Vet tech, runner, fursuiter, grease monkey, motorcycle hysteric and full time nutjob. ALS can kiss my fuzzy butt. I ain’t scared! –DogBomb
Words on a profile that are not even a shadow of the figure that Tony “DogBomb” Barrett would create when he was diagnosed with ALS in March of 2018. Furries, for all the negative backlash they receive have often shown light in many ways throughout their communities. Whether that be placing smiles on the faces of adults and children alike, raising money for animal organizations through their conventions, or, in the case of Tony (DogBomb), raising money and awareness for a very serious disease…Furries have always been there to lend their helping paw.
Tony not only shed light on his condition by documenting it as it was happening, but he showed how something so terrible and devastating did not have to bring a person down. ALS is very real, and very serious…but Tony never let it stop him from loving and living his life in the only ways he knew how. Wherever he went he continued spreading positivity and love, all while educating the public on why taking action and making an effort towards research was important and even crucial if a cure was to be found for future generations.
He took something terminal in stride as he continued to walk, boat, ride, and sit down with friends all the while confessing that he shouldn’t be doing such things, but he had a point to prove, even with his doctor’s disapproval. Through laughs and moments of honesty, and even a few moments of vulnerability- DogBomb had nothing to hide from the community he loved so much, and all he ever asked is that we pay it forward, and keep shining that light after he had gone.
“No one should be broken up over my passing. Sadness or anger at ALS is appropriate, but there is nothing to grieve about when you consider the ride that I was afforded. Wag every day, please. Hug your dogs and your friends. Smile when you think of me. No regrets.”
(Provided here is just a summary but you can read all about ALS: HERE )
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neuro-degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe.
ALS usually strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and it is estimated there are more than 20,000 Americans who have the disease at any given time. ALS can affect anyone, and can also run in families. While scientists have made leaps and bounds in their discoveries and treatment of ALS, there is no cure.
“People often ask me if I’m scared. For whatever reason, I’m not scared at all. I’ve never been afraid of much in this life, except for the thought of losing my independence, which absolutely terrifies me.”
-A Mutt’s Journey-
Tony gained attention in the fandom in August of 2010 when a picture started circulating of him in his Fursuit standing next to a wheelchair user. This moment he recorded as “Courage on Two Wheels” on his Furaffinity. This was the moment where Tony showed his loving and honest character, saying that people always saw him as “courageous” for Fursuiting in public, whereas the true courage came from the people such as the girl in the wheelchair (named Sarah).
“As the crowds parted to make way for the upright canine, a young
lady in a wheelchair caught my attention.
Unable to speak, or even wave for that matter, she used her beautiful
eyes to lure me over.
She was alone in her chair, body twisted and lacking in coordination,
betraying its owner with a vengeance. She was bereft of speech, couldn’t
hold a pen and lacked the motor skills to write if she could, yet when I
held her hand in my paw, her eyes danced. They spoke volumes.
I spent the better part of half an hour in this angel’s company.
She felt my claws and leaned her head against my fur.
We watched the throngs hurry past, the waves wash over the shore
and the gulls shriek and take flight.
A peaceful island in a sea of activity.
Eventually, she released my paw and made a motion with her head.
It was time for me to bid farewell.
I gave her shoulder a pat and I saw that terrific smile flash
across her face. I felt calm and blessed by her company.”
—DogBomb as said in “Courage on Two Wheels”
His journey to finding the fandom was somewhat similar to my own as he found it after a friend merely referred to him as being a Furry. I personally saw nothing else about this moment in Tony’s life, but it’s something fun to imagine as I have personally gone from living under that rock to falling down the rabbit hole.
It was March in 2018 when Tony was diagnosed with ALS and given an estimated life-span of 1-3 years. The disease varies from person-to-person…and as to how quickly his physical state would deteriorate no one knew. But “You can’t keep a good dog down”.
Since his diagnosis, Tony has been adamant on raising money and awareness for ALS, all the while making more ‘personal’ contributions to help ALS research. On November 10th, 2018- Tony and others marched a mile in the name of ALS research and raised $34,000 for the cause! As Tony exclaimed: “The organizers were blown away by the exuberant fun that a whole mass of fursuiters brings to an event. It was the first time that the local ALSA reached their fundraising goal and it was the biggest walk ever.
