PET POLITICS: Chatting with Pittie Parent and Longtime Vegan Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz

COLUMNS|Monthly Mondays|Pet Politics

Sadie Dupuis is a shredder with a cause. An artist through-and-through, Sadie is a prolific songwriter, poet, and visual artist. She’s the imagination and voice behind the innovative and ever-evolving rock group Speedy Ortiz, who are fresh off a tour with Interpol. Sadie also releases solo work as her alter-ego to SAD13. But Sadie’s voice extends beyond the artistic realm. She has consistently been one of our generation’s most outspoken artists on a wide range of issues – standing up for human rights, political justice, climate change awareness, sustainability, and this column’s favorite pals, the animals. Sadie is a long-time dog mom to a pitbull cutie named Buster. Audiofemme talked to Sadie to hear about the many causes Sadie supports (and how we can help too), some stories from Speedy’s tour with Interpol, upcoming dates for Speedy Ortiz in 2019, and mostly Sadie’s love for animals and the history that led her to dog-parenting and animal advocacy.

AF: Please introduce us to your fur son.

SD: This is Buster, who I think of as my regular son who happens to be only slightly furrier than me.

All photos courtesy of Sadie Dupuis.

AF: How did you and Buster find each other?

SD: I started fostering Buster on Valentine’s day of 2011. I found him on Craigslist while I was living in New York. My friend and roommate had passed away in late January, and I was having trouble adapting to living without him in what was our shared space, which was also where he died. You can only sage an apartment so much.

I started fostering pit bull mixes in my first apartment as an 18 year old, and loved the experience. I thought that giving care to another animal in that way might help me get out of my head and my grief. Which of course it did. Buster was four months old, a stray rescued from North Carolina by a now defunct New York pit bull rescue. He was recovering from a bad case of mange with tons of bald spots, and his eyes were so scabbed over from it that he was still recovering his eyesight. But I knew right away I would wind up adopting him.

I wanted to change his name from “Buster,” which the shelter had given him, to “Fry.” He wasn’t having it. And besides, he’s a major mama’s boy, very like Buster Bluth. But of course he responds to all manner of nicknames. Chief among them “Lil B.”

He had a very calm and timid energy at first – he didn’t bark until after his first birthday – but he came into his own. He’s got a weird sense of humor and an impossible to predict bratty streak. He cracks me up constantly, but is also great at intuiting when the people around him need quiet, cuddly support. I always thought he’d make an incredible therapy dog. He’s certainly provided that for me.

Buster at 4 months.
Buster at 6 months on his first road trip.

AF: Are there any animal shelters you can recommend to people looking for a furever friend?

SD: Now that I live in Philadelphia, I pay attention to Morris Animal Refuge, the first animal shelter in the country. They are open admission and do tons to provide homes for the animals that pass through. Supporting your local no-kill shelter or rescue is the best, whether that’s with money, fostering, volunteering, or social media sharing. Donating to shelters in someone’s name is a thoughtful and useful gift for birthdays or holidays!

Sadie and Buster having themselves a Merry Little Christmas.

AF: Did you have many pets growing up?

SD: I grew up with a miniature schnauzer. I have a tattoo of him.

My mom’s boyfriend for most of my childhood was not only a former punk drummer, but also an amazing dog trainer, and a really formative influence for me in both those departments. At any given time, he’d have at least ten dogs in the house, at different stages in their education. He’d get tasked with dogs who had histories of violence due to poor training and seeing them make progress was amazing early learning experience that no dogs are inherently bad, and that with love and support animals can make tremendous recoveries. Matty’s still an incredible dog trainer for the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons and I keep up with his posts on Instagram. We also had six rescue cats at one point. Well, one rescue cat and her five kittens. Which is wild to me, because I’m so so so allergic to them. I was drugged up on antihistamines my whole childhood for this reason.

1999ish, high on Claritin, holding Rudy (mother Kitty in the background).

AF: What is your spirit animal?

SD: I’m non-Indigenous and white, so spirit animals aren’t a belief system or phrase I have access to in a way that isn’t appropriative. If I had to pick an animal I identify most with, it’d be (big surprise) dogs. Especially dogs that are territorial over their food. There is a corgi named after me called Sadie Dogpuis (she has a very cute Instagram) so I feel like we are forever psychically linked in name at least.

Sadie Dogpuis and Sadie Dupuis at Junior High in LA.

AF: Have you ever written a song about (non-human) animals?

SD: There was an early Speedy Ortiz song called “frankenweenie” about putting down my childhood dog, partially as a metaphor for getting out of my first long-term relationship. That’s the most specific one I can think of. Animals show up all over my work, though, now that I think of it. Our first album has songs about tigers, horses, fish, rats, not to mention some dog-specific terminology like “coats for curs” and “kennel cough.” The second album has a golden Foil Deer as its album artwork, title, and central metaphor. So I’m very drawn to non-human entities in my work. Also, we’ve tried to put Buster in music videos or press photos like five times. Varying levels of success.

Our first press photo. 2012. I remember getting told it wa too lo-res to print in Nylon. Even though there is a very willing dog model.
Real Hair era. By Emma Rothenberg-Ware. EW ran this, I think. Buster is eager, ready.
‘Twerp Verse’ photo shoot by Shervin Lainez, 2017. Buster is over it.

AF: Favorite all-time (non-human) animal-themed song?

SD: All-time is tough, but I have Palehound on my mind right now and I love her song “Dry Food.” Nicki Minaj saying “you a lil dusty possum” is one of my favorite moments of recorded music.

AF: You just returned from a few big tours this year. Can you share an interesting story with us?

