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.


Published October 18, 2014

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.

Comments (43)

Patrick – my wife and I love Guard Dog! We have had German Shepherds throughout our marriage and we agree – never, EVER, chain a dog! It will be great to see Guard Dog freed so he can interact with both Earl and Mooch in the way all animals should be free to interact! We look forward to it!

Don Kaminski

I find nothing helpful seeing a dog chained ~ and in fact , how he is characterized left me to stop reading Mutts. Long time ago ! Seeing the character again lit a fire of disappointment because , as others have said , it was promised some time ago, that he would be released. False information. Cruelty to the dog.

Jolene Smith

I have waited SO long for Guard Dog to be freed!!! I follow Takis Shelter: No chains, no cages, no kill, in Greece. Chains kill dogs. Slowly. One sad, miserable, lonely day at a time.

catharine Orellana

correction – I’ve always known not know

Dana L. Russell

What a great thing you did—compassionate and brave. May your kindness return to you a thousand times.

Nancy Fay

Susan’s account of the chained dog in Virginia is touching. She made a difference in the life of a sweet being. All dogs need is a chance in life. Unfortunately, there seem to be many more good dogs than good, caring homes.

JC Savage

Fiorello! A good suggestion. I grew up in New York City when he was mayor, and remember him as being an active and inclusive man. He was elected three times and, as a pre-teenager, I couldn’t understand how there could ever be a different major.

One popular story about him was that when the fire bells rang in the local fire station he would ride with the firemen on one of the trucks.

Evelyn Eisenberg

Exactly my thoughts!

Trudy Bledsoe

YES! Please!!!

Josée Lavigne

Last sentence should be…..Now that’s a start!

joan silaco