5 Questions with MUTTS Creator Patrick McDonnell | MUTTS

5 Questions with MUTTS Creator Patrick McDonnell

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Earl and Mooch write letters to Patrick.

Over the years, Patrick has received many wonderful letters from readers of all ages. Some write to express their love for MUTTS, some share stories about how MUTTS has positively influenced their own lives, and others send questions about the comic strip and its characters. Below are Patrick’s answers to some of our friends’ most common topics of curiosity.

When did you know you wanted to be a cartoonist?

Patrick’s interest in art sparked when he was very young. Too young even to read, he’d flip through and admire his parents’ books of art by cartoonists Walt Kelly and Jules Feiffer. “Then I discovered Peanuts,” he says. “I grew up in the sixties at the height of Peanuts mania, and I’ve carried that strip in my head and heart my whole life … The honesty and spirituality of Schulz’s work touched me deeply. I knew I wanted to create like that, to give back some of the joy and comfort I found in Peanuts. Its magic is the main reason I became a cartoonist.”

How do you spend a typical workday?

“There’s no vacation in comic strip land,” Patrick jokes. Being a full-time, syndicated cartoonist means he creates 365 strips each year—not to mention spending time on his many other creative pursuits. To stay focused, he starts his day around 5:00 or 6:00 am. “I’m an early riser. I like to be at the drawing board at that time of day because it’s really quiet. And I work in batches of three weeks at a time. So I write three weeks, then I pencil three weeks, letter three weeks, ink three weeks, and then color the Sunday pages. It’s like a little factory,” he laughs. “A one-man production.”

Are Earl and Mooch based on animals in your own life?

The inspiration for Earl the dog came from Patrick’s own real-life dog and friend, a joyful Jack Russell Terrier named Earl, who lived with Patrick for nearly 19 years. “Mooch’s personality,” he says, “is a combination of all the cats I’ve known throughout my life.” Patrick also admits that he relates to Ozzie, who appears as Earl’s guardian in the strip. “He does look a lot like me.”

Is it difficult to mix art and animal advocacy?

“Some animal issues are really tough, and I try to explain them without hitting anyone over the head,” he says. Patrick has tackled a lot of topics—such as feral cats, puppy mills, and factory farming—but tries to do it in a friendly, entertaining way. “I don’t want to be too preachy. People read comic strips every day, often with their families, and it’s a way to touch people who aren’t necessarily thinking about these issues.”

Will you ever unchain Guard Dog?

While many people feel that Guard Dog (a bulldog who lives outside, tethered to a chain) plays an important role in animal advocacy, Patrick continually receives emails from readers requesting freedom for the lovable character. “It’s something I’m definitely going to do,” he says, admitting that he’s even written the storyline for that happy day. But for now, Guard Dog has an important message to send. “If he can inspire one person to unchain their dog, it’s worth keeping him on the chain in the strip.” (In Patrick’s personal sketchbook—outside of the strip itself—Guard Dog is always drawn happy, unchained, and free.)

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