A furry I never met helped me conquer my fear of death.

Video

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Tony Barrett, aka “Dogbomb”

On the morning of April 5th, a beloved, longtime member of the furry community, Tony Barrett, aka “Dogbomb,” who had been diagnosed with ALS ( amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) over a year earlier, made the difficult decision to end his own life via physician assisted suicide (he lives in Arizona, where assisted suicide is legal for sufferers of terminal illnesses).

ALS is 100 percent fatal, and “Dogbomb” (as I will be referring to him here) had been experiencing a rapid decline in his quality of life. He was having difficulty walking, and even breathing and swallowing. ALS is a devastating and disfiguring disease that currently has no cure. It normally kills within a few years (2 to 10 years being average), although in rare cases, it can take much longer (astrophysicist Stephen Hawking was first diagnosed with ALS in 1963, and he didn’t succumb to it for 55 years!)

I never met Dogbomb, but he’s a member of the same furry community my son has been active in since about 2009. He’s evidently hugely popular within the community because of his positive, upbeat attitude, even in the face of such a devastating diagnosis and grim prognosis. Since Dogbomb was first diagnosed in early 2018, he has organized marches and walks to raise funds for ALS research and has become a huge inspiration to people both within and outside of the furry community. He’s older than most of his fellow furries, who tend to be mostly Millennials, and has taken on a kind of older brother or mentoring role to many of them, who are in turn inspired by his love of life, enthusiasm, positive attitude, and passion for activities that help find a cure for ALS.

That’s enough background.  I read Dogbomb’s story on Twitter the other night completely by accident, and then I stumbled on this short animation created by one of Dogbomb’s close friends (“Jib Kodi”), made just after Dogbomb publicly announced he would be ending his life. I don’t think there’s any need to explain what this video means, other than that it’s about the power of friendship and the furry community’s unwavering support as Dogbomb commences his journey out of this world and into the next. Notice the “Run to Fight ALS” shirts some of the characters are wearing.

 

This little animation made me totally lose it for almost an hour. Not just a few tears, but full blown sobbing. This wasn’t actually unpleasant at all, but cathartic. Like a good emotional enema, I felt like my soul had been cleansed.

Later, I tried to figure out why I had reacted so intensely. I didn’t know this man, I never fought ALS or knew anyone who had, I’m not a member of the furry community, and yet…this little video grabbed my heart, turned it inside out, and twisted it hard!

For years I’ve been terrified of dying. Not just the suffering and pain that often precedes death, but a fear of death itself. It’s really a fear of the unknown. No matter how strong one’s faith, no one knows for certain what will happen after they die. I don’t have all that many years left, maybe two or three decades at most. Maybe less than that. My fear of death, rather than dissipating as I grow older as it seems to do for most people, has intensified. This is a real problem, since death isn’t something that I can avoid. I can delay it, but one day it’s going to happen whether I want it to or not.

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Dogbomb’s Twitter icon (artist unknown)

Dogbomb was a man who, though not very old, did not fear death. He stared his own mortality in the face and said fuck you to it, and then grabbed its icy hand and told it some jokes. Dogbomb was a man who I have been told always smiled at everyone, and was always willing to listen to others’ troubles, even when he had much worse problems of his own and knew his illness was terminal.

Rather than sink into self pity, crawl into his bed, and wait for death to take him, he stayed active, organized events and marches to raise funds to find cures and new treatments for the disease that was killing him. He got countless others involved and did a lot of good for sufferers of ALS. At the very least, he gave them hope and inspired them.

And finally, he decided he was going to die his own way, not ALS’s way. He died willingly in a loving and supportive environment among his closest family and friends. If dying joyfully is a thing, Dogbomb did it.

And now, after being so inspired and moved by Dogbomb’s story, I can finally understand those who say that death can be a beautiful and uplifting thing, a beginning rather than an end, the start of a new journey — and not something dark and morbid that we should fear.  For someone with ALS or another painful or physically crippling disease, death also means freedom for a soul that had been  trapped in what had become nothing more than a burdensome flesh prison.

Dogbomb wrote one last tweet on the morning of his death:

“Dogbomb has left the building. I love y’all!”

