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 am almost in tears! Thank you so much for your compassion & the encouraging words. Even on my crappiest days, and I have many, Mutts NEVER FAILS to put a smile on my face and even though it may be for only a minute, it’s the often the best minute of my day & for that I am truly thankful to you!

Jan S Arrigo

I love the sweet expression on Guard Dog’s face! Happy to hear he will be untethered sometime in the future.

Michael Anthony

Love this insight. Thanks for explaining.

Ruth Ann McKay

I love that you have continued to feature Guard Dog, even though everytime he shows up my heart hurts. Thanks for the update on anti chaing legislation. I look forward to the day that G.D. is free!


I cannot tell you how good it makes me feel to know that Guard Dog will be released. The impact of the drawings with him always tear at my heart and without any effort tears form in my eyes. I am so grateful for the animal welfare issues that Mutts gently but poignantly shares with the public as well as the humor that so often leaves me smiling. Reading Mutts makes for a better day each day.


I am so grateful for your talent Patrick. It truly gets me through the day. I’ve always know that Guard Dog was drawn with good intentions and by someone with a good heart. Thank you for all the hard work, laughs and smiles. Take care. Dana

Dana L. Russell

Thank you, Patrick. Mutts is a daily whisper to my heart. It reminds me that there is still good out there, and in me. Guard Dog’s story has broken my heart for all the right reasons, and I’ve always seen him as an invaluable symbol. No good comes from averting our glances from cruelty. I will rejoice when Guard Dog is free, and I have also appreciated what he has meant to all of us all in the animal kingdom.


I am just glad Guard Dog has someone to love him and sit with him and hug him like Doozy. She gets it. Love is the answer, and you know that for sure.

Sydney K Gruber

I would love to see more hamsters in your strip. Hamsters also need a voice as they are far too often forgotten, left behind. I’m a member of the Ontario Hamster Club. We advocate for proper care, shelter and feeding of these wee creatures.

Andrea Lewis-Taggart

When I worked in a restaurant in FlintHill, Va., I used to look out the window at the dog who lived across the street who was chained up every day. of the year, with a small dog house to seek shelter in when the weather was horrible. On afternoon I walked across the street to talk to the owned and asked if my friend and I could tale him to our farm to live. He said “Yes”. We named him Timber, and he lived on the farm, free and happy for the rest of his life. When Timber died, he was buried on the farm, in the family grave yard… terrific, free dog!

Susan Achenbach