Shellshock – behind the scenes of chapter 2


The dog behind the character


Meet Foxtail. Foxtail is the first dog that I rescued off the streets of Santiago, a loyal and reliable friend, and a mentor to our heroine Shellshock. Before Shelby (or Shellshock as I call her) came into our lives Foxtail was the only dog of the household for a whole year. His life was chill, and maybe even a little bit boring. He didn’t mind though, because the life that he endured previously was anything but fun.

Santiago is a city populated with feral and homeless dogs, the way that most big cities are filled with pigeons. Here, generations of dogs breed and colonize city streets, alleys, and local dumps for generations on end. Many of these unfortunate creatures don’t know what it’s like to have a home. Foxtail was born and raised on the streets, but he had high hopes of one day being a house dog. That day came when he was less than a year old.

In Chapter 2 of Shellshock, Foxtail will tell his tale of how he came to be a house dog and what it was like living on the streets prior to that.

In the meantime, I will tell you a little bit about him and what an incredible job he has been doing in helping me raise Shellshock.

Foxtail teaching Shellshock how to drink from water dishes. Shellshock’s day 3 with us.

When Shellshock appeared under a tree in front of our house one day, she was badly hurt, starved, and had difficulty standing, breathing, drinking and even keeping her eyes open. She spent the following three days in a nearby clinic, in the hands of a very talented and devoted veterinarian. When she was finally released into our care, she required constant attention and assistance. She was still very weak and seemed to not know anything about being a dog. Foxtail, who is usually not very interested in socializing with other canines, took her under his wing immediately.

Foxtail sharing his favorite pillow with Shellshock.

He began sharing his most prized possessions with her, sharing his favorite pillows, and teaching her which areas of the yeard are used for which purposes.

Shellshock enjoying a dog house for the first time ever.

He even invited her to share his own summer dog house, and let her put her name on it. She didn’t know that such luxuries existed.

Before long, these two were inseparable, and as soon as Shellshock gained some strength and weight they were always playing, scheming and laughing together.

Foxtail and Shellshock laughing at a joke that only they could hear.

It soon became apparent that Foxtail’s new job was not just to teach this pup how to dog, but also to keep her out of trouble. Her energy turned out to be endless, and her mind never-resting. We also began finding her in high places all of a sudden. One day she would be hanging off a windowsill, one day she would be on top of a wall, or on a garden trellis. We began to suspect that this pup can hover.

Today, almost five years later, we live far away from Santiago, in the countryside. Foxtail and Shellshock have several acres of land to play on. They share an elevated dog den, equipped with two rooms and a terrace, and when it gets chilly outside they live and play in the house more than they do outdoors. The two are completely inseparable. Where one goes, the other immediately follows. They hunt together, play together, defend their home together, even take trips to the vet together when only one of them needs the attention.

Goofing off in the field.

Rolling around on their terrace.

Going to the vet together. Foxtail is not a fan, but Shellshock remembers that a vet makes everything better.

Sharing everything.

By turning these two amazing companions into graphic novel characters, I want to tell their story from multiple angles. The aim of “Shellshock” is not to burden the readers with the tragedic reality of street life, neglect or abuse. While these topics are addressed, I try to balance my novel with humor, delight, and beauty that these incredible creatures teach me every day. I don’t want to make my readers to cry and to harbor negative emotions towards the human race. “Shellshock” also demonstrates the generous and kind side of humanity, as well as the dangerous and reckless side of canine life. Life is complicated and messy, and so is the issue of homeless dogs. Mainly, I want my readers to see dogs the way that Shellshock and Foxtail are teaching me to see them and to enjoy their journey.

Working on the novel

On average, a single edition of a given graphic novel is 35 pages in length and takes between three months and a year for a team of four to ten people to create. Kat Dattilo and I are the only two people involved in the creation, editing, production, and publication of “Shellshock,” and we do it all in our spare time from our day jobs, paid artist contracts, commissions, a farm and a family to manage. In total “Shellshock” consists of 6 books, or chapters, each roughly 35 pages long. The entire story is already written, by me, and together we work on illustration and coloring one chapter at a time. Because we do not have the luxury of taking this project on full time, and because we each have to fill multiple production and post-production roles, it takes about five to six months of continuous work to produce one chapter that will take you guys less than half an hour to read, but days, months and years to enjoy the artwork. Finally, with all said and done, we get to keep $2.00 each from each book sale. Needless to say, we do not do this for the money.

Why do we do it?

We both feel that Shellshock’s story is one that needs to be told. Through her amazing character and a splash of fantasy, we can cover a wide range of dog and human issues that are very important to address. Issues like homeless dogs, where they come from, why they spread, why they may be dangerous as well as sad and helpless, why they need help, how they can be helped, how this situation can be prevented, how house dogs are treated, and finally, the climax of it all, the ethics of dog racing. At the same time, we want to entertain the readers and present dogs in such a human and relatable way, that people will want to spend more time with their dogs, and take that one extra step to house or help house a dog in need.

