If you’ve read about the inspiring dream behind Halo, you probably aren’t surprised that I ended up with a white dog of my own. Koda the White German Shepherd joined us in 2009, hailing from Furrari Kennels in Ontario. I was introduced to the breed while I was helping to train dogs for autism assistance with the PACCK Foundation in 2008. I loved their intellect and problem-solving skills, and of course, I couldn’t stop thinking about the white dog who appeared in my dream.
I like to call Koda one of my greatest joys and greatest challenges. With a dog so smart, you’re constantly battling to run the show. If Koda had her way, she would be in charge of the household! She’s also extremely protective and wary of strangers, which adds a few hurdles to daily life with Kodes. However, once you’ve entered her “circle of trust,” she’s this abundantly loving, quirky and trustworthy creature who is out to steal your heart.... and she’s done just that from coast to coast. She’s joined us on multiple cross-country adventures in our 1989 Volkswagen camper van, and has ventured on rock climbing excursions and whitewater rafting adventures in addition to the traditional hike or touristy stop.
It’s no secret that Koda has served as a model for my illustrations in Halo. In a few illustrations in particular, you can spot her trademark cowlick, a mini-mohawk that grew in with her adult coat. However, with the Halo character being male, it was important to make some physical changes because female shepherds have a much more dainty, feminine quality to them. I consider Halo to be an invented mutt, inspired by the White German Shepherd but not entirely true to form with a slightly longer coat and adjusted proportions. I also used images of Alaskan Malamutes and other northern breeds to create the character.
Koda’s silly personality, beautiful form and exaggerated head-tilt definitely inspire me to continue drawing her! Who knows- maybe someday she’ll have a story of her own. :)