Sam Opdycke’s idea of having fun with friends involves dressing up like a ringtailed cat. A couple times a month, Opdycke loses his nursing major persona and becomes a furry.
Furries are people who dress up like an animal of their choosing. These animals can range from real animals like foxes, to hybrids of cat and dragons. The trend of wearing fur suits out in public became popular for Opdycke and others, older and younger, in the last couple years.
“We’re just a group of people who like to hang out with each other,” Opdycke said. “People dress up for a multiple of reasons. Some really see themselves as animals.”
Although some people believe furries dress up like animals all the time, Opdycke said that is not true.
“Fur suits aren’t even really required. If you want to do it, you can,” Opdycke said. “And being a furry doesn’t mean being literally furry. It can be any animal.”
Most furries belong to a group that meets and exchanges new ideas for costumes. They also meet just to enjoy being animals together and call these gatherings fur-meets, Opdycke said.
Andrew Haver coordinates the fur-meets for the Northwestern Ohio population. He said he first discovered the lifestyle online a few years ago and hasn’t looked back.
“I put on my costume to make people smile,” Haver said. “I do it because it’s fun, and that’s honestly the best reason I can give.”
Haver said he tries to get his Bowling Green-based furries, The Black Swamp Furs, to meet at least once a month. Al-Mar Lanes, a bowling alley in town, is usually where Opdycke meets with Haver’s group.
“We’ve become rather popular with the employees there,” Haver said.
Al-Mar employees have noticed the furries having fun when they come to bowl, and other bowlers have positive reactions to them.
“People who come for open bowling kind of look at them when they first come in, but they’re harmless,” employee Pancha Melendrez said. “We have fun with them.”
Melendrez said it’s not only the employees who enjoy watching the furries, but the other bowlers as well.
“People go up to them and ask if they can take pictures with them,” Melendrez said.
Along with meeting at bowling alleys and other places as furries, the fur suits in general are not cheap. Partial suits can cost a couple hundred dollars, and the full suits fall into the thousands, according to Haver.
When they’re not spending their money on fur meets and fur suits, the furries raise money for charity. At the Furry Connection North convention last year, Haver and his furries raised over $5,000 for the dog rescue charity Greyhound Expressions.
The group raised the funds through an auction that included furry paraphernalia. This year a full fur suit will be up for auction.
“It’s a really, really nice one,” Haver said.
Although the furries do contribute some of their time to charity work, there are some rumors that the group dresses up like animals in a sexually promiscuous way.
“We’re not sex based at all,” Opdycke said. “TV shows sometimes show us like that, but we’re not. It’s the complete opposite of what we’re trying to do. We’re just people who like to hang out.”
Haver doesn’t like to focus on the negative stereotypes surrounding the furries, but chooses to think of the positive and what the lifestyle means to him.
“It’s an extension of ourselves,” Haver said. “I put a lot of my qualities into my characters — both good and bad.”