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Screenshot of Dogbomb riding into the sunset from an animation by Jib Kodi

I can’t say my fear of death is cured, but I’m getting there. Dogbomb’s beautiful life of service to others, and courageous (and joyful) passing has helped me with that.

Here is where you can make a donation to the ALS Association.

*****

Further reading:

My Son is “Furry” — Got a Problem With That?  (posted 9/20/14)

Fear of Death

The Ultimate Dissociative Experience

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Another mom who supports her son being a furry.

mexnyman
My son dressed as “Mex,” about 2 years ago.

I just received an email from a woman who read my blog post from almost two years ago,  “My Son is Furry–Got a Problem with That?”   Here is that article for those of you who didn’t see it.

https://luckyottershaven.com/2014/09/20/my-son-is-furry-got-a-problem-with-that/

Here is the letter I received today.   All identifying information has been excluded.

applycheekdots

My son’s fox/otter fursona.

*****

I was browsing websites looking for Furry bumper stickers and came across your blog.

I have a 21 year old son who is gay and a furry.  So it seems we have quite a lot in common. I have known my son was gay before he actually told me which was about age 13. It was around the age of 15 he started talking about furries. I was fascinated and we started watching Furry convention videos. I was hooked. I tried to be very supportive regarding this to my son. This was a group of people that he could finally relate to and thank God not judge him. He is a very sensitive and highly intelligent person. He just never fit in with his peers. Middle school was the worst and after one year of high school it still wasn’t getting any better for him, so we opted for an online school.

I am very close with my son and he always tells me how awesome I am and he tells his friends that. I am close to a couple of his friends and they are also furries.   I have never met and talked with another parent who supports her gay and Furry son. I would love to have an email friend that I could relate to.

Thanks for taking time to read this and hope to hear from you.
Best,
Proud Mom of a Furry


My son’s latest dance performance at Megaplex 2016, Orlando, FL

My reply:

Thank you for sharing this with me!   It is a coincidence isn’t it?  My son is almost 25 now and his fursona is a fox/otter — he’s the one responsible for getting me to love otters so much I named my blog after them and also use it as my user name too.  (I’m not furry though, lol)   Now he has a second character, a black and white stoat named “Mex.”   Mex is a dancer in the competitions at the conventions and has placed  2nd or 3rd in several of them.  He has yet to win, but I’m sure that’s coming.   My son began dancing about 4 years ago. He never took a lesson; he is entirely self taught.  

Some people think it’s strange that I actually love furries and the furry fandom.  I think it’s a harmless hobby and allows these kids and young adults to socialize and have fun.    I think they’re so entertaining and funny–and very friendly too.  You probably read my article about my feelings about my son being a furry, which is why you wrote.   He has developed so much more self confidence and improved his social skills immensely since he began attending the conventions (his first one was in late 2010).  

My son was a lot like yours.  He was pretty much an outcast at school and middle school as especially bad for him.   He is very creative and intelligent (I think most furries are–many of them work in scientific, computer, or medical fields or in the performing or visual arts) and most have some kind of art or performing avocation.  

My son, like yours, was so shy and unsure of himself, lacking in confidence and socially awkward.  He told me later on that he was very depressed during his middle and high school years.  In 2009 he came out to me as gay but I think I already knew.  I never had a problem with that.   I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being gay and never have.  Many of the greatest friends I ever had were gay.

He was embarrassed to tell me he was a furry but when he finally did I just looked at him with a blank stare because I had no idea what that meant.  He explained and I looked it up on Wikipedia.   Sadly, furries have gotten a bad reputation and it’s become associated with depraved sex and perversions, but the reality is, that is not the case.   I found out the furry fandom is an outgrowth of the science fiction conventions and has been around since the 1980s.   I don’t know why they get so much hate and why people fear them so much that there have been actual hate crimes and bomb threats at a few of the hotels that hold the conventions.  It’s just a hobby and a passion for dressing up and socializing (and performing) in costume.  Furry allows shy and creative young adults like my son to become more outgoing because they are in costume and take on a persona that fits their chosen animal.   My son’s life is so much better since he became a furry, and every time he performs in another dance comp, I always watch and root for him (most of them are live streaming now). 

