A Mutts/Guard Dog Update – with Spoilers

The drama in this month’s Mutts comic strip has attracted nationwide attention.

The Associated Press (AP) released a feature story with quotes from cartoonist Patrick McDonnell about animal cruelty in general and his Guard Dog character in particular. And in a rare moment of a comic strip getting deserved attention newspapers and news outlets across the U.S. (the world?) are carrying the AP story.

The AP story includes spoilers in the second and third paragraphs:

NEW YORK (AP) — Something is different on the comics pages this week. In the panels of “Mutts,” there’s the long-delayed sight of freedom.

Patrick McDonnell, the cartoonist who draws the popular strip, is freeing his character Guard Dog, liberating an animal who has become for decades a symbol of the cruelty of dog chaining.

“I think it just hit me that I can’t do it forever and that it has to happen,” McDonnell told The Associated Press ahead of the publication of Thursday’s panel showing Earl’s owner kneeling beside the dog and announcing: “We have to remove this chain.” On Friday’s strip, it will be gone.

Guard Dog will soon be as free from the chain as he was when first introduced in late 1995.

As Patrick tells AP reporter Mark Kennedy:

“Mutts” premiered in 1995 with two heroes — the small canine Earl and the feline Mooch, fond of saying “Yesh.”

Guard Dog was added about a year after launch as McDonnell explored the idea of having an antagonist for his heroes.

“I started in my sketchbooks drawing a tough dog,” he says. “I drew a big gruff dog and I put a studded collar on him. And then I drew a chain. And when I did that, it changed everything. I realized that it wasn’t a villain. It was a tragic character.”

When the bulldog returned in early 1996 he had a name, a home, and an occupation … and a chain.

Patrick told us of Guard Dog’s creation in The Best of Mutts collection (where these early strips come from):

We were also introduced to Guard Dog. Here he’s a big rough bulldog who I thought could be somewhat of the “bad guy” to the innocent Earl and Mooch. Later, leaning on some cartoon clichés, I drew a chain around his neck to make him appear rougher. I stared at that drawing and thought of the horrible lives these poor, innocent chained dogs endure. My “villain” became a tragic character and, hopefully, a light to shine in this dark area of the human-animal relationship.

Back to the AP article:

Fans of Guard Dog would regularly plead with McDonnell to free the mutt but the artist was also lobbied by animal welfare groups to keep the dog chained as a way to increase the spotlight on the issue.

In the lead-up to Guard Dog’s freedom, McDonnell crafted a multi-comic seven-week storyline in which the owner of Guard Dog moves away, leaving the dog utterly alone. The other animals and kids rally to save him.

In Patrick’s latest blog entry he thanks readers for their response and promises further comment soon:

… And, on November 1, the Guard Dog story began in the MUTTS comic strip running in newspapers and on MUTTS.com. I’m so appreciative and moved by your responses to Guard Dog and Doozy’s journey. Thanks for all your support. I have a lot more to say about that, so will be writing a separate letter about Guard Dog and will be sending it out soon.

all images © Patrick McDonnell

15 thoughts on “A Mutts/Guard Dog Update – with Spoilers

  1. Perhaps along with his freedom Guard Dog will get a real name. Buddy has a nice sound to or perhaps readers can suggest names. There could even be a contest to choose the best name for
    Guard Dog.

    Edie Jencked

    1. FWIW, I “second” your suggestion, Edie … Guard Dog is, indeed, a buddy to Earl and Mooch.

    2. I would prefer to see his name remain unchanged: that’s what Guard Dog has been called by everyone in the strip for decades (even before he got the chain), and it is still a key to his character.

  2. Maybe Guard Dog can be adopted by Earl’s family and make Earl, Mooch, and Guard Dog a trio of characters.

      1. Your guess is absolutely correct: McDonnell foreshadowed it in the strips for Nov. 6th & 7th, and it was proved beyond a shadow of a doubt by the strip that appeared today (Dec. 2nd).

  3. Gotta love a Jersey boy cartoonist having such a heart for a tough on the outside lovable character. This storyline is a classic in the making.

  4. Your guess is absolutely correct: McDonnell foreshadowed it in the strips for Nov. 6th & 7th, and it was proved beyond a shadow of a doubt by the strip that appeared today (Dec. 2nd).

  5. I love the Mutts comic. Right now it’s a running story to save guard dog. His abuse hit us to the core. Spotlight his plight to being chained and now abandoned.
    I anxiously await another day to find out his future. I hope with Doozy and her family. After all. She has loved him.

  6. I absolutely love this story.I can’t wait every morning to read the next episode of guard dog and the quest for freedom. Thanks for the great experience.

  7. I started crying today when Guard Dog finally made it to the vet! It’s been a long time since a comic strip has moved me this much

  8. I can’t begin to tell you how important your characters are. They have made us all more aware, more empathetic and kinder. Please continue your very important work. You make a difference!

    1. we are asking are you planning to buy Eari and Mooch figurines? my wife and I ordered them when saw them. We can ‘t wail to see both Guard dog and Doozy figurines as soon as we can

  9. When will the former owner of Guard Dog, who abused and then abandoned him be made to pay for his (or her) misdeeds?

    I think that needs to happen to finish the story

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