Corook’s Rescue Dog Gives Them Permission to Have Bad Days · The Wildest

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Corook’s Rescue Dog Gives Them Permission to Have Bad Days

The TikTok sensation and singer-songwriter says their German Shepherd mix, Cubby, has taught them it’s OK not to be perfect.

by Nisha Gopalan
July 31, 2023
Corook wears a black-and-white striped shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes, paired with a green frog hat while they pose with their dog, Cubby outside on the grass.
Photo: Christina Coleman
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If you’re a dog person (and come on, why would you be here if that isn’t at least part of your identity?), you may be familiar with Corinne Savage, known professionally as corook, the Nashville-based mastermind behind the highly relatable single, “The Dog.” In the track, the delightfulsinger-songwriter meets indie-pop artist opines over who gets to keep the dog after a break up. (If you just felt your heart flutter a little, you’re not alone.) 

Fortunately, they have not broken up with their girlfriend, Olivia Barton, best known as their duet partner on their folksy break-out track, “If I Were a Fish.” In fact, the two continue to share parental responsibilities for their beloved German Shepherd–Pit Bull mix,Cubby, an eight-year-old rescue who’s mastered the art of chilling. 

Cubby snuggles Corook's left cheek
Photo: Christina Coleman

“When me and my girlfriend adopted Cubby two years ago, we were so excited to take care of something. We were excited to have something to do in the morning and have a reason to go outside and go on walks,” corook tells The Wildest. “It turns out that Cubby doesn’t like any of those things. She doesn’t like to go on walks. She doesn’t like the noise of cars, the noise of the city. She’s really shy.”

Still, life is all about the unexpected and serendipitous surprises. “What I’ve actually received from Cubby is this amazing reminder that it’s OK to be sensitive and anxious. I’ve loved Cubby in a way that I have never loved anything before,” they continue. “And I think that the reason is because I see a lot of myself in her.”

We spoke with the imminently likable artist about how Cubby has taught corook to find their own self-love and acceptance, their upcoming tour in September, and why being a dog parent is one of the sweetest parts of their life.

corook and dog
Photo: Christina Coleman

Tegan Quin, of Tegan and Sara, told us that having a dog actually strengthened her relationship with her girlfriend. Would you say that’s the case for you?

Oh, definitely. Having a dog is a really big commitment. And you’re committing to doing this thing together. It’s kind of a sideways way of committing to each other. But really, it’s just brought us closer, to have to care and love this thing together.

The story of how she came into your life is pretty fateful.

It was Olivia’s birthday, and we were driving around Nashville, as we do, just for fun. I looked at her and was like, “Olivia, do you want to get a cat?” And she was like, “Why would I want to get a cat?” And I was like, “You’ve been talking about wanting an animal.”

We had kind of decided our place isn’t big enough for a dog. And she was like, “Well, let’s just go to the Nashville Humane Society and see what’s there.” We showed up and, like, three dogs in, we saw Cubby. She stood up against the end of the crate, just letting us pet her and doing what she does — which is look really sad and big. But really, she’s totally fine. We loved her, and it was a very quick, impulsive decision for us to be like, “Let’s take her home.”

Corook sits on a front porch and plays guitar for Cubby
Photo: Christina Coleman

Why Cubby? That’s such a great name.

I’ve always wanted a dog named Cubby. Well, I really wanted a daughter named Cubby. And then I realized how weird of a [name] that was for a kid, and also that I probably will not have kids. We were sitting in the shelter waiting after we filled out all the paperwork, wondering what to name her. I finally just said, “It’s Cubby.” And Olivia was like, “Really?” I was like, “I’ve wanted this dog, something to take care of, named Cubby for as long as I can remember.”

Cubby is so mild-mannered, debunking all those harmful stereotypes about German Shepherds and Pit Bulls. How do people normally react to her?

Cubby doesn’t come up and greet you the second you come in. She’ll come to look at you and walk around, and she’ll stay with you. She doesn’t love to be pet a ton, and she just kind of loves to do her own thing. So, people are definitely not scared. I think their reactions are mainly like, “Why doesn’t she like me?” She’s very picky and very sensitive and wants her space, just like me.