I’m glad you’re another mom who supports her son being a furry. You sound like you have a very warm and loving relationship with him.   My son will be tickled pink when I tell him that another mom supports her son being furry.

I also want to write a blog post including this letter and my reply but I will not identify you by name or your son’s fursona either.   I want to do that because I think it’s important that the truth about furries come out because so many parents of children who are furries completely misunderstand what it’s about and think it’s some kind of sex cult, which it is not.   It got it’s unfortunate reputation mostly from an episode of CSI that featured a furry who was a serial murderer.   It’s time for the truth to come out–that this is a harmless (if rather expensive!) hobby.  

“This is the Real Me” (music video)

My son starred in and created this video while he was attending Megaplex 2015 in Orlando a few weeks ago. Enjoy!

My son is performing tonight–need your prayers and positive energy!

mexnyman
My son as “Mex” in the center of the group.

My son performs tonight in the dance competition at Furry Weekend Atlanta (FWA) in Atlanta, GA. He found out two weeks ago he was put in charge of doing the choreography for a group of five dancers, including himself.

He didn’t want the responsibility but wasn’t given a choice (the original choreographer quit and put him in charge), and he’s been really stressing about it. His group competes tonight–the competition will begin at 9 PM and runs for about 2 hours until the winners are announced.

I don’t know the name of his group or what order they’re performing in, but he is “Mex” and will be most likely wearing red plaid shorts and a black T-shirt that says, “I’M KIND OF A BIG DEAL.” He always wears that uniform, lol.

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Commissioned portrait of “Mex.”

If anyone is interested in watching the competition (it’s a LOT of fun), you can see it live-streaming on furryweekend.TV — I watched yesterday and the video quality is excellent.

Whether you watch or not, please extend your prayers, well wishes, and send positive energy that everything comes together for my son and his group tonight. He’s a little disappointed right now because this time around, he didn’t make the finals for the solo dance competition.

4 music videos my son made

Time for a little shameless bragging.

My 23 year old son is an aspiring filmmaker (he also has a music review channel, Radio Recall) and has quite a few music videos on his channel, iBolt07 at Youtube.com. I meant to post these earlier, but never got around to it.

In the first one (his most recent, made in December) there’s footage of his 2nd place (novice) performance in the fursuit dance competition at Midwest Furfest in Chicago, Illinois. (Here is my post about that). He says it’s much easier to dance without a fursuit. I wonder why that doesn’t surprise me. Since his second place finish, he’s been asked to join a dance troupe that travels in the Florida area, and they dance out of costume.

There was also a gas leak at the Hyatt where they were staying outside Chicago that forced attendees to evacuate for hours and 17 people were hospitalized. It may have been a hate crime. Fortunately there were no casualties.

I don’t have any problems with my son being a furry. I’ve done a lot of research on this, and there are a lot of unfortunate misunderstandings surrounding the fur fandom. It’s really more akin to someone who attends Star Trek conventions than a sexual perversion and there are more geeks at these things than at a science fair. A lot of furries seem to have professions in one of the sciences or are computer nerds. There are also lots of female furries, which surprised me. I wrote an article back in September (which is still one of my most popular) about why it doesn’t bother me that my son is a furry.

I just Googled “my son is furry,” and that article is so popular it’s now at the top of Page 1 on Google! That wasn’t always the case. When I wrote it it was on page 8 or 9, and a month ago it was at the top of the 3rd page or bottom of the second. It’s continuing to get a lot of views so it’s moved to the top. (For some reason my Merrimints article is picking up some momentum too. I think a food site found it. It’s also getting a lot of shares on Pinterest.)

Here are two of his fur convention music videos.


He can be seen dancing out of costume at 2:20 and part of his performance is at about 2:40.

He also makes non-furry music videos. Here are two of them:


He acts in this video too, and does the lipsynching. This is a few years old, from 2010 or 2011.


I love this!

Hate crime on furries? My son is at the hotel that had a gas leak!!!

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Evacuees standing outside the Hyatt hotel in Rosemont, IL last night.