Separately from raising awareness about dogs and entertaining dog lovers, Kat and I plan to donate to actual dog rescue groups. Our promise to you, the supporters, is that with each new 100 sales made, we will donate 30% of our earnings from those 100 sales to a new dog rescue group. Announcements on these events will be made on Facebook in Shellshock’s personal page. Of course, 30% of what we make is not much, but it’s a start. Help us spread the word about Shellshock and we can start making a bigger difference for real dogs.

How we do it

In an earlier article, I took you through the step by step design, drawing, coloring, and formatting process that Kat and I follow when creating these books for you. If you haven’t yet read that one, I think you will find it very interesting and informative. It takes you on a journey from the very first sketch, through a sea of edits, all the way to the final brilliantly painted by Kat color version of a given panel. You can read about it here. This behind-the-scenes information also appears at the back of chapter 1 of “Shellshock.”

In this volume, we have a surprise for you. When Foxtail speaks and tells his tale, the drawing style switches to a new and different format. I think you guys will really like it. But, you must wait for the book to come to find out. The new chapter, and every new chapter from now on will also start with a few “previously on Shellshock” pages to get you guys caught up with the story in case you did not read the previous chapter, or in case you need a refresher even if you did.

A bit of a tease

Please enjoy the pictures. Visit Shelby’s personal page, check out Chapter 1 if you haven’t already, and do stay tuned for Chapter 2.

Thank you all for making this possible.

Previously on “Shellshock”


My line work in progress


Kat’s panel painting in progress


One of the pages inside Chapter 2


Thank you for reading.

You can purchase your own copies of Shellshock chapters here. They come in a printed and bound paperback format as well as e-books.

You can even read them for FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

Remember that 30% of every 100 sales will be donated to dog rescue groups, so every purchase makes a real-life difference.


Shellshock – behind the scenes of chapter 1

It all began one sunny day, on a dead end street in Santiago Chile, 2014. That was the day I found a dying discarded pup, carefully placed under a tree by my house, a little bit of food and little bit of water by her side. That day and that dog changed my life. Shellshock is a graphic novel based on the broken little pup that grew into a beautiful swan. It is a heart-warming story that will take you on multiple fantastic adventures and will shed some new light on the magical creatures that dogs really are.

My Inspiration

Real life Shellshock is my dog Shelby. She is my best friend and loyal companion. She is a living reminder of human ignorance towards dogs, and also living proof that traumatic experiences can be completely forgotten. There is never a trace of sadness in Shelby’s eyes. Quite the opposite in fact. Her big amber eyes glow with mischief and joy her every waking moment. Her energy is endless and she is always looking for trouble. It is her “human” personality that inspired me to tell her story in illustrated form.

Shellshock is a novel in 6 parts. It tells Shelby’s story through fantasy and adventure. For instance, because we really don’t know who placed her under the tree and why, my husband and I always joke that she just appeared in the “puppy portal” one day. That’s a much better reference to the place where I found her than “the tree where she was left to die by an ignorant coward.” In the book she travels to the puppy portal from ancient Egypt.

The novel will reveal that in ancient Egypt dogs were the dominant species, and humans were their pets. It was a peaceful world, where pets were loved and cared for. Unlike in the modern world, where dog is supposedly man’s best friend. While some dogs in some parts of the world have very cozy lives, there are millions still who are chained up, beaten, and even forced to race at the track. I wrote this book to illustrate the real problems that dogs today face in South America. I chose South America because this is where I live and these are the problems that are see every day. I didn’t want this book to be heavy and depressing. I didn’t want the readers to feel sad or guilty when reading it. Instead, I wanted each page to be entertaining, funny, witty, and just beautiful. This is why Shelby (or Shellshock as I often call her) is my main character.

Just like in real life, Shellshock conveys no sadness, only joy. Her illustrated character is equally goofy, fun-loving, ridiculous and just plain lovable. By following Shellshock on her adventures through the 6 chapters, the readers will enjoy a good action-adventure, while also picking up on the darker moral dilemmas on a more subconscious level. I want to get people thinking. Really thinking. I believe that cruelty is rare and is a small part of dog problems today. Ignorance, however is a much larger beast.

Shelby’s first moments with me.

Take Shelby, for instance. The person who left her under my tree, when she clearly had hours to live, wasn’t cruel. They had good intentions. They placed her in front of a house that already had a dog in the yard. They placed some food a water near her to indicate that she is left there intentionally. But what if I didn’t come out to mow my lawn that day? I shudder to think, even today, that if I was mowing only a day later, I would have found a dead pup instead of my best friend. It was pure chance that Shelby got rescued by me when she did. The person who left her, didn’t think to ring the doorbell or leave her on the doorstep with a note. They didn’t take her to the vet. They didn’t take steps to either heal her or “put her out of her misery.” They just hid her in the leaves, under a tree, on a dead end street. What is that? Cowardice? I say ignorance. That is someone who was never taught how to handle finding a dying pup. They did the best they could and it happened to work out fine. But how many of these stories don’t have a happy ending?

