MUTTS Shelter Stories

On November 1, 1998, Patrick McDonnell published the very first MUTTS Shelter Stories comic strip in honor of National Animal Shelter Awareness Week! The image featured Shtinky Puddin’ praising the shelter angels who fed, washed, and held him when he was lost — so he wouldn’t “feel so alone in this big ol’ world.”

In the last two decades, animals of all shapes, sizes, and species have appeared in Patrick’s biannual Shelter Stories series. Just like the animals who find themselves in real shelters, some were wayward pets looking for their guardians. Others were abandoned or “surrendered,” or strays hoping to find forever homes. Many found new, happy lives with adoptive families. Some waited. And waited …

Over the years we’ve received many messages from readers who said they were moved to adopt or volunteer as a result of MUTTS Shelter Stories. We’re grateful for these letters and and feel humbled to play a small role in making the world a better place for shelter animals.

Adapted from a 2008 Issue of BARK Magazine:

Shelter Stories: An Interview With Patrick

How did the Shelter Stories strips start?

Earl and Mooch have loving guardians and homes. A couple of years into the strip I thought I should tell the stories of all the cats and dogs in our shelters waiting for the same. I played with a few ideas in my sketch books when the Humane Society of the United States wrote me to ask if I could do something to help celebrate National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week. So that November I did a week series of Shelter Stories, and I’ve been doing it twice a year since then.

Have you found comic strips to be an effective advocacy tool?

I think when you are a part of a reader’s life every day, you become a little like family or a friend. You can present ideas in an open atmosphere and, hopefully, in an entertaining way. I always felt the best comic strips can touch people’s lives.

How has the public responded to the series?

Shelter Stories is one of the more popular features of MUTTS. Some people tell me these are their favorite strips (even when they make them cry). Many dedicated souls who work at shelters have also let me know how much they appreciate these stories.

A MUTTS Shelter Stories comic strip featuring a shelter cat, who says: "I woke up this morning thinking this was going to be the best day ever! Did you? Hmm. If not, I sure can help."

Adapted From a Live Interview at Small Press Expo

Making a Difference for Shelter Animals

What impact do you hope to make with your strip?

In MUTTS I want to give back some of the joy I felt when reading my favorite comics. I also hope that people will try to see the world through the eyes of an animal, and to have kindness, empathy, compassion for them and the planet.

What is the most touching shelter story a reader has ever told you?

I had a police officer contact me to say that she rescued a deaf Staffordshire Terrier (commonly known as a pit bull) and brought it to her local shelter. She was contemplating going back and adopting the dog herself when she open the paper and read that day’s MUTTS strip. It happed to be the Shelter Stories week, and I had featured a deaf dog in a shelter who asked the reader to “listen to your heart." She immediately closed the paper and drove to the shelter to bring that dog home — a happy ending for all.

What else can people do for shelter animals?

Of course, if you’re thinking about getting a cat or dog, always adopt.  Each time you buy rather than adopt it means an animal in the shelter does not find a home. You can also volunteer (there is always so much to do), or simply take some of the dogs at the shelter for a walk, or drop off blankets and/or food. And you can work to create or support ballot initiatives which can make the world a better place for animals.