the ''paw of friendship'' and invited me to attend the MidFur in Melbourne in December this year.
''We could get you a suit to try and you can see for yourself what fun it is and what it really means to be a furry,'' Smith said.