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Some may know Sadie Dupuis as the lead singer of Philadelphia bands Speedy Ortiz and Sad13. Others from her spicy Twitter presence. This month, her second book of poetry, Cry Perfume (Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus is a fan), drops.
A lesser-known fact about this literal rock star is that she’s been fostering dogs for years and lives with two rescues, Buster and Lavender — and her partner, Cloud Nothing’s singer/guitarist Dylan Baldi. While Buster is a very good Pit Bull boy, Lavender was more of a local sensation. After being found in a local park with serious facial trauma and starving, Lavender became a big news story. A friend of Dupuis’s who worked at the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) called her and asked if Dupuis would foster Lavender while she waited for surgery to have her nostrils recreated.
Dupuis had been fostering dogs for a decade at that point, and invited Lavender to come crash at her place. The rest is history — Dupuis adopted Lavender and along with Buster and Baldi, they’ve built a happy family. In Philly, Lavender is still a local celebrity. Dupuis says more people recognize her dog on the street than her. Here, she talks to The Wildest about fostering, Lavender’s fame, her love of Pit Bulls, and her upcoming creative projects.
How did you get started working with rescue dogs?
The first time I fostered a dog was in 2007, so It’s been a little while. I was so interested in doing this because my mom’s boyfriend, for most of my childhood, was a dog trainer. And at any given time, he had ten dogs of his own. He was constantly winding up with dogs that had pretty severe behavioral issues, and he would work miracles on them. So this was my whole life and passion as a kid. My mom and I had a dog, too, that I have a little tattoo of.
Have you always been a Pit Bull person?
The first I really knew about the breed was when I started fostering. I lived in New York, and that was what breed so many of the dogs who were in urgent need of foster care were. Every dog I’ve fostered was a Pit Bull mix in some capacity. They’re such snugglers, and so sweet and friendly that I’m pretty obsessed with the Pit Bulls. We did a DNA test on Lavender and it turns out she’s a Border Collie and Staffy / Bull Terrier mix.
Collies are another breed I didn’t know a ton about but explains a lot of her funniest behavior. She’s very talkative. She’s always herding us. When she was in the shelter, they told us she could never be around another dog because her prey drive was too high. We went to a trainer immediately because I didn’t get that sense from her. But she stalks like a dog who is being aggressive. And I guess that’s bred into Border Collies.
What is Buster and Lavender’s relationship like?
Buster is now 12, so he’s like 90 in dog years, and he’s a Pit Bull. I foster-failed with him when he was a four-month-old puppy. I’ve seen him through every stage of his life. He loved going to the dog park and was friendly with dogs until he was seven or eight. At that point, he just stopped wanting to put up with other dogs.
Before we decided to adopt Lavender, we were a little concerned about how they’d get along. She loves everybody and doesn’t get it when someone doesn’t want to be snuggled and hugged by her. So, we did a slow acclimation process with them. Eventually, they became best friends, and he is obsessed with her. When they’re together, he plays nonstop with her like a puppy. It’s heartwarming to see that change.
Lavender is an Instagram celebrity as well as a local celebrity in Philly. What goes into maintaining her account?
We were encouraged by the foster coordinator for PSPCA to make a social media account for her just to help with awareness for them in their fundraising for her medical care, as well as for her eventual adoption. When she was found, she had clearly been abused. She had facial trauma, and she was missing a lot of her lip and her nose. She had no functional nostrils. Apparently, there was a long list of people who wanted to adopt her because she had become this local news celeb.
So my partner, Dylan, made her Instagram, and I made her Twitter. Her Twitter has not blown up, but her Instagram kind of has, and we’re always astounded that some videos of her wind up with a number of likes that neither of us, using it professionally for music, ever received. But Lavender is a true diva and she knows it. Dylan has a very specific voice for what he wants to post. I’m like, “Can you use this to get her a free sweater?” He’s like, “No, I want to keep it pure.” If I ever was in a position to commodify her Twitter I’d do it in one second. This dog goes through toys like nobody’s business.
So you’re a musician and you recently published a book of poetry. What was the writing process for that like? Did Buster and Lavender contribute?
When I write songs, I tend to do all or most of the music first. I might have some vague words attached to the melodies, but really, it’s like I have an instrumental, and then I’m writing on top of that. There are only so many options for where you can go when you already know what you’re singing to.
In some ways, poetry is a lot harder because there’s nothing to guide you or indicate what the next step is. It’s whatever associations or images or sounds I’m hearing from the words alone. The one way that this collection is different from the last one I did is that I wrote a lot of these poems while traveling on a tour. That was an interesting change of pace in terms of work because I was not able to edit as rigorously during the writing process. Once I had enough poems that felt like it could be a book.
Buster loves music, and I have so many early Speedy Ortiz demos — we put out a big reissue project in 2021 where I remixed all our earliest home recordings, and I can hear Buster shaking his collar in the back of so many of them [laughs]. Or sometimes giving a little bit of a whimper, which is him singing along. I would bring him along when we played house shows in the Bronx or anywhere outside the city, and he’d want to sit right in front of the drum kit. It’s horrible for dogs, but he wants to be right up to the music.
Lavender, when I brought her home, just bringing the guitar out would make her run away. I have gotten her to tolerate some music, but I wouldn’t say she’s a music fan. However, she has a big feature on the next Speedy Ortiz record. It drives her nuts to hear me in the house and not be in my lap. Let’s say I’m tracking guitar — she’s in the background doing her Chewbacca sounds. I wound up tracking 10 minutes of her singing. It’s layered into one of the new songs, so she will be making her vocal debut.
Do you find that your dogs provide creative inspiration for you?
If anything, it’s the mental health boost of living around dogs that allows me to be creative. When I’m suffering from more extreme bouts of depression or anxiety, it’s hard for me to want to be creative. If there weren’t a dog around that I have to wake up for, walk, play with, and be active with, it’s really easy to sink into the couch and live inside of the cushions. The routine and the care that my dogs need are such mental health game-changers for me.
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Courtney E. Smith
Courtney is a freelance writer and podcaster whose work has appeared in Esquire, Pitchfork, Eater, and more. Her prior work includes working as an editor and music critic for Refinery29 and CBS Radio. And she's the author of the essay collection Record Collecting for Girls. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her rescue dog, Casey, where they volunteer together with the SPCA’s foster program.