Meet Pup Rookie, North American Pet 2023

We continue our retrospective look back on the reign of the 2023 North American Bear titleholder family with Pup Rookie, the current NAB Pet.

BWM: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Pup Rookie: I was born in Traverse City Michigan. I lived in California, Texas, and several other states as I grew up. I finally ended up in Louisville Kentucky but still call Michigan my home state. My pronouns are He/Him. I am 44 years old and in a polyamorous relationship with Zephran and Thomas. 

BWM: What drew you to the Pet community?

Pup Rookie: A really good friend of mine that is a pup. I started talking to him about the pet community and in 2020, I got my first hood and never looked back. It helped me overcome a lot of self-esteem issues and self judgements I had about myself. When I started to wear my hood out in public, I felt very confident about myself and that no one could hurt me with their words. 

BWM: Do you consider yourself to be part of the bear community as well and if so, has it been welcoming and accepting of you as a Pet?

Pup Rookie: This is a hard question for me. I have always liked the bear community but was afraid of what others would think about me liking bears. So, I forced myself not to allow myself into the bear community for many years. As I ame out more into the pet community I found the Kentucky Bourbon Bears here in Lexington Kentucky. There I felt at home and that I was around like-minded people.

As for being a pet in the bear community, they have welcomed me and included me along with many other pets out there. The bears love us pets and give great belly rubs! 

BWM: What is it like for you when you are in Pup mode?

Pup Rookie: To me pup headspace (mode) for me is that I can overcome anything. When I put my hood on and fall deep into headspace it’s hard to keep my clothes on. I feel free and very powerful over my body. 

BWM: How would you describe the experience to those who are unfamiliar?

Pup Rookie: Pet headspace is different for everyone one. Some pets can only get into headspace for sexual reasons. Others use headspace for anxiety. So, there is really no right or wrong way someone can experience pet headspace. When a pet first finds what their headspace is, my advice is to take it slow at first. The first time I dropped into a pet headspace I got a really bad headache when I came out of it. A good rule of thumb is to have someone you trust to be around till you are used to the headspace you find works for you. 

BWM: Tell us about your platform.

Pup Rookie: As I was working on my NAB platform and trying to find one that I would be really passionate about, Body Positivity was always coming to the forefront of my mind. The reason for that is I was always made fun of when I was growing up and even as an adult about the way my body looked. People wanted to bring me down all the time because of my size. I know how it feels like to be made fun of for your size and the way you look, and I do not want others to feel this way. So, every chance I get I take my shirt off and let my belly hang out proud and free. By doing this it shows others they can do that too and not feel bad about the way they look. Everyone is beautiful just the way they are. 

BWM: How have you utilized your title over the last year?

Pup Rookie: I have been educating as many people as I can to use the term PET vs PUP when talking about a Pet event. The word Pup does not include all Pets that are out there. There are many different types of pets and I want to show them they are included and welcomed to events. 

BWM: What are your proudest achievements as NAB Pet?

Pup Rookie: One of my proudest achievements is winning the NAB Pet title. I suffer from anxiety on stage and self-doubt. Just getting on stage was a huge achievement for me that weekend. But since I’ve worn the NAB Patch my proudest achievement is that I get to show people that anything is possible, you just have to want it and push yourself to achieve your goals. Also it’s been really great getting to know and traveling with NAB Mama Bear Shannon. We’ve traveled over 5000 miles together during our year. This year would not have been the same without her. We have bonded over our title year. 

With NAB Mama Bear Shannon Ashley

BWM: What advice would you give to the incoming NAB Pet?

Pup Rookie: The biggest advice I could give to any pet that wants to run at NAB for the pet title is that there is a lot of work that goes into the title, and it is not cheap. The main thing is to have fun. Yes, you represent the North American Pet title and that is a job in and of itself, but if you are not having fun along the way then it is going to wear you down.  

BWM: What are some important issues you feel that need to be addressed in the pet/ bear communities?

Pup Rookie: With-in the pet/bear community what really needs to be addressed, are people’s pronouns. I hear way too many “It’s hard for me since I come from the old GAY community” The line is just an excuse. Everyone can change and use the correct pronouns for that individual. One of my partners is trans and it hurts my heart when people use the wrong pronoun even after they know the correct one to use.  What we need to do as a community is be more accepting and respectful of people’s pronouns. When I meet new people, I always ask what their pronouns are because I feel that is a good way to start getting to know someone and it shows a level of respect. It takes a village to make a change, but the change can start with you. 

BWM: Anything we haven’t covered that you want to mention?

Pup Rookie: This year has had its ups and downs. Every place I have traveled has welcomed this Puppy with open arms and great hugs. A lot of people have asked if I would do this all over again and I totally would. I have never had a title family and never thought I would. We may not see eye to eye on some things but we still all do amazing things. If I did not push myself and win this title, I would not have met this amazing person named Shannon Ashley. She is a pillar in the queer community and has helped me grow into the amazing puppy I am. Even after our year is over, we will still travel the world together and have forged a bond that will never go away. 

NAB 2023 Titleholder Family (L-R) Andy Curtiss, Lex Apro, Pup Rookie, Shannon Ashley

Be sure to follow Pup Rookie, North American Pet 2023 on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. Then meet him in person at North American Bear Weekend 2024: Mean Bears taking place from February 15th -18th in Lexington, KY.

Latest Articles

John Hernandez

John Hernandez is the Editor in Chief of Bear World Magazine. In addition to bear culture, he specializes in entertainment writing with a special focus on horror and genre films. He resides in New York City with his husband.