Dogbomb: praise for a furry hero – from the ALS Association, Orange County Chapter.

by Patch O'Furr

ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a fatal disease that needs a cure. In a call with the Executive Director of the ALS Association of Orange County (California), I asked if they would like to join furries in the San Francisco Pride parade in June to represent their cause. Plans are in progress, but so far the answer was an enthusiastic “count us in!” This is the ongoing legacy of one inspiring man.

Dogbomb (Tony Barrett) was the reason for our call. He was a furry fan who some called “Mister Rogers with a beer,” and an ALS patient represented by the ALSAOC. Thousands of fandom members united for his cause, bringing six figures in charity donations — (another story for another article this week.)

After Dogbomb passed away, Furry Twitter was filled with profile pics gone black with a rainbow lei to represent him. Hashtags, toasts, memories and plans were shared in his honor. There was hardly anywhere in the fandom where his presence wasn’t felt. But because his work directed this positive energy far outside of the group, here’s a story about effects that may not have been seen, as told by ALS patient advocates.

The Q&A below comes from the ALSAOC’s Denise Greek (Development and Operations Manager) and Natalie Villegas (Chapter Executive Director.)

(Patch:) Dogbomb’s personal life has gotten a lot of attention. I’m curious about your side. Can you tell me more about how he affected you and your cause?

(ALSAOC:) I’m not sure if we have the words to convey how we feel. Overwhelmed. Astonished. Grateful. Would be just a few… I can tell you this; that since the Chapter’s beginnings in 1987, we haven’t seen anything quite like the outpouring of love and support that we have experienced with Tony. We have received donations from all over the world and so many came in the amount of $5. This is noteworthy because it means that people who don’t have a lot to give felt compelled to support Tony in his ALS journey. It truly was amazing.

The Walk To Defeat ALS benefit event in SoCal had many furries attend. You mentioned that it needed an overflow parking lot opened up for them, and that had never happened before. Can you share your memory of the event – what stands out to you about how it came together, what it was like to be there, the sights and sounds, reactions of Dogbomb and friends, and how you all felt afterward?

We really had no idea what to expect, but it was the outpouring of love and support that we saw online manifesting into a reality. People came in from all parts of the country, some drove for hours to make it there on Walk Day to support Tony. We set up a VIP dressing room for people to put on their costumes and it seemed like we had a hundred or more furries there. They added such a fun and positive vibe to the day – a lot of people said that it was our best Walk ever. We are so grateful and appreciative for everything the fandom has done for the Orange County Chapter. In case you haven’t seen it, here is the official “Team Tony” Walk video.

I’ve heard that on the day he passed, the ASLA website had a hard time staying up under all the traffic. And Dogbomb was trending on Twitter. What did you see on your end – as far as traffic, donations, or what immediate goals the attention will help you to accomplish, or what lasting impact you think it will have when things cool down?

During the last 28 days since Tony/Dogbomb was our featured Marathoner, our Twitter profile visits were up 852% and our mentions were up 1300%. Enjoy the LA Marathon video (credit Trip E. Collie):

It has not slowed down. Day-of donations for the Marathon were up over 300% from last year. Currently, we are working to harness all the interest and attention in a way that will honor Tony/Dogbomb’s wishes. We have been in contact with those closest to him and we were informed that the ALSA Orange County Chapter’s annual Walk will be a designated event for Tony/Dogbomb.

This year’s Walk to Defeat ALS will be held on November 9th, 2019 at the OC Great Park in Irvine. We want as many people out there representing Tony aka Dogbomb as possible so please save the date:

To register, use this link. http://weboc.alsa.org/goto/TeamTony2019

To donate, use this link. http://weboc.alsa.org/goto/Dogbomb2019

Would you like to talk about how Dogbomb is one of many people you advocate for, and what he means to them, or how he can help inform or inspire for them, like with his approach to life with ALS or the choice to die on his terms?

We currently service approximately 200 families. While the rate of people currently living with the disease is not as high as some others (life expectancy is 2-5 years), the absolute devastation is far worse and extremely costly – the final stages of ALS run approximately $250,000 a year. Once a year we advocate for all persons with ALS. 2019 legislative priorities are described in this link: http://www.alsa.org/advocacy/legislative-priorities.html As for Tony, he was the epitome of inspiration. We here at the Chapter really loved him. He was kind and generous, and wickedly funny. I am sure with the help of our fandom supporters and social media, that his story will resonate for years to come. We are saddened by his death but have the utmost respect for how he chose to live and die with ALS. Tony was one of many courageous people who have lost their battle to ALS or currently struggle with the disease. His popularity and celebrity in the community has raised a tremendous amount of awareness for ALS, thus putting everyone currently battling this horrible disease on the map. His willingness to be the beacon of light for this cause, despite not wanting to be in the limelight, makes him a hero in our eyes.

Want to share any impressions of the furries as individuals, as a group/community, or as an interest?

We have been given the wonderful opportunity to meet with 100 or so furries, in and out of costume. They were gracious, kind and appreciative of the platform we gave them to honor their friend. Everything we have done with the fandom has been better than we could have ever imagined. That being said, we could not have done half the things that were accomplished without our new lifelong Chapter friend, Trip E. Collie. Words cannot describe what he means to the Chapter. He organized the group, made all the connections, and traveled from the Santa Cruz area in November and in March to organize his crew. He said he wanted to “do whatever he could to lift up his friend” and he did one heck of a job. He also made this video to honor their friendship.

Am I missing any outstanding topics you want to share?

There’s so many wonderful experiences to share with Tony/Dogbomb that it’s hard to narrow down one, but attached is a picture of Denise Greek, Natalie Villegas (myself) and Tony (Dogbomb) on Thursday, March 4th. We were delivering girl scout cookies to Tony at his job, and in light of what occurred the very next day this moment was pure magic.

Thanks to the ALS Association, Orange County Chapter – www.alsaoc.org. The Walk to Defeat ALS on November 9th, 2019 in Irvine, CA needs help to represent Dogbomb. Register here, or donate to help the cause.