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Illustrator and author Siobhan Gallagher is committed to finding humor in daily existence. The Canadian artist who now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, spends her days making witty comics that capture her everyday life, indulging in the warm waters of nostalgia, and celebrating the best that pop culture has to offer in her colorful illustrations. In addition to two book publications, In A Daze Work and Who Do You Think You Are, her work has been featured in The New Yorker numerous times.
It’s no surprise that when she and her partner John F. Malta adopted their cartoonishly cute dog, Porky, he would quickly find his way into her work. ”He’s like a stress ball, basically,” she says. ”Petting him and working is the ultimate working situation.” Below, The Wildest spoke with Siobhan Gallagher about Porky’s unique adoption story and what their daily routine looks like.
What is your history with dogs? Did you grow up with them?
Historically, I’ve always loved dogs. I was raised with a dog. I think my parents got our dog, Buddy, a few years before I was born. He was around until I was 12, so for most of my childhood we had an older dog. After Buddy died I think my whole family wanted another dog but my mom was like, “I can’t go through that again,” that grief of losing a dog.
I kind of always thought when I can have a dog will be when I’m fully an adult — like that will be representative of “making it,” almost. It would mean I’m financially secure enough to help another little creature. That’s kind of what happened because I couldn’t afford one in New York and I just didn’t trust that I’d have enough money in the bank for emergencies. But I had roommates that had dogs so I would kind of get to be a peripheral dog owner in New York, and I would dog sit a bunch.
Were you looking for any particular type of dog before you found Porky?
No, not at all. Mostly I think, size-wise, we wanted a dog that we could travel with. We were looking for a small dog, but we could have been swayed by a medium dog. We haven’t during COVID, but usually John and I do a lot of traveling for comic fests and stuff. So we were like, ideally, we could have a dog that could come with us. I did not think that we would get a dog as small as Porky — he’s eight pounds. It was not planned, but I am delighted. He’s the smallest dog in our building. Everyone is bigger than him and it’s so cute.
Did you look at dogs at a particular shelter?
We looked through Petfinder and we got him from a shelter that was nearby called Melissa’s Second Chances. We were checking daily because there would be a dog we liked and then within hours he’d be gone. So it ended up being something we had to keep an eye on; it was like eBay bidding. This local shelter posted 12 little chihuahua mixes, and they were like, “This is only the first bundle of the batch. These 19 Chihuahua mixes were all found in a trailer.” It was one old man that had all of them in a trailer, and then he fell or got sick or something and went to the hospital, and the humane society had to go through the trailer and they found all these 19 little dogs.
Oh my god. Did you have any difficulties with training him?
Not really, which is another reason why I think he wasn’t abused. He already knew the word “no.” He peed a few times in the house at first, but that was kind of it. He doesn’t steal food and he doesn’t really bark or anything. We kind of lucked out in every way because he doesn’t tear things up or pee when we’re not around.
How is he with traveling?
He is definitely getting better. In the summer we went on a road trip and we got a carrier for him for the backseat to test it out to see if that carrier would work for future flying. He ripped through it like a little Tasmanian devil, like I had never realized that he had actual fangs and they worked. So he destroyed a bag and we were like, “Oh shit, this is not going to be good on a plane.” We ended up getting the perfect combination of the right carrier and then little doggy Xanax basically… Luckily he did so well!
As an illustrator, you work super long hours. What is Porky’s routine while you’re working?
A lot of the drawing that I do is from the couch so I’m drawing with my right hand on my iPad and with my left hand I’m petting Porky and he’s on a bundle of blankets. He’s like a stress ball, basically. Petting him and working is the ultimate working situation. He’s the cutest thing. Working next to him helps me pull away from work, too. If I’m in the zone and time flies by, he’ll remind me that I need to take a break and take him outside.
Do you think he has inspired your creativity in any way?
I mean, definitely in that he’s in my comics now. For the longest time, my comics characters were just me, my family, and John, the people I have the most interaction with, and even though he’s a non-speaking character, he’s definitely a presence. It’s funny because I realized a few months ago, I was saying something about him or saying something to him with John in the room, but I actually called Porky “Seamus,” which is my youngest brother’s name, and a few weeks ago John called him “Charlie,” which is his youngest brother’s name. He has a little brother energy that is almost subconscious to us. So that’s the kind of character presence that he’s brought to my comics.
“I was like, ‘How can I draw myself without drawing my actual self?’ We have this sort of symbiotic relationship — he’s become this character that I’m able to explore things through...”
From mental health tips she learned from her dogs to the shame of running out of poop bags, her illustrations are playful and relatable.
“I think the relationship between a woman and her animal companion can build out a character a lot — they’re more like witches’ familiars than pets.”
“I just simply like the idea of cats and their specific things. Throwing in a cat is something that comes naturally now when I make an illustration.”
Rachel Davies is a writer who has written for numerous publications including Vox, Wall Street Journal, and Architectural Digest and the parent of a beautiful Cocker Spaniel mix named Thea.