Lately we have been getting letters from new readers concerned about Guard Dog. If you have been following along for years, you probably know his backstory, but I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about one of my favorite characters.
When I first created MUTTS, I thought that Earl and Mooch might need an antagonist, a “villain” as a foil to their sweet natures. So, 25 years ago, I sat down with my sketch pad and created a big, mean-faced dog with a spiked collar. Almost unconsciously, I added the chain. Immediately I could see that Guard Dog was actually a tragic character. Instead of a villain, Guard Dog was born to shed light on how unfair and cruel it is to chain a dog.
From the beginning, several animal welfare groups implored me to keep Guard Dog in the strip as a symbol for all chained dogs, to remind people that no dog should have to live in such conditions. Since then, many states have made it illegal to tether dogs. Michigan State University has published a list of 23 states, plus D.C., which all have passed laws, some stronger than others, that restrict the use of tethering. California’s law is pretty comprehensive: SB 1578, otherwise known as the tethering law, makes it illegal to tether, fasten, chain, tie, or restrain a dog to a doghouse, tree, fence, or any other stationary object for more than three hours within a 24-hour period.
Though this is great news, this is less than half of the 50 states. It means more needs to be done.
Over the years, I have promised to eventually create a story in MUTTS to free Guard Dog from his chains. I know it’s been a long wait, so here’s a little secret. There are two projects under development where Guard Dog’s storyline gives him his freedom. My plan was to have Guard Dog released from his chain in the comic strip simultaneously with the release of the first of these two projects. Unfortunately, both projects are currently on hold.
Ten years ago, I made a promise to have Butchie and his Fatty Snax Deli go plant-based, along with giving Guard Dog his freedom. In 2020 I kept the promise with Butchie. Guard Dog will be next.
As always, thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring about all dogs, even those in the comics.