Last night there was a serious chemical leak at the Hyatt Hotel in Rosemont, IL, outside Chicago, hospitalizing 19 people and causing the entire hotel to be evacuated. Here is the news story:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-19-hospitalized-thousands-evacuated-in-gas-leak-at-rosemont-hotel-20141207-story.html

The article contains a video of the evacuation and news commentary.

At the time this happened, Midwest Fur Fest is having its annual 4-day convention there. My son, who is a furry, attended and is staying at this hotel, but he was lucky and did not have to be hospitalized.

Authorities are looking into the matter, and they do believe there’s foul play involved.

Personally I think it was a deliberate act of hate against furries, who are tragically misunderstood by the media and ignorant people who really haven’t researched what the furry fandom is really all about (hint: they are not sexual perverts.)

I wrote this article about furries a couple of months back, and am linking to it if anyone wants more in depth information about furries and the reasons why I don’t mind that my son is one. This article is still one of my most popular and most shared, and it and still appears in my list of Top Posts (though lately it has been eclipsed by my Sam Vaknin articles, LOL).

Anyway, I am just so grateful my son is okay! 🙂 It could have been bad…

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My son in his fursuit “Mex,” the hipster weasel, with some friends. He will be dancing in this suit today.

On a more positive note, my son was one of ten dancers out of 50 who made it to the finals of the dance competition they are holding today. He is going to perform any moment now (he tweeted me that he’s a bag of nerves). The Top 3 dancers win a prize and a trophy (plus it’s a huge honor!). I think he’s good enough to win third place, at least, but even if he doesn’t place in the Top 3, making the Top 10 is awesome and he should be so proud! I’ll post the Youtube video of his performance when it’s up.

Furries revisited.

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I read my stats every day, and by far my most popular article was “My son is furry–got a problem with that?” I have a few theories as to why this is so.

1. It tells a story that promises to be a bit unusual and maybe controversial (a mom who actually approves of her son’s furriness).
2. Furry is controversial in and of itself — lots of people hate them or misunderstand what they’re about.
3. Furry is trendy and cool, especially among young people.
4. The title, I must admit, is great–it’s one of my best titles ever. It’s grabby and sassy and promises to be a little controversial and a little personal and maybe even a little juicy; and there’s also an implied challenge there too for those who dislike furries (got a problem with that?)
5. It includes a video and a cool original photo.
6. Furries are adorkable. (I love ’em).
7. The article is neither too short nor too long.

Now, all that being said, there’s another reason why that article got so many hits. I have a Twitter account which I use primarily to talk to my son, who spends a lot of time there. My son has close to 2000 followers, and most of them are furries, so when I posted the link to Twitter (I link all my articles to Twitter) a ton of his fur-riends wanted to see what I had to say about their friend and also what his mom thinks of him being a fur. It’s a built in audience. If you look at the Twitter button under the article you can see it was linked to Twitter again about 28 times by an army of furries clicking on the Twitter link so it has a huge presence there. It was also linked to various Facebook accounts a number of times too. My son is a little embarrassed by this endlessly circulating article but also seems tickled pink that he’s getting so much attention and has achieved a level of Twitter “fame,” at least among other furries. It gives him a presence in the fandom, and his dance comp video has received many more views now too.

Outside of that, my most popular articles are the ones about narcissists and psychopaths. That’s understandable, given that’s the focus of my blog, and most of my followers are people coming out of abusive relationships with narcs and psychopaths, or just people interested in the ugly and soulless side of human behavior.

But the only other article that received anywhere near the amount of attention my furry article did was my “I’m Frustrated” noobie manifesto which OM was kind enough to reblog and as a result I was so busy with likes, new followers, and comments that day I could barely find time to go to the bathroom! Things have died down a bit, but due to his kindness I never again have logged on in the morning after posting a new article only to find nothing but crickets and tumbleweeds.

Third in popularity was my rant, “Don’t judge me because I’m poor.” Now, I’ll be honest–I didn’t expect that to be a popular article. It’s a depressing topic and I used a sad picture. But I guess a lot of bloggers can relate and poverty, like narcissism and furries, is a hot topic these days I guess. And it has a sassy title that contains a challenge.

The biggest lesson from all this I’ve learned is that titles do matter. A title that is short, a little sassy, a little controversial, and promises a personal confession of some sort seem to get the most hits and likes.
It helps if the article lives up to its grabby title too.

