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Creator of ‘Mutts’ Comic Finally Frees Guard Dog Character

Readers of the beloved comic strip “Mutts” will witness a significant change this week. As per ABC News, Patrick McDonnell, the renowned creator of the comic strip, has made a decision to set his character, Guard Dog, free. This is a significant departure from the decades-long representation of dog chaining cruelty.

“I think it just hit me that I can’t do it forever and that it has to happen,” McDonnell shared. On Thursday, a new panel will be published depicting Earl’s owner kneeling beside the dog and declaring, “We need to remove this chain.” On Friday’s strip, the chain will no longer remain. 

McDonnell said, “I had a vague idea what the story was going to be, but I finally took some time and said, ‘Well, what is that story?’ And I was happy with what I came up with. So I said, ‘Now’s the time to do it.’”

The comic strip ‘Mutts’ first came out in 1995

“Mutts” debuted in 1995, introducing two beloved characters: Earl, a small canine, and Mooch, a feline known for his catchphrase, “Yesh.” Joining them are other notable characters like Woolfie, Sid the Fish, Crabby, and Sourpuss. Of course, there’s also Butchie, the watchful proprietor of the Fatty Snax Deli.

Guard Dog joined the cast about a year after the comic’s launch, when McDonnell thought about introducing an antagonist for the strip.

McDonnell recalls, “I started in my sketchbooks drawing a tough dog. I drew a big gruff dog, and I put a studded collar on him.” Continuing, he says, “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.”

For years, Guard Dog was presented sitting in untended grass or howling at the moon, solitary and contemplative. In one strip, he clutches a piece of paper labeled “Guard Dog’s To-Do List” with a singular item written: “Remind people of man’s inhumanities.”

Fans of Guard Dog urged creator to release him

Supporters of Guard Dog often implored McDonnell to release the Mutt. Simultaneously, animal welfare organizations urged the artist to maintain the dog’s chained depiction, seeing it as a means to draw more attention to the issues surrounding animal abuse and neglect.

McDonell always felt that if even one family was inspired to bring their dog into the house, “it was worth doing.” 

He says, “You know, whenever I drew him in my sketchbooks or if I did a talk, I always drew Guard Dog free. So part of me felt like he was an actor playing a part.”

Leading up to Guard Dog’s liberation, McDonnell constructed a seven-week storyline in the comic strip where Guard Dog’s owner moves away, leaving the dog entirely alone. The rest of the animals and children unite to rescue him.

“Mom,” Doozy exclaims in a recent strip. “They kept him on a chain and then they left him alone to suffer. I hate people.” Her mother counters, “But what about those dedicating their lives to helping animals like Guard Dog?” Tearful, Doozy reconsiders, saying, “I appreciate people.”

The “Mutts” landing page contains resources related to adoption, animal welfare groups, and furthering anti-chaining legislation. In fact, the comic’s author served on the board of the Humane Society of the United States for 18 years and presently holds a position on The Fund for Animals board.

“I can’t wait to draw a happy Guard Dog,” McDonnell shared. “He still has this great dog heart — loving life and loving the characters who visit him. It’ll be nice to see him in Mutts without the chain.”

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