SD: We were just on tour with Interpol, and on a few of the dates, they invited local animal shelters to bring puppies and kittens backstage. The band hung out with the animals and took some cute photos for promotion and were able to help them find forever homes for rescued animals. I think that’s a genius way to support animals and also feel some love on tour, which can be lonely and isolating. Definitely one of my favorite things I’ve seen a headliner request.

A sweet puppy backstage on tour with Interpol.

AF: If your pup Buster had a band, what instrument would he play and what would the band be called?

SD: Buster’s a yodeler and sometimes yowls along to music I play. He thumps his tail aggressively while wagging, so drums are an obvious choice. He’s a good dancer too and loves scampering around when we play, so he doesn’t necessarily have to go into performing music – I’m not gonna force him to follow in my footsteps. Although his jingling collar does show up on some of our recordings when I incorporate excerpts I tracked at home.

Buster’s first favorite bed, a snare drum bag.

He loves music with high pitched guitars and always liked when my ex-bandmate Devin McKnight (now of Maneka) played with a Digitech Whammy. Weirdly, high-pitched, rhythmic vocals are a no – he hates when I play Melt Banana and early Guerilla Toss.

He shreds (not anymore).
Buster at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA while we were mixing Major Arcana.

AF: If he could have another (non-human) animal friend to hang with, fictional or real, what would s/he be?

SD: As he’s gotten older – turning nine this year, already! – Buster’s gotten less good with other dogs, which is a bummer since he used to love playing at the dog park. My mom lives near a dairy farm and when we drive past the cows, Buster loses it. I think he wants to befriend them, which of course I would encourage if I wasn’t worried he’d scare them. Personally, I would love it if Buster made pals with a pig, because that would mean I got to be pals with a pig, too. But honestly, he thinks he’s a person and mostly he just wants to hang out with us.

Sporting a Tooth and Honey sweater.

AF: You have done a commendable job using your voice as an artist to incite positive change among fellow humans, our friends sharing the animal kingdom, and the world at large. Many of us have been hit even harder than usual with the current political climate. Are there any organizations currently that you would like to highlight and urge readers to support?

SD: On the human side, in 2019 we’ve focused on fundraising for and promoting Harm Reduction Coalition, who do work for individuals and communities impacted by drug use. They focus on agency, dignity, safety, and policy reform for people who use drugs, and are involved in initiatives like needle exchange, injection sites, naloxone training, fentanyl testing, and more. I’m really glad for every opportunity to tell people about the life saving work they do and am honored that some of their representatives will be tabling with information at upcoming Speedy Ortiz shows.

On the animal side, I’m daily inspired by people and sanctuaries on Instagram who share their processes in rehabilitating and caring for animals. Kitten Lady, Ducks and Clucks, Prissy Pig, Sesame the Opossum (RIP) are some favorites. Goats of Anarchy recently took in a friend’s special needs goat, and I’ve never felt closer to celebrity. As a vegan I’m psyched when animals others think of as food get to show off that they are as loving and intelligent and funny as dogs and cats. A friend works for Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and I love seeing all the adorable and happy sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. Definitely an organization worthy of support.

AF: When did you become vegan and what prompted you to make the switch?

SD: I became uncertain about eating animals at age 7 after The Simpsons episode “Lisa the Vegetarian” first aired, and as I started to connect “foods” with the animals they came from – like lamb, or rabbit – I couldn’t do it. I stopped eating all mammals in 1998 after my mom moved close to the aforementioned dairy farm and I got to see cows and calves up close every day. So I’m vegetarian purely for animal welfare reasons. Veganism happened right before my final semester of high school in 2006 once I learned more about the environmental impacts of farming industries and the health risks associated with animal milk and eggs. I’d had sports-induced asthma, which went away immediately, and chronic stomach issues I’d had my whole life were seriously diminished.

There were a couple times when I was still a teen that I tried local and sustainably sourced dairy or fish, like when I was studying abroad in Spain, because it then seemed culturally significant to me, or something. But that doesn’t fit in with my philosophy any more and it’s been more than a decade since I viewed anything from an animal as “food.” I get to tour globally and try all kinds of amazing foods and I never wish I followed any other kind of diet. Also, over the past 13 years of veganism, food creatives have gotten so much better at replicating pretty much anything in a plant-based way.

Buster enjoying the sunset at a cemetery screening of The Craft.

AF: I noticed you have made some plugs to sustainable brands on your Instagram. Can you recommend any vegan companies to our readers looking to reduce their carbon footprint?

SD: I recently learned about mushroom leather, and bought my first mushroom suede bag, which is a sustainable (and PVC-free) way to have some beautiful accessories! Native Shoes are my new favorite sneakers – they’re recycled, affordable, and come in very cool styles and colors. MooShoes is a great resource for finding out about new brands in vegan and eco-conscious footwear and I go to their locations in New York and Los Angeles regularly.

AF: Any favorite vegan restaurants or recipes to share?

SD: I have a favorite in every city, but Philly has a crown jewel of American veganism in Vedge. They do a rutabaga fondue that every non-vegan I’ve brought there raves about for years. It’s a bit pricey so it’s best for a really special occasion or if someone else is footing the bill. I did just come home from Mexico City yesterday, which is perhaps the greatest vegan city in the world. Gatorta, Por Siempre, Los Loosers, La Pitahaya and Pan Comido are five of my favorite restaurants – it’s crazy that one city gets to have all of them!

AF: What do you have in store for us with Speedy Ortiz, SAD13, and all your musical endeavors for the remainder of 2019 and 2020?

SD: Mostly eating on tour or eating while recording! You can find all Speedy Ortiz dates at, including upcoming dates with CHVRCHES.

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