I also have to admit I’m hoping the reference here to furries gives me another little Twitter boost.

My son is “furry”–got a problem with that?

mexnyman

So far my blog has been pretty inoffensive. Well, I like to think so anyway. But I knew the time would come where I’d have to post about something controversial and now is that time.

My son is a furry. And not only do I not have a problem with it, I’m damned proud of him. Yes, I really did just say that.

I know what some of you are probably thinking.

“What kind of a ‘parent” are you?”
“Furries are a bunch of perverts! How can you accept your own CHILD being one?”
“You are depraved to be writing bragging about that.”
“Ewwwwwwwww!!!”
“You are going to hell and so is he.”
“You are SICK!!!ELEVENTY!!111!!
*puking sounds*
“MAKE HIM STOP!!!”

Let me explain. My son, now almost 23, was, along with me, his father’s scapegoat during most of his childhood and teen years. Like me, he’s a HSP (highly sensitive person) and HSPs and psychopaths as parents do NOT mix.

His father, Michael (not his real name), nearly destroyed my son’s self esteem. As a child, he was easily hurt, withdrawn to the point I thought he was autistic (he isn’t though your truly is), and was told (and began to believe) he couldn’t do anything right. Michael called him stupid, sissy, a wuss, and constantly told him he’d amount to nothing. Like me, my son had few friends in grade and middle school. He was bullied. I identified with him (and tried to protect him from Michael’s narcissistic rages) because well, he was so much like me.

I already told you earlier how Michael’s flying monkeys bullied him just prior to the divorce. Ethan (not his real name) was about 12 during this time and that’s a vulnerable age for even the strongest, most confident kid.

Fortunately, Ethan decided to live with me instead of his father after the divorce (my daughter chose her dad, and that’s another story I’ll get into in my next post). I don’t like to toot my own horn and I certainly wouldn’t have qualified as “Mother of the Year” but I like to think I did a pretty good job as Ethan’s mom, and some of the damage that Michael and his team of flying monkeys had done on my son was repaired. Or at least kept him from becoming one of those hardcore emo kids who writes freeverse poetry about suicide, rain and darkness and may even attempt the ultimate self destructive act. Or kept him away from drugs and early drinking. Or becoming a Narcissist himself. He never became any of those things, and in fact was always pretty straight edge. He told me (and I believe him) he never tasted alcohol until he was of legal age. He never liked pot and certainly never touched anything harder. He always did his homework. In high school he was one of those computer geeks and found he had a fascination with photography and art, something I also was involved with when I was his age.

Ethan wasn’t popular and seemed to have no interest in girls. He had a few friends he hung out with to play Age of Empires,” “Legend of Zelda” “Black and White,” and other video games. He was really good at the games and started his own forum about auto racing (something he’s still passionate about). But he was still painfully shy and lacking in confidence.

Two things helped to improve Ethan’s self esteem: Outward Bound and Kung Fu. His 8th grade graduation trip, instead of the usual “fun” trip to New York City or Washington DC, was a physically and mentally challenging 4 day Outward Bound expedition to the mountainous wildnerness right here in western North Carolina. I won’t get into detail about his trip (that’s a story he can tell), but he came back a little different, a little more mature, a bit more confident. When I asked him if he had fun, he said not really, but it was a trip he would never forget and that taught him a lot of things about himself.

When Ethan was 15, he decided to take Kung Fu classes. He was pretty good, and stuck with that for 3 years, advancing to Green Belt, which is more than halfway to Black Belt.

Ethan was keeping some secrets though, and admitted later on he was still deeply unhappy. I didn’t know this at the time, but I did know there was something he wasn’t telling me, and I could have guessed what it was. But I had to wait for him to say it.

At age 17, Ethan came out as gay. He was afraid to tell me, but I told him I had known for a long time but was waiting for him to say it. Ethan was relieved, and now that he was “out,” his confidence level went up a little more, and suddenly at school he was considered “cool,” something he had never been.

