I was looking though the pen of brown ones, and they were very rambunctious. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw in the next pen this black, smooth-coat dog just sitting there observing everything. She was very pensive and docile, and we just connected.
How did the photos begin?
When I took her home, she was smaller than a Beanie Baby. She was teeny. So of course I took a picture of her. She would sit there and look at the camera, very still, and just pose. So I started accumulating thousands of pictures of her, because she was so easy to photograph.
What did you see in the photos that suggested a book?
I never intended to do a book of Wilma. I started a blog for her, just because I had so many pictures. However, I had always wanted to write and illustrate a children’s book.
I started looking at the pictures of Wilma on my computer, because there are a million of them, and I thought maybe I could use photographs instead of illustrations. I printed out my favorite ones and was trying to make a story out of them. But the more I looked at them, the more I realized that each picture had its own message.
So it began as a book for children?
I thought it would be perfect for kids, because it would be life lessons from a dog. I made a mock-up and presented it to Chronicle Books. They liked it immediately but said: “This is not a children’s book. It’s a grown-up book.” Now I realize children already do all these things in the book. It’s grown-ups who need to be reminded to act more like children.
Why do you say that?
The world is so complicated these days, and there’s so much information coming at us, that it’s sensory overload. Wilma teaches me to see the world in a very simple, childlike way, and to home in on the details. People miss so much beauty…