The time was now.

On November 1st, the Guard Dog story began running in newspapers and on And, today, this part of Guard Dog’s journey comes to a happy ending and new beginning.

I've been promising you (and myself) for too many years that someday he would be free, and while a few animal advocates have continued to lobby that Guard Dog still has a job to do, many more agreed it was time. Freeing Guard Dog became the longest MUTTS story ever.

Telling a tale like this in a daily comic strip is a different reading experience. Media today trains us for immediate satisfaction for our dwindling attention spans. Telling a longer story with only three panels every 24 hours for seven weeks adds a lot of tension and, I’ve learned, anxiousness. I appreciated your patience and faith.

It was emotional for me, too, in writing and drawing the story — but when I think of all the horrors poor chained dogs have to endure in real life, I knew his story must be told. Guard Dog is made of pen and ink. There are far too many real dogs living chained with far worse stories to tell.

Gretchen Wyler, actress, animal activist and founder of The Ark Trust, famously said: “We must not refuse to see with our eyes what they must endure with their bodies.”

I've been touched by all the comments on the MUTTS social media posts. I've always hoped readers would care about and relate to the MUTTS characters as they do their own furry loved ones. It is heartening that so many of you have written to say that Guard Dog (now Sparky) and Doozy inspired you to help a chained dog, or that one of your own dogs lived their life at the end of a chain until you gave them a loving, forever home. May this comic strip story open more hearts to help chained dogs.

For those who have wondered about Guard Dog’s new name — I wasn't sure what Doozy would call him. Initially I thought to just keep "Guard Dog" as now he would be Doozy’s guardian. But then I thought of “Sparky." Sparky was the nickname for Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts. There would never have been a MUTTS comic strip nor Guard Dog if not for his inspiration. So Guard Dog’s new name is my tribute to a great man, cartoonist, and friend.

Thank you for all your support, kind words, and love. And thank you to all the rescuers and shelter workers — the real unsung heroes.


P.S. I’ve been getting a lot of requests to turn the Guard Dog story into a book. More on that, soon.


If you know of a real-life Guard Dog or want to help with legislation, visit for more information.

Comments (53)

Yesh please!!! Guard Dog, the book … and … an ANIMATED VIDEO! This brilliant and touching series has the capability of unchaining many dogs, opening hearts, and preventing chained misery.

Holland VanDieren

Please continue the Guard Dog/Sparky story. First, the lives after rescue of pets and people are important and second, Guard Dog has touched our hears.

Bruce Feustel

Two cents to add to the rousing chorus of love for the Guard Dog Story, especially to add witness to Vick Bradford who told of the challenges traumatized dogs face when rescued. My sister and her dear husband rescued a four year old bitch Bernese Mountain Dog from an Amish puppy mill. She lived with them for seven years, and she was a dear dog. But she was always haunted and she couldn’t drink from a water dish unless my brother in law held it for her, which he did as he fed her by hand to the very end of her life. Freeing a dog from torture is always worth it, but it’s never easy.

Therry Neilsen-Steinhardt

Please have Sparky back in the cartoons. You won’t believe how much we miss him!

Atara Heiss

I am 100% a cat person. We have seven rescues. I volunteer with a cat rescue. That being said, I love ALL animals. The Guard Dog story stole my heart. I found myself inexplicably waking up at six am to see the story in my email. Please make Sparky’s story into a book. It’s a must have.

Tracey Brabant

I love that picture of Sparky lying on Doozy’s bed in the moonlight. I would love to have that poster on my wall. Just the fact that he won’t be cold and hungry and lonely anymore, and will have all the love he could want, makes me tear up. I know of many formerly chained rescue dogs who are now living the good life. One in particular, in South Australia. A senior dog who had been chained at least half of every day. Now she lives like royalty with my friend John.

Yes, please, a Sparky book. And as soon as you’re back to the drawing board, so to speak, please have lots of strips with Sparky and Doozy playing and walking and having fun. I am overjoyed that he’s free at last!

Susan Urang

What can I say about the Guard Dog story that others have not more eloquently expressed? I have been following Mutts for many years and this touched me more than anything ever done. Father to a rescue cat, I will say a simple thank you.

Mark Evans

I, too, tore open my email every morning to see Guard Dog’s story moving slowly forward. Others have written so well here about the same feelings I had. I’d only add that to me, it’s a story that applies to people as well as other animals: each of us longs, with every breath, for freedom. Unlike Guard Dog, most of us do not literally live with chains or or cages. But there are many kinds of freedom, and it’s the inner kind I mean. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, for example. Like Guard Dog, we sublimate this deep longing, we ignore it, make excuses about it, carry on and pay attention to other things, do the best we can, appreciate the goodness we have and kindness we can give, talk to the moon. We feel so much for Guard Dog because it is never really tolerable to seek to control others by force.


I can’t add anything of importance to what’s already been said, except that WHEN (not IF) you do the Guard Dog saga in book form, please go back to his very beginnings and give us the whole story — years of pining away, with only Earl, Mooch and Doozy… and the moon… for friends — up to that final, incredible panel with him lying on Doozy’s bed in the moonlight. And if you saw fit to take his story forward as he adjusts to a life of freedom… well, I wouldn’t object to that either.

I’ve been getting your emails for years, and reading comics for more than 60 years now, and I’ve never EVER seen anything like what you just did. I don’t know if a comic strip artist other than Garry Trudeau has ever gotten a Pulitzer for comics, but you, sir, deserve one for this. Here it is days after you completed the story, and just the thought of it still makes me cry. Well done, Master McDonnell. Well done.

Patricia Tobias

Cheers and thank you!

Mary Finelli