Patrick McDonnell on Kindness and Empathy in MUTTS | MUTTS

Patrick McDonnell on Kindness and Empathy in MUTTS

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It’s a new year. Time to exhale.

In this monthly Q&A, the first one of 2017, Patrick and I aren’t discussing resolutions or self-improvement strategies, to-do lists or upcoming events — those’ll come with time. Today, we’re discussing kindness. “To be kind” is the first item in the 12-step MUTTS Manifesto, and it’s a perfect topic to consider during these first few weeks of the new year.

To kick off our conversation, I ask Patrick if he can pinpoint the most important lesson he’s learned about kindness over the years. “That’s a good question,” he replies. “The most important lesson, I suppose, is a simple one: It doesn’t cost you anything to be kind, and there are many rewards.”

This mentality — a belief in the natural reciprocity of kindness — is prominent in the MUTTS strip. “Are there any moments in MUTTS, that you can recall off the top of your head, when you specifically tried to convey this lesson?” I ask.

“There are some general themes and interactions that come to mind, but that’s really something I try to bring to the strip almost every day. Empathy and kindness are at the heart of MUTTS,” he says. “Obviously, some days I just write silly jokes, but a lot of them are heartfelt, or they’ll express something funny about the animal-human bond. And even when the characters do tease each other, I try to make sure it comes from a kind place.”

I nod. “Teasing always makes me think of siblings, or really old friends. In those cases, it almost seems like the more you tease each other, the more love exists between the two of you.”

He chuckles. “Yeah, because you trust each other enough to do that. I think that’s kind of like Earl and Mooch’s relationship.”

I ask Patrick to think of a memorable time when a stranger or a loved one did something kind for him. “Something small,” I suggest, “that had a big impact. And how did that gesture affect you?”

He gives it a few moments of deep thought. “When I was still in art school in New York City,” he says, “I dropped my student art portfolio off to a ‘stranger’ at the Village Voice weekly newspaper. To my total surprise, I was given an article to illustrate. And when the story was published, my drawing — the angry critic — was reproduced throughout the entire issue and even on the cover.”

“The stranger who gave me my first professional job was legendary art director George Delmerico. It was his kindness that gave me that confidence that I could make my career in art.”

Readers, can you recall a time when a small gesture of kindness had a significant impact on your life? Care to share? Head over to our Facebook page to join the conversation!

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By MUTTS Staff Writer Ali Datko

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