Dogbomb: Not your ordinary Californian canine
As long as he can remember, dogs have always been a big part of Tony Barrett’s life.
He has been a registered veterinary technician for the last 16 years, and currently manages a veterinary hospital in his hometown of Costa Mesa, Calif., helping keep local pets healthy and happy.
Barrett, better known as “Dogbomb” among furry fans, also has owned a number of dogs in his life – but one particular German shepherd mix named Rodger stood out among the rest.
“They say everyone that owns dogs has one special dog in their life, and he was the dog,” Barrett recalled. “He was the first dog I got when I bought my first house, he was just a very special dog. Very smart, he was one of those creatures that was in tune with everything that you do.”
Rodger would go on to be Barrett’s best friend for the next 14 years.
After Rodger passed away in November of 2004, Barrett – whose only knowledge of “furry” at the time was something that happened to bread when it was left out for too long – was at dinner with some friends dressed in his typical canine garb.
“I was wearing a shirt that said ‘Woof,’ a hat with a greyhound on it and something else,” said Barrett, adding that his Halloween costumes always included random dog-related accessories. “The waitress comes over and says, ‘Why is he dressed up like a dog?’ My friend turns to her and says, ‘Don’t worry about him, he’s just a furry.’”
Having never heard that term before, he was then subjected to the dreaded “CSI” question, which he hadn’t seen either. Until he got home that fateful night in August of 2009.
“Of course I thought it was creepy and bizarre,” said Barrett on his initial reaction to the infamous “Fur and Loathing” episode. “But I wanted to look into it more. I Googled ‘furry’ and found some websites, and the more I looked at it, the more I seemed intrigued by it. After that I jumped in with both feet, and really wanted to get involved with it… I discovered it was such a nice social group, so many neat, pleasant, exciting, creative people. It was a nice outlet.”
Needless to say, the furry fandom hasn’t been the same since.
A MAGICAL EFFECT
One of the first things that Barrett did upon joining the fandom was to get a fursuit commissioned, with a design based off of Rodger. That way, his longtime furry friend could be commemorated forever.
He first bought an pre-made head and colored it in to match a character description, and soon after decided to go the whole nine yards, choosing Beastcub Creations to create the final version of Dogbomb.
“I really liked what (Beastcub) had done with realistic suits,” Barrett noted. “She really helped me, she was very kind, and took me through the process. It was very interactive, and she made some suggestions. She was just the right person at the right moment.”
Eventually, the long-awaited package arrived at Barrett’s front door, and he was floored at the result.
“I couldn’t believe it, that she made something come alive like that,” he said. “She really seemed to capture his spirit. It wasn’t just a collection of fur, the whole thing was a very magical effect.”
While some fursuiting enthusiasts prefer to enjoy their craft mainly at conventions and house parties, Barrett admitted that once he started wearing his Dogbomb costume out on the streets of sunny Southern California, he got hooked on the positive reactions and joy he brought to everyone he came in contact with.
“It breaks down all the social barriers,” said Barrett on what he enjoys most about fursuiting in public. “You’re used to, as an adult, walking around and cavorting yourself in a certain way, and all of a sudden you meet some guy in a dog suit and he’s chatting and putting his arm around you. It opens up a whole realm of possibilities that aren’t available everyday.”
AN FA PHENOMENON
Like many enthusiastic costumers, Barrett wanted to share his experiences with the rest of the furry world.
Starting about a year and a half ago, he started posting photos from his fursuit outings on Fur Affinity, mostly at the Newport Beach pier and the surrounding bars, while writing up short, humorous anecdotes accompanying each photo.
“Someone suggested I write a little bit more with the picture, so I tried posting one and writing more of a story about what happened before, during and after the picture, and people seemed to respond to it,” Barrett recalled. “So I kept being long-winded and verbose.”
From that point on, as word spread and his gallery posts got re-linked, Dogbomb practically went viral. Comments and watchers – 2,642 as of press time – came in by the droves, humbling Barrett to his canine core.
