Surviving the streets on a journey of discovery and kindness
Author Robbie Wilkinson and illustrator Eleni Kalorkoti are the artistic duo behind our heartwarming Little Gestalten book Garbage Dog, a tale about a dog that makes his way from the streets to a new home. Wandering around a lonely urban landscape, this book is a discovery into the true meaning of family and friendship. Ahead of the release, Robbie revels on the book and what spurred him to create his first published piece of work.
Originally from the small village of Woolacombe in Devon, southern England, Robbie grew up surrounded by surfers, farmers, and the Bristol Channel. He was exposed to nature and connected to wildlife throughout his teenage years. Now 35-year-old Robbie calls Amsterdam his home after relocating with his wife who was offered an opportunity at Nike in 2014. He works as a producer, has two children, and a dog called Rocky. Writing remained a passion for Robbie, he continued this throughout his creative career until the release of his debut book. Delving into this sweet tale about kindness and friendship, we find out what impelled him to make the leap toward literature.
What made you want to center the story around dogs?
I've always grown up with or around dogs, they’re a massive part of my life. I adopted my dog Rocky from a homeless dog shelter in Amsterdam, we didn’t know his history so I started to think about what it could have been. One day someone introduced me to the phrase 'garbage dog' which is another way of saying ‘mutt’ when you do not know the breed. Our dog is such a sweet guy, I always wondered what it would have been like for him living on the streets-Garbage Dog is the result of this.
True friendship: What does this look like to you and are you still in contact with your friends from childhood?
True friendship for me is that friend with whom you can go two or three years without saying a word, but when you meet up it's as nothing has changed. You are still the same people together that you were when you last met. It's honest and pure. I still have many friends from when I was a small boy who I speak to today, for me, it's important that you always stay connected to where you came from and who you were. Those relationships formed your character, so they are important to honor and maintain.
What life lessons does Garbage Dog try to teach?
I hope it teaches people that no matter your situation and background there is the potential for good. Kindness can lead to further kindness.
Did you have a soundtrack to writing the book, if so, what was on the background?
I try to keep it instrumental and relaxing when I write (especially for children). For Garbage Dog I listened to a variety of artists like Ludovico Einaudi, Tycho, Chon, and Anomalie-so a real mix! This only happens of course when I’m not listening to lullabies and relaxing music to help my 8-month-old twins nap.
Animal welfare rescue groups globally have been reporting spikes in abandoned animals in recent years. How important is kindness and attention to sheltered animals during a rise in unwanted pets?
For us (my partner and I) adopting Rocky was a super important moment in our lives. We had fostered dogs for years back in London but mainly looked after more 'designer' breeds like French Bulldogs and Malamutes-so when we decided to get a dog of our own we decided that it should an adoption from a shelter.
The opportunity to bring a dog into our lives who didn't get the chances and life that a dog should be something we thought we could deliver. So when we went to meet Rocky (at DO Amsterdam) and took him for a walk we knew we couldn’t say no. It was pretty instantaneous for as all and within minutes we knew that he was about to join our family.
A difficult factor about raising a shelter dog is that you do not get to choose their background-so they can come with baggage. Rocky is no different and we have worked hard for both his life and ours to help him become more confident and less anxious day-to-day. Thanks to some amazing guidance and help, we have no got a very sweet, caring, and affectionate dog who brings us happiness every day. Which for me is one of the key things I learned and helped form the Garbage Dog story-because no matter his back story, he was just a sweet dog wanting to be loved.