Nicholas Krgovich Gets a Case of "Poodle Brain" Thanks to His Dog Shelly

"In many ways, I feel like I'm living with more of a Jim Henson creation than a dog"
Nicholas Krgovich Gets a Case of 'Poodle Brain' Thanks to His Dog Shelly
Photo: Derek Janzen
When Nicholas Krgovich unveiled the video for his new single earlier this month, he was sharing the screen with a notable costar. And no, we don't mean Joseph Shabason, Krgovich's co-billed collaborator on the new album At Scaramouche. We're talking about a white moyen poodle named Shelly, whom Krgovich dances with sweetly in the clip for "I Am So Happy with My Little Dog" — a song that, naturally, was inspired by Shelly.

We spoke with Krgovich about the strange experience of adopting Shelly from a man sitting at the side of the street with a pen of puppies, and how that experience has "totally flipped" Krgovich's life upside down, forcing him to get acquainted with his neighbours, inspiring new music, and being an all-around "cuckoo gift."

Shabason & Krgovich's At Scaramouche is out October 7 through Idée Fixe Records. Krgovich also told us about some other new music has coming out next year.

Tell us about Shelly!

I met Shelly last summer — I came home one night and saw four puppies in a pen across the street with an old man sitting on a bench, a poodle and a ginormous German Shepherd. It was a total scene, so I wandered over and started talking with the owner and hanging with all the dogs. The puppies were 12 weeks old and apparently driving the mom up the wall, so he needed to find homes for them ASAP. He was like, "Make me an offer! They're purebred moyen poodles! I think you'd be a great dog owner! It will change your life!" I was like, "I don't have any money! I love dogs but I'm not looking for one!" And then he was like, "Look, you can just have one," and the night ended with us exchanging numbers and me helping him load fistfuls of puppies into the back of his van. The next day, I helped him clean his house and walked home with Shelly, whom I instantly vibed with as he was the "meek and mild" one of the bunch.

Now he's 15 months old and he's my best friend. He's hilarious, generally very chill and gentle, pleasantly kooky and wonderful company. In many ways, I feel like I'm living with more of a Jim Henson creation than a dog.

Photo: Stephanie McAleenan

How did you choose Shelly's name?

My family's dog at the time was named Sally, and for some reason, the groomer who she went to for 14 years always mistakenly called her "Shelly," so we jokingly called Sally "Shelly" all the time. I think, in the back of my mind, I was like, "If I ever get a dog, I'm gonna name it Shelly," and so I did. There's a kind of classically surly teen that lives in the house behind ours, and one night — I think his parents were out of town — he and a buddy were clamouring around the backyard, and Shelly started barking and from behind the fence he was like, "Shut the fuck up Shari!" so the cycle continues! Also, Shelly goes to the same groomer, but to avoid further confusion we book him in under "Shelbert," a nickname he got from my five-year-old niece Penny.

Photo: Kim Koch

I assume "I Am So Happy with My Little Dog" is about Shelly — what inspired the song?

It's been a minute since I've set out to write a song about anything in particular. The lyrics on this one seem to be like little bloops from my day-to-day, kind of impressionistically tied together. I've been having a nice time making up songs about my boring life, and Shelly is definitely one of the most significant aspects of that, so he crops up often. This song feels a bit like what our evenings were like last fall.

We probably took about 15 minutes to shoot the video. Derek [Janzen] came over to this house where I was doing a writing residency, and I emptied all the furniture out of the living room and he set up a light and I was like, "Now what? Maybe I could just dance?" so I did that and had Shel in the other room, but then he was getting impatient, so for the other takes he was my dancing partner and "a star is born!"

Has Shelly inspired any other songs?

Oh, big time! There's a song on the new record that ended up being set at the school field where Shel goes to play with his friends most nights. It was so interesting to me how my life in the neighbourhood — which I've lived in for 4,000 years — totally flipped when I got a puppy. All of a sudden I was having random little interactions with so many people and dogs every time we left the front door — he made new friends, I made new friends. It was like entering a parallel universe. Even tonight on our walk, three nine-year-olds hanging outside their apartment building were enamoured with Shel, asking me all these questions about him, getting him to do tricks for the treats that are always in my pockets. One of the kids asked what I was having for dinner and I said, "That's a great question!" and told him leftovers, and they said they're having salmon with rice and creamed corn — and then smiled and said, "Rice is nice." That would have never happened if I was just walking down the street by myself.

Photo: Kimberly Ronning

Is Shelly your first pet?

Well, sort of — Shelly's predecessor Sally was my family's dog, and she was a big part of my life up until she went off to Paris last September. She met Shelly a handful of times, but she had dementia and really didn't seem to know what was going on. It was really sad. She shows up in the song "Open Beauty" on our last album, Philadelphia. We played two shows last spring in Toronto and Montreal, and singing the line "Sally trots to the gate, her tail wagging" really got me verklempt. It's so weird when, at the time, I was just making up words to a song about the feeling I had showing up at my parent's place for dinner on a grey summer night, and then years later tears are falling on a stage while I'm singing about a dog greeting me in the breezeway. Life!

But yeah, Shelly is technically my first pet. I've been doing my best. He tests me and makes me have to break out of my comfort zone often. He's basically a fountain of opportunities for me to learn and grow. It's really such a cuckoo gift.

Photo: Kim Koch

What's next for you?

The new Shabason & Krgovich, At Scaramouche, is coming out in October. it's been finished for a while, but I still don't really know what to say about it. All I know is, when I listen to it, I really enjoy it and am so grateful to have been a part of it. It's maybe our Emperor Tomato Ketchup? I don't know! It's corny to say, but making music with Joseph and that entire crew has changed my life. Also, Dear Nora has a new record coming out the same month and I play all over that, and then early next year my friend Owen is going to put out an album I made in 2019 that I thought I would never release, but then I had a change of heart about it. It seems like a lot, but I am actually quite lazy and haven't written much at all in the last few years. The idea of writing a song right now even seems weird to me. I'm sure it'll pass, though! I have poodle brain!

Photo: Kim Koch

Photo: Nicholas Krgovich

Photo: Kim Koch

Photo: Kim Koch

Photo: Nicholas Krgovich