“I can’t believe it, it seems surreal,” he said. “I can’t imagine why people would spend time looking at (my stuff).”
Among his most popular posts is the heartfelt and inspirational “Courage on Two Wheels,” during which he relives an encounter with Sarah – a young, wheelchair-bound woman who suffers from cerebral palsy. Numerous additional entries detail true fursuiting magic at work, as Dogbomb tells of his experiences with children that are fully convinced they are conversing with a real talking dog.
Whether they are four or 40, Barrett said he truly enjoys and cherishes every encounter he has with the public.
“(Children) are such wonderful sponges, they’ll just soak up anything and give back so much love,” he said. “To tell the honest truth, some of the adults that I’ve met that at first were so stone-faced and don’t want to really interact or talk – you spend a few minutes chatting with them and all of a sudden you’ve got a friend. They’re smiling, they’re happy… my favorite thing about fursuiting is that people open up, they’ll tell you things that they might not tell anybody else. It’s a really interesting social experiment.”
Up next for the 47-year-old will be a trip to the Pacific Northwest to attend the furry convention Rainfurrest for the first time in late September, and then he will be eventually getting Dogbomb version 2.0, as his suit has put quite a bit of mileage in just over a year and a half.
In addition, Barrett, an avid runner, hopes to get involved in charity work with the running group he participates in regularly, the Orange County Frontrunners.
“If we can incorporate fursuiting into that in some way, that would be wonderful,” he said. “I’ve been on a public cable TV show a couple times through work, for an adoption agency that does rescue of strays.”
In 2010, he slogged through 26.2 miles and finished the Los Angeles Marathon, while raising $3,300 for the local ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) chapter and a local dog rescue group.
But for now, Barrett simply wants to acknowledge all of the wonderful people he’s met since joining the fandom, and keep doing what he does best – one fursuit-induced smile at a time.
“Just a huge ‘thank you,’” expressed Barrett to all of his supportive fans and friends. “It’s really made a huge difference in my life, the wonderful people that I’ve met, both in person and online. People respond in such positive ways, I’m really gratified by it. It’s been a big positive for me.”
Q & A with “Dogbomb,” Tony Barrett
Q: If you could sum up the “Dogbomb Philosophy of life,” how would it go?
A: Two words: “Have fun.” People get so worked up about doing things in a responsible manner, and living as an adult, people (don’t) let a little bit of silliness and fun into their everyday lives. I think it’s important that we not lose sight of that, and get in touch with our side that is open to having fun, being a little bit silly and a little bit out there, and to help others interact and get a smile too.
Q: What do you think is most important for those that fursuit in public areas to entertain and bring joy to people like yourself, to gain public acceptance moving forward?
A: Interact on a level that is a bit self-depreciating, not trying to put yourself in their face. Say “How are you?” and take an interest in that person. That works under any circumstances. If you want to really make a friend, give them a big smile and ask them a question about themselves, and I think that works especially well for fursuiting because people are gratified that you’re interested.
Q: At conventions and elsewhere, you are almost always seen with your loving mate Teh. How did you guys meet?
A: We met at Further Confusion 2010. I didn’t know anybody at that point, I knew only a handful of people from FA, but I went to the convention myself. It’s hard to hook up and have a good friendship with someone out of the blue. I was by myself a lot of the time, standing by myself out in front of the hotel in the valet area, watching people come and go. Teh approached me and said “Hi, how are you,” and we talked for a few minutes – he seemed like such a nice, cool person. It was really gratifying that someone, out of the blue, came up and took an interest. That was really neat, he seemed like a warm, wonderful person. We kept in touch online, met and had lunch at FWA, and it just progressed from there. We met at conventions, spent a lot of time on the phone and now he lives with me. It’s worked out wonderfully.
Editor’s note: The FNN Featured Fursuiter of the Month is a new profile series written by Kijani. Every month he will choose one well-recognized figure in the fandom’s fursuiting community, offering a unique “behind the mask” look at their characters and lives outside of fursuiting.