Breaking the Chain: The Guard Dog Story

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now available for preorder!

Just in time for the MUTTS 30th Anniversary: Fall back in love with the inspiring story of Guard Dog, a formerly chained dog whose 2023 freedom tale garnered fervent praise from animal welfare leaders and celebrities, and has touched the hearts of millions of readers around the world.

This book features the seven-week-long tale of Guard Dog’s unchaining and adoption, an illustrated history of Guard Dog (written by Patrick), real-life rescue stories, and empowering information from voices in the animal welfare community.

Includes a preface by Patrick McDonnell and introductions from Sidewalk Angels co-founders Marisol and Rob Thomas (of Matchbox Twenty).

preorder the book

NOTE: This book will begin shipping on its publish date of 9/3/24. (It will ship separately from other items in your order.)

Meet Guard Dog

Guard Dog (now known as "Sparky") made his debut in the MUTTS comic strip in 1995 and quickly became one of the strip’s most beloved characters. As a formerly chained dog who longed for freedom, he’s played an important role in raising awareness about the cruelty of tethering, and has inspired countless MUTTS readers to become involved in animal welfare.

"Guard Dog has made me much braver when it comes to reporting those who chain and neglect their poor dogs. At least two of my calls have definitely saved chained dogs!"

Lori Lynn


"When humans mistreat animals it reveals our hardness of heart rather than their lack of worth. And that hardness spills over into our dealings with those humans who we have been taught to believe are somehow 'other' than us."

Karen Dawn


"Guard Dog represents resilience and love — the true nature of animals. Even though he has been tethered it hasn’t stopped him from seeking and giving love."

Katy Hansen


Guard Dog Through the Years

Swipe to see a few memorable moments from Guard Dog's journey.


For years, Guard Dog spent his days and nights chained, with only the moon and an occasional animal visitor for company. Finally in 2004, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of a young neighborhood girl named Doozy. After that, Doozy paid Guard Dog many visits on her way to and from school, always arriving with something to brighten his day: a blanket, treats, a hug, a kind word, a reminder that he wasn’t alone in the world.

In late 2023, nearly three decades after MUTTS readers first fell in love with the character, Guard Dog’s freedom story began to unfold in a seven-week storyline. After being abandoned by his owner and left alone to suffer, Guard Dog was discovered by his animal friends Mooch and Earl, and ultimately rescued by Doozy and Ozzie (Earl’s guardian). On November 30, Ozzie broke the chain for good. On December 14, Doozy adopted Guard Dog — marking the end of a long life of neglect and the beginning of one filled with love.

From the beginning, several animal welfare groups implored Patrick 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. Though this is great news, this is less than half of the 50 states. It means more needs to be done.

Real-Life Rescue Stories

Bigfoot • Ohio

Bigfoot arrived at Adopt a Pit Rescue after living his entire life chained on a concrete pad. He was rescued by neighbors, then underwent multiple surgeries while in foster care. Now, he lives happily with his forever family.


Tyler ("Teetsie") • New York

This freedom story about a formerly chained dog named Tyler comes from Marisol Thomas, who co-founded the nonprofit organization Sidewalk Angels Foundation with her husband, musician Rob Thomas.


Herman • Michigan

Rescued by community volunteers at the Michigan Pit Bull Education Project, Herman suffered extreme neglect at the end of a chain before finding a loving home with his forever family.

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Freddy Furcury • Virginia

Freddy is a lovable, formerly tethered dog who was found with a chain embedded in his neck. He was rescued by shelter workers and is now living his best life with his adoptive mom Bethany.


"The forces that conspire to keep dogs on tethers and chains are complex, and these sad situations aren’t always what they seem. Some people tether their dogs not because they don’t care, but because they lack access to other options. Poverty and structural inequality create obstacles to affordable pet wellness resources, the same way people face food deserts or inadequate housing.

"With tens of millions of pets living with families in poverty, the extreme lack of access to pet resources is a national crisis. Real change that breaks the chain requires compassion for animals and their people alike."

Kitty Block


Questions About Helping Chained Dogs

Friends of Real-Life Guard Dogs

Tripawds: Made possible by the nonprofit Tripawds Foundation, this user-supported community offers free resources and assistance programs to help amputee pets and their people.

Sidewalk Angels: Sidewalk Angels Foundation is dedicated to providing critically needed funds and support to nearly 30 rescues and shelters that help to fight for the rights and fair treatment of those with no voice.

PETA's Community Animal Project: This outreach group focuses on “backyard dogs” in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The team works 365 days a year on improving quality of life and passing legislation to afford protection to chained and/or penned dogs.

Dogs Deserve Better: Based in Central Virginia, this organization provides assistance in under-resourced communities by offering spay and neuter services, fencing, insulated dog houses, vet care, dog food, and supplies. Their adoption and foster programs unite animals with their forever homes. They also advocate for humane legislation and educate community members on animal welfare.

Michigan Pit Bull Education Project (MPEP Outreach): This Flint, Michigan-based nonprofit promotes spay and neutering programs, educates youth about dog fighting, fights breed-specific legislation, and works with communities to end the practice of 24/7 chaining.

DawnWatch: DawnWatch encourages mainstream media to cover animal issues well so that people can make informed lifestyle choices in line with their own true values.