The Book

Shelby making a silly face.

Shelby is a such a colorful character in real life, that it is only natural for me to make her into a goofy cartoon personality. As an illustrator, I love creating characters and their setting. I wrote the entire story in a month, and during the following month I roughly sketched out all the panels for Chapter 1. As I began drawing actual panels and characters, it quickly became obvious that I need a colorist, a great colorist. My strength is character building, but I am also anxious to always move forward, create more panels, set those characters loose on the pages. I don’t have the skill or a patience to paint every panel in full detail. But I know someone how does.

Katherine Dattilo is a brilliant digital painter, who has already collaborated with me on many unrelated illustrations. When we met as artists, we clicked right away. She takes my line work, and breaths life into it with her colors. I wanted her for this project. Kat’s strength in digital painting is light. I don’t know what she does exactly that’s different from other painters I know, but her depiction of light and shadow really takes you to a different realm when you look at her work. She also paints my illustrations in the exact light and mood that I envisioned when I drew the image. It’s like she reads the energy in my lines and translates that energy into something that others can see too. This kind of an artistic relationship is very rare and is priceless. I was thrilled when Kat accepted my proposal to work on Shellshock together.

My line drawing of an ancient Egyptian dog market square.


Kat’s magical coloring of exactly how I imagined the place lit.

Chapter 1 of Shellshock is set mainly in ancient Egypt. It took a lot of research both for me in drawing the settings, and for Kat in getting the colors and light just right, to bring our ancient canine Egypt to life. For instance the sky map seen on the wall of the Seers’ workshop, is my dog version of actual ancient Egyptian idea of the sky.

Ancient Egyptian sky map.

The sky map seen in one of the panels in the novel.

Of course the most exciting part of bringing this book life, for me, is drawing Shellshock herself. In order to depict this amazing character exactly how I envision her, I spend a lot of time chatting with Kat about my Shelby. I sent her many photos, videos, and stories of Shelby’s real life adventures, facial expressions, and crazy dog decisions that she makes. It was very important to me to really capture Shelby’s personality in my book. Kat had no problem transforming my line drawings into my Shellshock.

One of the line drawings that I sent to Kat for transformation.


The transformation begins.


Transformation complete.


As a special bonus, Chapter 1 also features several behind-the-scenes pages of how Kat and I work. In these pages you will learn some of the technical secrets of our craft.

My Aim

Can I really be angry at the stranger who left Shelby under my tree? After all, she ended up with me. Where do these broken pups from anyway? Why are there so many dogs roaming the streets of Chile? Why are the ones behind household fences chained up with not even a water dish in reach? Why are there no dog shelters in this country? What ARE people supposed to do when an injured dog shows up on their doorstep? All these and many other questions are the reason for Shellshock the novel. Nothing is black and white in this world, and human cruelty is not the main reason for dogs suffering on a large scale. Lack of education is the main reason. Lack of action. Lack of planning. I aim to change that, one story at a time.

My real life goofball.

In real life, Shelby likes to tell her story to as many people as she can. She (with my human help) signs petitions against dog racing, including the petition banning racing in Argentina, which we won! Shelby and I also take the time to explain the importance of dog sterilization to locals, to prevent the ever exploding population of feral and homeless dogs here. Feral dogs breed, form into packs and gangs and very quickly become unadaptable. Legalizing hunting dogs (a recent Chilean development), while claiming that sterilization is immoral, is a backwards thinking. Shelby and I like to shed better light on the situation.

One of the greatest reasons for dog mistreatment and neglect in this part of the world, is that dogs are not seen as the amazing, intelligent, emotional creatures that they are. Instead, they are often viewed as objects. They are left behind when a family moves to a new home. Like a piece of unwanted furniture. They are used as alarms when they are kept on chains outside homes. They are used to breed to sell puppies of desirable pedigree. Depicting dogs in a very human way in my book, is one of the ways that I aim to change the view of dogs. In my book, dogs have all the same emotions as we do, and they face all the same problems and dilemmas. I hope that by bonding with my canine characters, the readers will see other dogs in the same magical light.

A fragment of Shellshock’s training scenes in Chapter 1.


Another fragment from a panel in Chapter 1.

Kat and I also plan to designate a portion of our royalties, every 100 sales, to reputable dog rescue organizations. We will be announcing these events when they happen, with proof of sales and donations.


You can purchase your Shellshock here. It is available in print as well as on Kindle.

If you are already enjoying this book, please take a moment to leave an Amazon review. It will be greatly appreciated.


We also invite you learn more about myself, Kat, and Shelby by following us on Facebook. Yes, Shelby has her own Facebook page, where she posts her real life adventures. She is a very social dog, and she will be thrilled to have more followers. Click on the names below to visit our profiles.

Lisa Mitrokhin

Katherine Dattilo

Shelby “Shellshock”

We thank you kindly for your interest and your support. Help us spread the word about Shellshock by sharing this article with your friends and family.


Shellshock and I wishing you a great day.