Graydon Sheppard's Celebration of the Animal Elite Reaches its Grand Finale
Warning: The above video contains many feathered coats, large eyes and wet noses. The viewer may witness scenes of astonishing dignity, dramatic posing and movement at great speed.
Writer and filmmaker Graydon Sheppard offers up the third and final installment of Pure Breeds, the series that celebrates the most charming and beautiful of pedigree pets. Having tackled the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Cornish Rex, today the creator of the internet phenomenon Shit Girls Say looks at the Saluki, thought to be the fastest dog on earth. The Saluki is alleged to be the most ancient of purebred animals, with mentions of similar hounds appearing in the Bible, the Avesta and the Koran. Petroglyphs and other forms of rock art showing Saluki-like dogs were created as early in human history as 10,000 BC. “My boyfriend came across a video of some Salukis online, and we were instantly fascinated,” says Sheppard. “They seemed so rare and elegant. They look like rich old ladies and they have that attitude, too, like they're saying devastating things about your wardrobe when you're not within earshot.”
Today we look at the Saluki. We understand that this time around the talent were less than cooperative on set. Can you elaborate?
Graydon Sheppard: They’re not so much difficult as “over it,” and they are not interested in posing for very long. I tried to put a pharaoh hat on one of the dogs but he wasn’t interested. Salukis are also very fast and bouncy, so getting them to sit still for long periods was tricky. But they’re so damn pretty. When we got the shots it was worth all the hassle.
The Saluki has been immortalized in art and religious texts for thousands of years. How do you think their personalities reflect their pedigree?
GS: There's definitely something otherworldly about them. It's kind of like that attitude of “being in the world but not of the world.” When I met these dogs they got right up in my face and stared into my eyes as if to examine my soul, but they could just as easily look right through you. That’s a bit dramatic, but they really are sprite-like.
Throughout this series we have heard about your family dog Molson. Last time you shared an anecdote about his having eaten an entire Christmas-worth of gifts. We love Molson. One last story?
GS: One day I took him with me for a swim. He was doing this insane back-and-forth thing—running in and out of the lake, screaming—when he stopped, chest-deep, looked at me, and retched in the water. I wasn’t much in the mood for a dip after that.
The Hilarious First Episode of Graydon Sheppard’s Brand New Pet Project
From writer and filmmaker Graydon Sheppard comes the surreal new series, Pure Breeds, celebrating the most refined of pedigree pets. Commissioned exclusively for NOWNESS, we get better acquainted with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, well known for its silky coat, loyalty and affectionate demeanor. Heed the following warning: the above video contains wet noses, dreamy eyes, wagging tails and gently rippling fur. The viewer may witness scenes of panting, barking and frolicking. Sheppard's YouTube hit, Shit Girls Say, whose first episode featured a brilliant cameo from Juliette Lewis, has seen in excess of 30 million views. “I hadn’t really done much comedy before, and I love dressing up, so it was a perfect opportunity,” says Sheppard about the viral phenomena that started as a Twitter feed. We met him to discuss the pleasures of working with such distinguished house pets.
Can you tell us a little about why you wanted to look at purebreds?
Graydon Sheppard: I’m a dog nut. It used to be so bad that when I saw a cute dog on the street and got to pet it, I would cry. Purebred dogs and cats are odd in that they’re ‘luxury animals,’ so they’re gorgeous and have interesting histories, but they’re also just animals that like to play and that I like to pet. They’re usually presented as either snooty Westminster dog show prize-winners, or disease-riddled, inbred sad-sacks, and I wanted to find that place in the middle without ignoring those elements.
Pure Breeds shows a love of household pets. Have you ever been a pet owner?
GS: It’s definitely a love. I had a dog named Molson, like the beer, 'cause I was a classy 13-year-old. He was a Humane Society mutt, we think a Bouvier-Shepherd cross, and he was so cute and docile and sweet when we went to meet him for the first time. But once we adopted him he turned into a total mental patient. He would literally scream like a human at the top of his lungs when we drove with him to obedience classes. I loved him so much. Bad dogs are cool.
How did the talent behave on set? Were they cooperative? Did they make unfair demands?
GS: On the shoot day their little personalities shone through. Mylee was definitely the star, so the script changed because of her. When one dog would leave its position and run away, she would just jump into frame and sit exactly where the other dog was supposed to have been.
The animal whose personality most closely reflects your own is a..?
GS: Persian cat.
And why is that?
GS: We’re both lazy assholes, I’m just slightly better at hiding it.
Which of the “Shit [insert noun] Say” spin-offs was your favorite?
GS: “Shit Sri Lankan Mothers Say.”
Graydon Sheppard’s Latest Furry Subject is a Feline with a Curious Tale
Warning: The above video contains much downy fur, a pair of heterochromatic eyes, and some strong language. The viewer may witness scenes of scratching, preening and meowing.
Writer and filmmaker Graydon Sheppard offers up the second installment of Pure Breeds, the series that celebrates the most interesting and aristocratic of pedigree pets. Following last week’s focus on the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, today the creator of the internet phenomenon Shit Girls Say looks at the Cornish Rex, the short-haired cat well-known for its intelligence, mischievous demeanor and playful nips. Experts have it that the Rex’s long legs and light build make it perfectly suited for running: it is described as “the Greyhound of the cat world” by The International Cat Association. “Cornish Rexes are like little dogs in a lot of ways,” says Sheppard. “They ran up and greeted us, unlike most cats who would usually hide under a bed if strangers came. But they’re also aloof. They don’t need your affection.”
Were there any particularly interesting challenges you met, in filming the Cornish Rex?
Graydon Sheppard: Herding cats is always hard. The neon-rave scene was really chaotic and strange to film, a bit nightmarish to be in a dark basement with glowing cats and strobe lights. And I got a few scratches while dressed as Marilyn Manson. I don’t think any cat likes to be held against bare skin.
Why look at the Rex? Is there some personal attachment to the breed?
GS: A good friend has a Rex named Winston, and I’ve never met a cat so immediately affectionate but independent. He’ll sit on your chest and lick your neck endlessly. After a while it starts to hurt, though.
In our last conversation we discussed Molson, the Bouvier-Shepherd cross, your family dog. (For the benefit of readers who may not yet be up to speed, Molson was named after the beer brand, and “screamed like a human”) NOWNESS would very much like to hear more about Molson, and his adventures.
GS: Ha! I got him when I was 13, shortly after I got my first job, and could afford to buy the family Christmas presents. I was so excited and felt like a fully-actualized, adult human person. I put Molson in my room for a couple of hours. When I came back he had torn apart every single gift. There were cushions I got for my grandmother that had been ripped open and full boxes of ‘deluxe’ chocolates that he had devoured. I was very upset, but I was also a little worried that he was going to die from eating so much chocolate. In the end he was fine and my grandma was probably happy that she didn’t have to display the tacky pillows I got her.
Finally, how do you feel about costumes on pets? Do purebreds deserve that kind of special treatment, or do outfits demean an otherwise proud and noble breed?
GS: I love costumes on pets. They’re so cute, especially on cats who look grumpy in costumes. One of my favorite GIFs is of a cat in a bee costume who looks at the camera and falls over. It’s endlessly adorable. I think that if someone feels a dog is being demeaned by getting dressed up in a super-cute outfit then they’re probably just jealous of the attention the dog’s getting. Come on prudes, join the party!