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High on Christmas spirit, we caught up with our favourite illustrator, the one and only Alicia Souza, for a chat about her art, her animals (adopted indie dog Charles-Brown and adopted guinea pig Henry-Oats) and her life! Take a peek at our conversation as Alicia tells us about how her beautiful animals inspire her work…
Tell us a little about how Charlie walked into your life?
Charlie was found as a puppy on the road by a friend, walking into an area where there was a pack of not-so-happy dogs. I took him in, and he was really weak then; he ended up in the hospital needing drips. He was a doll of a pup. He’s an indie dog and a funny little fact about him is that he started sprouting fur only after he was a few years old!
Did you grow up with pets at home? Who was your first pet you remember, tell us a little bit about her or him?
Yes, I did grow up with animals and I wanted to be a vet for most of my childhood. I just loved animals. I grew up in a small apartment and my dad was an animal lover; he used to go to the pet store (I don’t remember there being an adoption centre for anything other than dogs and cats, which is so sad) and the first pet we got was a turtle, who lived with us for many years. We had guinea pigs growing up too. Because I took care of all our pets, I have no problem cleaning up dog poo or any other kind of poo for that matter! We had birds too and again, looking back, it’s so sad we had them. I had a chicken and a rabbit which unfortunately had to be given away. That was quite sad…
Much of your art is most relatable to dog parents and animal lovers in general. How do your pets inspire your work?
So much! Most of my drawings tend to be about the things around me. Charlie tends to be my biggest inspiration, because I work from home. And my schedule revolves around him – my day begins with his walk and ends with his walk. He’s been with me through my entire “new life” in a way, because he’s been there almost ever since I moved to India nine years ago.
Charlie is probably the poster boy for good boy on Instagram. What do you have to say about that?
Well, he is a good boy, but he’s also such a brat! He’s got this adorable face, and he has this really innocent, sad look in his eye – we call it the “Oliver Twist” face. So yes, he is a good boy but he’s also bratty!
In our Lana Paws pet survey this year, Bangalore was voted as the most pet (dog) friendly city in India in terms of facilities and general public attitude towards dogs. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree?
Well, I don’t think I can compare with other cities in India because I haven’t lived in any other city as such. In terms of pet-friendliness, I think Bangalore has done a good-ish job. But yes, there is a long way to go still. I think there is a very big problem with abandoned pets and puppy mills etc.
We love the friendship shared by Charlie and his brother Henry Oats. How did Henry-Oats come into the family and how did Charlie feel about him at first? Was it brotherhood at first sight or an uphill journey?
I’ve had guinea pigs all my life, so I know exactly how guinea pigs work but Charlie was my first dog. George adopted Henry-Oats for me for my birthday and he was so little and so sweet. And now he’s turned out to be a ruffian – such a bratty fellow! Not all dogs are friendly with other animals, but I know Charlie’s personality. And although technically Henry-Oats was a surprise, George and I had had many discussions about getting another animal before Henry-Oats was adopted.
I can’t say they have a “love”. Charlie walks away if Henry is on his bed and Henry bites Charlie’s fur, but I know Charlie would never do anything to hurt Henry. Henry loves annoying Charlie but I’d rather that it’s not the other way around! So, it definitely wasn’t brotherhood at first sight – I introduced them slowly, and they weren’t left alone for months in the beginning.
Between Charlie and Henry Oats, who is going to be on Santa's naughty and nice list this year?
Henry is 100% naughty; I love Henry to bits but he’s rotten as hell! Charlie - possibly naughty but he’s still nice.
How do you think being a mum to two floofballs changed you as a person?
It’s changed me in the nicest way… it’s made me more patient by miles, and more responsible. I think it just makes you a better person and of course, way more loving. You have the most perfect creatures to shower your love upon.
Do you have a Christmas ritual with your boys? Tell us about that!
I make sure I take one Christmas photo every year. I’ll put them in a costume – like a hat or something and take their picture.
We love Charlie’s cookie dance. Please tell us he’s getting doggo cookies this holiday season! (And Henry-Oats, something special too?)
I do have one thing for Charlie this Christmas. Henry doesn’t get anything because he gets everything he loves every single day!
What's your message to people on adopting indies?
I appreciate people who adopt in general, but I think there’s a special place in Heaven for those who adopt indies. Indies often get overlooked, which is very sad because they’re the most perfect creatures. I think people who adopt indies are the nicest people, with the biggest hearts.