Have you ever met a dog that seems convinced it is a person? That's Vivian, the mini Dachshund who lives in Brooklyn with her human, writer and illustrator Mitch Boyer, and is the future star of her own children's book, Vivian the Dog Moves to Brooklyn, coming out in 2017. Using Mitch's magical photo-illustrations of a 6-foot-tall Vivian, the book explores the challenges of moving to a new home. Before this larger-than-life pup rises to meteoric fame, we had to get the scoop from Mitch about his budding star and their life together.
OLLIE: Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
MB: I was watching a music video by Romain Laurent. He has this fantastically bizarre one where a giant head is lying on the Coney Island boardwalk while singing. That image stuck in my mind and I decided to do something similar, but with my dog instead, where she is portrayed in photo-illustrations the size I imagine she [thinks she is]. It worked out really well because Vivian has a huge personality. After I had made a few pictures a story started evolving around our move here and the rest is history.
OLLIE: What impact do you hope the book has?
MB: I hope it helps kids who are going through a similar experience of moving somewhere new. Every year, over 5.5 million kids between the ages 1 to 9 move to a new home, in the United States alone. It's scary to leave behind the home and people you love when you relocate. In our five years together, Vivian and I have moved around a lot—four states, five cities, and 10 different apartments or houses. I also moved around a lot as a kid. No matter how many times you move, it's always difficult, especially when you're young.
OLLIE: Vivian clearly has a big personality—do you fear that starring in her own book will go to her head? How do you think she will handle her fame?
MB: HA! Every day. She already has a huge ego. When we go to the dog park, she usually ignores the other dogs and just spends her time walking up to their owners, asking for them to pet her. When she's feeling really bold, she just jumps into their laps.
OLLIE: Can you tell us a bit about Vivian's adoption story?
MB: My sister has a Dachshund named Gogo. Gogo had some puppies a little over five years ago in Salt Lake City, and Vivian was one of them. My parents called me the morning after the puppies were born. I rushed over to see the puppies and picked out Vivian. You can say it was love at first sight.
OLLIE: New York itself seems to be a character in the book, the "big city" foil for this "big dog." What was it about this move that was so impactful?
MB: New York City, and Brooklyn, in particular, plays a huge role in the book. In a way, the story is a love letter to the city from Vivian's perspective. You wouldn't imagine NYC to be a very welcoming place for dogs, but actually there are a lof of great dog runs and parks that make it (I assume) a wonderful place to be a dog. Prospect park even has a dog beach!
For me, I really love New York because of the impact it has had on my life. I hear people talk about how they visit Paris and "find themselves" there. Brooklyn is my Paris. After moving here, I really began to discover who I am.
OLLIE: What do you like best about where you and Vivian are now?
MB: We live right next to Mccarran Park in Brooklyn, where there's a great dog run. Vivian also really enjoys walking to the waterfront and hopping along the rocks on the shoreline. I love the energy in Brooklyn. Everybody is making something and really trying to leave their mark on the world. It's very inspiring. It really pushes me to do things like make this children's book with Vivian.
OLLIE: If Vivian could choose between two superpowers, the ability to become giant or the ability to turn anything into food, which do you think she would choose and why?
MB: Food. No question. She loves nothing more. I can't tell you how many times I've had to pry random food out of her mouth that she's found on the side of the road during our walk.
OLLIE: Aside from bananas, what are some of Vivian's favorite things to eat?
MB: Everything. Actually, she's on a pretty strict diet right now, because she has a very sensitive stomach. I feed her a very specific blend of mostly salmon and rice. When she does get treats, it's usually carrots or dental bones.
OLLIE: You two obviously share a special bond. What do you think makes your relationship so special? What do you get from each other?
MB: We've been through a lot. Without going into too many details, we had a rough couple years where everything in our lives went through some pretty drastic changes. Vivian was one of the only things in my life that remained constant. I think she only loves me because I feed her.
OLLIE: Where can we reserve a copy of your book?
MB: Our KickStarter campaign is still alive. You can effectively preorder a book there by backing the project, and backers will receive their book early, in April 2017.
Keep up with Mitch and Vivian on Instagram!