Over eight years ago, on a rainy Saturday night in May, a handful of people gathered at the Calgary Eagle Leather Bar. It wasn’t a very busy night, which may have been why the bar agreed to host an event: DOG•MA.
Berith, along with one other human canine and his handler, were the only regulars at the Calgary Eagle who were active in the pet play scene. They gathered nearly every weekend for months, feeling a sort of kinship that only being around a like minded individual can foster. The three of them, where openly welcome at the Calgary Eagle. The owners and employees of the Eagle were happy to include us in events. They even made sure we had a spot with them in the Calgary Pride Parade. Still, Berith and his two friends were dissatisfied with the lack of a pet play scene in the Calgary area. They started scheming together, wanting to build a place for themselves, for others who may be interested in pet play and potentially drum up on some interest to get others involved. They agreed that building a place can mean encouraging an inviting space within the bar that graciously accepted us.
DOG•MA was the first public fetish event planned and hosted by Berith. The evening consistent of a question and answer period, as most people didn’t have a clue what pet play was about. In fact, it was less of a Q&A and more Berith explaining “what the heck it is”. Spirits were still high and the evening culminated in a small rough and tumble mosh. The handful of people who showed were mostly friends there for support. However, the event worked to pique some interest.
The support friends showed during DOG•MA was contagious. The support grew and more people were drawn in. Even those who weren’t directly interested still wanted to help out and get involved. A community was born. This was a first spark of what would be CAL-PaH. Around this time, pet play groups were relatively unheard of. The only really known groups were the Black Eagle Kennel Klub in Toronto and the San Francisco Kennel Club, which are still going strong today. The local group in Calgary took on the name Calgary Kinky Kennel Club, or CKKC for short.
CKKC had a good run, offering support to various other communities, including helping to raise funds for International Leather Sir/boy contest for a couple of years. The tie with the leather community was strong. We did not forget that they let us make a home within theirs, and as such, we became a sort of guard dog of the local leather community. However, we did not want to gate keep. Due to small quarrels within the community about “old guard” leather vs “new guard” leather (the latter is what many considered pet play to fall under and thus frowned upon it). CKKC was determined to show that pets are welcome within the leather and kink communities, and that they were valid and had a spot there.
Sadly, in 2012 the Calgary Eagle closed permanently. For the most part, the leather community (and kink communities to a point) died down after it had to shut its doors; people no longer had a central place to gather. Several individuals attempted to hold gatherings at other places in an effort to keep the kinship they had formed alive. For some reason though, these meets never cultivated the same kind of atmosphere as they did at the Calgary Eagle. CKKC however, seemed to pull in people from other local communities over the years. The local pet play community had grown as bridges and bonds between each other were formed. With the Calgary Eagle no longer around to provide an entry in the Calgary Pride parade, and thus an outlet for visibility of the leather and kink communities, CKKC took on the duty. People flocked to in with support. Support for CKKC, themselves, friends, community, leather and kink. The communities, though still somewhat fractured and sparse, survived having the Calgary Eagle close. CKKC survived having its home closed.
A year or two later, one of the founders of CKKC was offered a job position away from Calgary and as such resigned from the board. CKKC was welcome in at the Backlot, where they hosted an event titled Hounds & Hides. This event showcased a mosh area, as well as seating for those to meet, catch up and reminisce. Some Hounds and Hides where even themed, displaying decorations for various holidays, and having a themed drink menu. Eventually, CKKC managed to rekindle the community that was lost with the closing of the Eagle. The Backlot, welcoming as they were, became too small of a venue to host Hounds and Hides. Between the mosh area and the amount of people that attended the event, there was barely enough room to move.
Pet play was, is still, growing globally. What initially started out as “pup groups” moved on to include pet players or all types, much like CKKC did from the start. This movement is a testament to the inclusivity of the groups. Yet, it didn’t stop there. There was a lot of focus on the pets, but there are other roles involves in pet play too. These roles, collectively dubbed “handlers” deserved recognition too. Because of this, the pet play groups popping up around the world started calling themselves “Pups and Handlers”, or “PaHs” for short. This visibility for those who identify as handlers was a big step in terms of engagement and inclusivity. To emulate this movement, CKKC opted to change its name. By this time, the group had new (and more) organizers, and it was a new era of pet play. The global growth of pet play and groups dedicated to it promoted a further sense of community, and the organizers of CKKC thought that a name change would promote this community. From then on, CKKC became known as Calgary Pups and Handlers, or as the common short-hand was, CAL-PaH. Later, CAL-PaH would take visibility a step further and change “Pups” in their name to “Pets”. Having been adamant that all pets were included right from the beginning, this seemed like a bold yet obvious step. This trend of validity and visibility continued even further still as CAL-PaH put a focus on sex positivity, body positivity and trans inclusivity. It wasn’t enough to have spaces inclusive of pets and handlers, but to make sure that people, no matter how they identified, had a space within the pet play community.
CAL-PaH went through a couple of board changes and reorganizing. As an organization that had started from the group up, it took a while for organizers to figure out what roles were best suited to them and more importantly, how best to do those roles. Policies were planned, committees were created, and bylaws were drafted and then redrafted. The Calgary Pets and Handlers board brainstormed, imagined and concocted. All the while still doing our best to plan and provide fun, accountable spaces for members of the local pet play community. Eventually, after nearly a decade of effort and hard work from dozens of individuals, the paper work required for incorporation was ready to submit. The required mount of paperwork was sent in to be reviewed by the government. Of course, due to backlog, the wait for word concerning incorporation was a long six months. The wait was well worth the reward though. Roughly halfway through August of 2019, the board received a package in the mail. This package, a plain light brown envelope, contained a copy of the bylaws stamped by the government and a certificate of incorporation stating the official birthday of Calgary Pets and Handlers: February 13, 2019.