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 (51)

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

My thoughts too, thank you! And bless you, Guard Dog, and bless the day you get your freedom!


As the mommy to many adopted dogs who were abused, I cannot wait to see Guard Dog enjoy his release from bondage. On Feb 7th, I will honor the1-year anniversary of the death of the sweetest little girl, Poppy, who was subjected to the worst sort of abuse which left her crippled, brain damaged and deaf. Though she endured such profound horrors, she made more progress than I could have imagined. She learned how to play, enjoyed warm blankets and treats, romped with her sister Nicki, tossed the water bowl when it was empty, and snuggled with me every day. The painfully short three years she was with me, taught me more about her incredible spirit to enjoy life, and defined who I became because of her presence in my world. She was handicapped, but I like to think she was other abled; capable of so many abilities. Her spirit reminds me of Guard Dog. On the day Guard Dog is released, what he will do, learn and experience is something to look forward to. His adventures are waiting to begin, to show the world the incredible joy he has to share with us all!!!

Ellen L Meade