Left: Corook plays with Cubby on a gray blanket outside in the grass; Corook poses against cushions on a green blanket and a cream-colored couch.

Many people discovered your love of pups from your song “The Dog,” which is about who gets the dog after a break-up. But you are still in that same relationship. Where did that song idea come from?

Within a month of adopting Cubby, I had a writing session with a friend. He was like, “I see you got a dog. Who gets to keep the dog?” And I was like, “Oh, I don’t know. We haven’t had that conversation yet.” So, the song is really an exaggeration of me being like, “Oh, shit, like, I got a dog and didn’t think about this.”

What a tough thing to even contemplate.

I know — it was sad, even writing it. I was like, “God, I would love to keep Cubby.” I just knew what would happen. I just know. That’s kind of how the song ends. It’s me being like, “I’d love to have her and keep her, but I know she’d end up with Olivia because they’re just two peas in a pod.”

When you write, is Cubby there with you?

Cubby is funny. Sometimes, she doesn’t like the sound of a guitar or a piano very much. When I’m upstairs and working with my speakers, there’s, like, a lot of booming. She doesn’t care at all. So, it’s kind of weird. She’s definitely picky about sound, but she has a little beanbag [upstairs] I bought for people that she has turned into hers. So I’ve just kind of let it go. And I let her lay on it whenever she wants. But she does like listening to my music sometimes.

Corook feeds Cubby a treat
Photo: Christina Coleman

How do you know she likes listening to your music?

She comes to me whenever I’m upstairs working on stuff. I’ll keep the door open. And she will choose to come and lay down next to me, which is such a compliment.

Aside from “The Dog,” how has Cubby inspired you creatively?

Anytime I think about family, I think about her and Olivia. That is my home. That is my family. I think that a chosen family, as you get older, is really important. I’ve very much grown attached to my new chosen family as a way of healing inner-child stuff. So anytime I’m writing about family or, you know, what my future looks like, it has a lot to do with Cubby and Olivia. We’ve been touring a lot, and it has kind of sucked. I love being able to play my music to people, but I’m realizing I’m very much a homebody and a lot of that has to do with Cubby. 

When are you touring again?

I have a big tour coming up in September. I have my first headline show coming up in July in London. Then I’m obviously working on music, as always. I just released my EP “serious person (part one).” Part two will be out later this year.

Corook bends down and shows Cubby a treat, while Cubby sits
Photo: Christina Coleman

You mentioned that Cubby validates your own insecurities or anxieties. How has she helped you through that?

I have grown up with pretty bad anxiety for as long as I can remember. I also suffer from depression. And I see both of those things in Cubby. She’s a very low-energy dog and very skittish and afraid of new things. She’s triggered by sounds, which honestly kind of makes me shudder, too. I think what we have in common the most, which really lets me have compassion for myself, is her ability to just have a bad day. Like, nothing happened.

She just woke up and decided, “I don’t really want to do all my stuff today. I just want to chill and take care of myself.” Because tomorrow, she’s gonna wake up, and she can’t wait to go outside. When I see her doing that, I’m like, “Damn, I should do that for myself!” You know? She knows exactly what she needs, and she does it. But when we first got her, it got to a point where whenever she would go outside, she would have a panic attack.

What does it look like when she has a panic attack, and what have those experiences taught you about who she is and what she needs?

She basically pulls on her leash to the point of suffocating herself. We could have been five feet from the door, and she would try so hard to get back inside. We obviously had a lot of help. We were calling animal behaviorists, and nobody really had an answer. Our trainer, Kevin, said, “Just stop hand-feeding her and stop taking her for walks. Feed her in a bowl. See if she gets better.” 

And from that moment on, she was totally fine. Like, she just didn’t want to be learning new things all the time. Once we stopped doing those things, she started to relax around us and actually trusted us and just kind of bonded with us. It was so cool to accept her for the dog that she was, rather than try to make her whatever we were trying to make her.

Check out the behind the scenes of corook’s photoshoot:

nisha gopalan illustration

Nisha Gopalan

Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

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