9 Ridiculously Cute Underwater Puppies (You're Welcome)

Sep 9, 2014
Originally published on September 9, 2014 7:24 pm

A few years ago, award-winning animal photographer Seth Casteel became an overnight sensation when his photos of dogs underwater went viral. What followed was a book deal that resulted in the New York Times best-seller Underwater Dogs.

Casteel's new book, out Sept. 16, is possibly the only thing cuter than Underwater Dogs: Underwater Puppies.

Casteel tells NPR's David Greene about using rescue dogs in his photo shoots and about the logistics of photographing puppies underwater.


Interview Highlights

On where he got the idea to photograph dogs underwater

[It was] not even my idea, actually; it was a dog's idea, which makes sense.

Buster the cavalier King Charles spaniel, back in 2010. At an on-land photo shoot, he decided he would rather be in the swimming pool, so he just started jumping in, over and over again. I was supposed to just document his personality through a series of photographs on land, but he had other plans. And after he just kept jumping in over and over again ... I'm jumping in! So, yeah, [I] got a little point-and-shoot underwater camera, took a few snapshots, and that was the beginning of the series of Underwater Dogs. ...

This little dog changed my life. I was just telling somebody the other day, you know, the original book, Underwater Dogs, it really shouldn't have my name on the cover; it should say, "Underwater Dogs by Buster ... with a little help from Seth Casteel."

On why he decided to use puppies in his new book

Dogs was just such a random project, and it became successful out of nowhere. It changed my life, literally, overnight. And I was thinking about other things that I wanted to do: What's the next project? I thought, "Hey, puppies. Can I do puppies?" And what I found out was not only could I do it, but I needed to do it for a couple of different reasons. No. 1: swimming pool safety — super-duper important for all the listeners out there with their pets. So many people forget that our swimming pools, as much fun as they are, they are a danger, and they can be a danger to our children and to our fur children. And they will learn. I mean, a lot of these puppies I work with — for Underwater Puppies I worked with over 1,500 — all it took was just a few times, putting them in the water and teaching them where the exit is, and they figured it out.

On many of the book's puppies being rescue dogs

That's another big part of why I wanted to make this book. I got started in photography back in 2007 just through volunteering at local animal shelters to take better pictures to get the dogs and cats adopted. I thought, "Hey, let's use some incredible adoptable puppy ambassadors just to show people how terrific these little guys are."

On the logistics of photographing puppies underwater

I'm wearing a dog costume so that the dogs can feel like I'm one of the pack. ... Just kidding. ... I usually just wear a wet suit just in case. You know, if you spend 12 hours in a pool with a bunch of dogs, inevitably you're going to get scratched up a little bit. So I do wear a wet suit. But I just hold my breath — that's about it. I'm underwater sometimes just a few seconds, sometimes 30 seconds, 60 seconds. But I have my wet suit on. I bring the toys. I bring the fun. And we just have a blast.

On what it is about puppies

You know, puppies lift our spirits. They don't care who you are, what you've been doing, where you're going, they just want to love you and they just want to be your friend. And I think that's always going to make us feel good.

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Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's just say it. There has been a lot of really bad news - terrorism, war, disease. So for a change, we bring you puppies. A few years ago, animal photographer Seth Casteel became a sensation. His photos of dogs underwater went viral. What followed was a book deal and a New York Times bestseller. Now Seth Casteel has another book coming out. It is possibly the only thing cuter than underwater dogs, underwater puppies. As for where he got the idea to do photo shoots of dogs underwater?

SETH CASTEEL: Not even my idea, actually, it was the dog's idea - which makes sense.

GREENE: (Laughter) OK.

CASTEEL: Buster the cavalier, King Charles spaniel back in 2010 at an on-land photo shoot he decided he'd rather be in the swimming pool. So he just started jumping in over and over again, I was supposed to document his personality through a series of photographs on land, but he had other plans. And after he just kept jumping in over and over again...

GREENE: You were like, I'm going to jump in, too.

CASTEEL: I'm jumping in. So, yeah, I got a little point-and-shoot underwater camera, took few snapshots and that was the beginning of the series of underwater dogs.

GREENE: And for people who can't picture an image right now, explain what this breed of dog looks like.

CASTEEL: So a small dog, big personality. They come in various colors, and they have long, flowing hair. One of my favorite breeds for sure, but this is the little guy, Buster, who started the whole thing. I actually have a giant tattoo of his face tattooed on my arm.

GREENE: So you feel like you owe a lot to this dog?

CASTEEL: Oh, yeah. This little dog changed my life. I was just telling somebody the other day, you know, the original book "Underwater Dogs" it really shouldn't have my name on the cover, it should say, "Underwater Dogs By Buster."

GREENE: By Buster.

CASTEEL: With a little help from Seth Casteel.

GREENE: Love that. So why puppies? Why'd you decide to use puppies in this new book?

CASTEEL: Well, after dogs happened, and dogs was such a random project that happened and became successful out of nowhere, changed my - literally overnight, and I was thinking about the things that I wanted to do. What's the next project?

I thought, hey, puppies. Can I do puppies? And what I found out was not only could I do it, but I needed to do it for a couple of different reasons.

Number one, swimming pool safety, super duper important for all the listeners out there with their pets. So many people forget that our swimming pools - as much fun as they are - they are a danger, and they can be a danger to our children and to our fur-children. And they will learn. I mean, a lot of these puppies that I work with - for "Underwater Puppies" I work with over 1,500, all it took was a few times putting them in the water and teaching them where the exit is, and they figured it out.

GREENE: Fifteen-hundred puppies and many, if not all of them were rescue puppies, right? That seemed important to you.

CASTEEL: Yeah, that's another big part of why I wanted to make this book. I got started in photography back in 2007 just through volunteering at local animal shelters to take better pictures to get the dogs and cats adopted. I though, hey, let's use some incredible, adoptable puppy ambassadors just to show people how terrific these little guys are.

GREENE: Well, OK, I need to hear the logistics of all this. When you are swimming with a puppy and getting these underwater shots - take me there.

CASTEEL: I'm wearing a dog costume...

(LAUGHTER)

CASTEEL: ...So that the dogs can feel like I'm one of the pack.

GREENE: And they feel like they belong, OK. That's good to know.

CASTEEL: Just kidding.

GREENE: Costume check.

CASTEEL: I usually just wear a wetsuit just in case, you know, if you spend 12 hours in a pool with a bunch of dogs, inevitably you're going to get scratched up a little bit. So I do wear a wetsuit, but I just hold my breath. That's about it. I'm underwater sometimes just a few seconds, sometimes 30 seconds, 60 seconds. By I have my wetsuit on, and I bring the toys. I bring the fun, and we just have a blast.

GREENE: And, Seth, let me just ask you this. What do you think it is about puppies that sort of gets this reaction from people?

CASTEEL: You know, puppies lift our spirits. They don't care who you are, what you've been doing, where you're going. They just want to love you, and they just want to be your friend. And I think that's always going to make us feel good.

GREENE: It's been a lot of fun talking to you. You really do bring the fun. Seth, thanks a lot.

CASTEEL: Thanks, man. I appreciate being here.

GREENE: The book, "Underwater Puppies" comes out this month. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.