It’s so funny how kids will bully another kid they suspect of being gay but who isn’t “out” (and he was definitely bullied about that), but as soon as they’re “out,” they become accepted and cool. It’s a paradox, but it really isn’t–because it’s really not about gay vs. non-gay, it’s about self esteem. Bullied kids are kids who are too outwardly sensitive and have little self confidence. A kid with confidence, even if different from the other kids, is accepted, or at least respected. And I think that’s what happened with Ethan when he came out as gay.

After Ethan graduated from high school in 2010, he came out as “furry.” At first I didn’t even know what that meant, and Ethan didn’t want to explain it to me so I had to go online and do some research myself.

There’s been a lot of negative publicity about “furries,” especially since an infamous episode of the TV show CSI, in which a serial murderer was a furry who liked to kill wearing an animal costume. But this negativity isn’t deserved or even valid. Most of the criticism of furries is related to their alleged depravity–furry detractors insist furries engage in bestiality, or at best, have a fetish about having sex dressed up as animals.

While I won’t deny there is a subset of the furry community that may have a sexual “fursuit” fetish, it’s a small subset from what I’ve seen (and I know a lot about furries now) and the idea that they’re into bestiality is a ridiculous claim with nothing to back it up.

My intention here isn’t to give you a history of the furry fandom (there’s plenty of other places to read up on that). But a little background is required. The furry fandom grew out of the science fiction community back in the early 1980s. Most furries are geeks–comic book geeks, computer geeks, sci-fi geeks, Dragoncon geeks, art geeks, and among Millennials, animated cartoon geeks. Millennials grew up inundated with a huge array of the best made animated films and shows Disney had to offer; and because their stressed out parents were often working or busy with other things, cartoon animals like Mufasa, Timon and Pumba from “The Lion King,” CatDog, Bolt, and the Animaniacs were often left in charge as surrogate babysitters to entertain them.

Naturally a lot of Millennials developed a special affection for these cartoon critters who gave them so much laughter and comfort as children, and some of them continued this fascination into adulthood.

Enter the furries. The vast majority of them are Millennials (born from 1982 to 2000 or so) and there are a surprising number of female furries and heterosexual furries, and many of them are married. There are furry conventions that are becoming more popular every year, the most famous one being Anthrocon, which is held in Pittsburgh every year. Most furries are involved in art–either visual or performing art. I’ve talked to furries, and as a whole they’re a creative bunch. Furry isn’t a perversion; it’s a hobby, no different than someone who attends Star Trek or comic book conventions.

Being a furry has helped Ethan find his creative outlets. Ethan is naturally rather shy and reserved. Dressing up as “Mex” and his other “fursona” has allowed him to discover his outgoing and sociable side and that he has a love of performing (dancing and acting), which is something he might not have explored had it not been for the costume where he feels more comfortable experimenting with that side of himself.

He showed interest in photography and art at an early age, but has developed these abilities, and is now a fledgling filmmaker with a professional eye. He took up filmmaking in college and now has a degree. He makes his own music videos and has posted many of these on Youtube. Not all are about furries. Although none have gone “viral,” several of his films have received thousands of hits. He also is a competent artist, and draws well, although I think he’s more naturally talented at photography and filmmaking.

Here’s one of his videos from his music channel, Radio Recall.

What he’s proudest of is his dancing. He’s been training himself in street-dancing for two years. At the past two conventions he’s attended, he entered the fursuit dance competition. At the most recent one, he was one of the finalists, and he told me being accepted as a finalist was the happiest, most validating moment of his life and the high from it lasted for days. Now he’s working hard at getting even better so he can possibly win one of the Top 3 awards the conventions give out to the winners.

Here’s a video of his performance in the dance competition at a convention in Florida.

Ethan has shown me what can happen to a highly sensitive person who is able to escape from psychopathic abuse when still young, and then is given validation and encouraged to follow their own path, even if it’s not a path most of us would take. He’s shown me what I could have become had I been given such an opportunity (or taken advantage of it) when I was young. Not a furry or dancer or filmmaker, but someone who chased my dreams and never looked back. Ethan has shown me that none of us is a hopeless cause, and it really is possible to free yourself from the barbed wire prison of family psychopathy. Instead of being attacked by the flying monkeys and having your wings clipped, you can learn how to fly.

And that is why I’m proud my son is a furry.