Yeah, furries did that.”
Tony also participated in a clinical trial in an attempt to stop the disease. And though he was declined in becoming an organ donor because of his ALS, he did sign over his body to science for use as a cadaver. Even then, he showed his bright and humorous side, wanting nothing more than to provide a few good laughs to doctors-to-be.
It was then on March 29th 2019 that Tony announced he would be ending his life on his own terms- refusing to let the disease take him, and that the date he had chosen was April 5th, 2019. In that time he traveled to have drinks with friends, say his last goodbyes, all the while still spreading light and positivity throughout the fandom. DogBomb was not defeated by ALS but rather, the fandom agreed that the goodest of boys had taken the victory lap on it all:
-Furries fighting ALS and Stigma-
Furries have always been the butt-end of the joke (sexual pun intended? Unintended?) when it comes to society. We know that people see us just as the weirdos in the animal costumes that may or may-not do questionable things behind closed doors. But if there’s one thing that Furries come together on despite fandom drama and spite from the outside…it’s fighting the good fight for a good cause.
Not only did Furries raise over 30k for ALS back in 2018, but on March 24th 2019 Furries took to the streets in a marathon once more to raise money for ALS research and to spread awareness. Spear-headed by Tony as “Team Smelly Mutt”, they raised over $110,000 for charity and continue to raise money for ALS by selling art, doing streams, selling stickers, t-shirts, and other goods all in the name of “DogBomb” and his message:
“There are some that view furries as a punchline, but I can tell you that the ALS association takes us very seriously. The fandom has been an absolute fund raising force, and no group has ever risen to the occasion like you all. Over $100,000 raised so far. Let that sink in…
Almost every single person at the meet and greet had questions about what furry is, and there is a huge buzz about our participation in the marathon. Perceptions are changing, my friends, and that’s due to your hard work. Am I proud to be a furry? You’re damn right I am.”
…these acts of kindness, charity, determination, and overall love for a member of the community has helped in shedding light on the Furry Fandom as a whole, and really brought back what the fandom is all about: teamwork, inclusiveness, positivity, creativity, a place where anyone and everyone can find their place and belong. This fandom is a fandom of LOVE, and we shine brightest when we are all together working towards a common goal.
Tony “DogBomb” has given permission to use the likeness of his character but only if those proceeds go to ALS research. And, if you wanna send a few bucks to help out, you can still do so by checking out Team Smelly Mutt’s page: HERE or by visiting http://weboc.alsa.org –
-Time too short but a whole life lived-
If it was one thing that DogBomb asked of others (outside of being kind to one another) it was to live. It was to live and do the things you loved, tell others how much they mean to you, and to sit back with a cold one. But most of all, he asked that others not mourn his death, but rather celebrate his life and smile.
After his time came and went and he crossed that rainbow bridge, Twitter went dark in honor of DogBomb. Profile pics faded to black with the rainbow lei to represent his journey into the next life, with hashtags calling for a toast for DogBomb with several people speaking up about their amazing interactions with this man who was an inspiration (and still is) to so many.
I myself never got to meet him, and only this year did I start following his journey, not knowing how drawn in I would become, nor how deeply I would feel the loss of someone who is technically a total stranger. That’s part of the reason why this blog has taken so long to write…because the words just couldn’t form in my mind as I can’t speak on experience about any of this…only that watching this journey further affirmed why I love the fandom, further inspired me to continue writing about the fandom, and it restored my faith in both humanity and the fandom. It also caused me quite a few tears before my work shift that I can not say I am ashamed of…because even through text I could feel the love radiating off of the goodest boy, and all of those touched by his spirit and determination to kick ALS’ butt!
So while it may be a few days late, I think I will snuggle my loved one just a little bit closer tonight, and I think I will pop open a beer. And when I get paid next, you will be seeing a little donation (even if not much) from this little fuzzbutt.
Happy trails, Peaceful Paws!