I found out about Woodbabies via a video I found starring one Samuel Conway AKA Uncle Kage, a storyteller of sorts in the furry fandom, who demonstrated a lovely shoulder-sitting gryphon. This would have been in 1999, on a sort of early web TV program called the Funday Pawpet Show, which normally involves puppets. The motion was realistic, and showed well on camera. He named his gryphon "Real", the intent being that the common question of 'Is it real?' could be answered with "Yes, it's Real!". Kage claimed that it was, he found, easy to accept one of these as a pet or a friend rather than a puppet. I knew what I wanted to buy for Christmas, found the web site, and went over the options. I wanted a dragon, and at first I chose a red body, but red was out of stock so I went with brown; what a wise decision that turned out to be.
My friend had a brown body, black secondary, black fur and wings, and plain blue eyes. His control cable sheath was bright yellow. My shoulders droop and I couldn't keep him on; not thinking of a 'saddle', I attached him to the shoulder of my trenchcoat with a loop of thick wire. I cut a small hole in the back of the coat, passed his cable in and down my sleeve, and I could tuck it up into my sleeve when he was 'sleeping'. Since he was a Christmas gift, he became "December", and I've never doubted that that's his proper name. I had no local, easy-to-get-to Ren Faires near Seattle, and I wasn't much of a Renaissance type anyway, so December went everywhere. In the first few years he saw NorwesCon (a large sci-fi/fantasy con), the San Diego Comic Con, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and countless nightclubs and raves. He was always a huge hit, and I would run out of MKD business cards quickly.
In, oh, 2002 or 2003, December's eyes had slowly turned neon pink from sun exposure. His pen cap fell apart once or twice and I repaired it. Then one of his wings came off (ouch) so I sent him back for the fluff'n'buff. He came back with beautiful new leather wings, and fiber-optic blue eyes, as well as a new pen cap and a new brown cable sheath. This time, I put him on a leather jacket, with the same set-up, except that I wrapped more of his sheath with black fir, then made a free-hanging 'tail', so that his tail seemed to hang further down my back than where the cable entered my coat.
I came to prefer the pen cap, since like Kage I use both hands to operate the control; Kage said, "I'm very nervous, I fidget with my pen. Makes for an easy misdirection". Also like Kage, I wasn't taking him to Faires where fantasy reigns; from the moment I saw him in his dark colors, I decided he'd be passed off as a living creature, and I found some people believed it. I always told them the truth in the end. (As Kage said, "I don't want them to be laughed at when they return home and say, 'I saw a live gryphon today!'") Kids usually figured him out easily but loved him anyway; adults were always the ones I could convince. Like Kage's spiel based on the bird-of-prey lecturers at zoos, I developed a little spiel about his official species and where in the world he was from, which I'd pull out when I thought I had someone potentially convinced. I started putting my full name and his on the back of all the cards I gave out. In 05 or 06, I sent him back for another fluff'n'buff, as he'd developed a case of head-flop. I guess the marked cards helped; he was sent back with a huge pack of cards and a chrome-plated business card holder with a little flip cover, a really sweet gesture. This only holds nine cards, so I keep the rest in my other pocket and refill it as it runs low. This time, I had his teeth painted white.
December's paint began to wear on his horns and front feet, showing white. As well, the white teeth didn't look as good as I had thought, and seemed to detract slightly from the possibly-alive look I was after. So I sent December back for another fluff'n'buff late last year. His eyes and wings have lasted well, and he came with a new pen-cap. As with all the pen cap controls, I glue foam-rubber pencil grips around the cap and around the sheath just below it, giving moth hands more grip. It comes down my left sleeve, usually; my right hand controls up/down and turns, while left hand holds the cap between twists so it doesn't spring back. Whether I give him smooth motion or jerky birdlike motion depends on what sort of crowd I'm in; I find that, for me at least, the former is good for up-close interaction, while the latter works in sparsely-populated places where he needs to be spotted at a distance. I had him fitted with a manetic saddle, but it doesn't hold as well as I'd hoped, again because my shoulders droop steeply - I'll likely put him back on my leather coat again, he seems comfortable there.
Having had him for eleven years, there's one thing I haven't done yet: decorate him. Some friends have Woodbabies they've decorated. I want to put a ring on one of his horns and maybe give him a simple necklace or collar. Either way, I'm a one-Woodbaby parent, and planning to stay that way; while I love seeing and meeting others, none can sway me personally like December. He really does seem to have a personality of a sort, and he'll continue to appear at NorwesCon, furry cons, and vacation spots like Las Vegas. I'll try to have a photo soon, probably once I get him decorated a bit. His home base is the general Seattle area, and local friends Asha and Silver have their own lovely friends. Asha may be here on Woodparents somewhere, probably as 'Asha Art Dragon'.