Guard Dog takes a stand for abused animals

Friday, March 4, 2011; 7:40 PM

Regarding the Feb. 26 Free For All letter "It's a dog's life":

I share Alice Lindsay's outrage over dogs kept on short chains. But as a fan of "Mutts" since its debut in 1994, I think the letter may have missed cartoonist Patrick McDonnell's point.

Guard Dog is consistently portrayed as an abused animal, precisely drawn to evoke our outrage. His wistfulness for just a few more yards of mobility and his unrequited yearning to meet other animals at his property line are common themes. They illustrate one of the things we love about dogs: their unquenchable optimism.

This is the darkest recurring motif in a generally lighthearted feature - even the annual "Shelter Stories" offer hope - so it's understandable that it might be easily misinterpreted. Every good story has a villain, and in this one it's Guard Dog's unseen master.

Gene Fellner, Derwood


Thanks for "Mutts," a cherished alternative to the snark and meta sensibilities of many comics. Alice Lindsay asked that Patrick McDonnell "free" Guard Dog from his short chain; McDonnell has promised on his Web site to do so someday but continues: "Guard Dog still has a job to do in the strip. He represents many dogs that live their entire lives chained. Some states have passed legislation to ban this practice, and I'm hoping that others will join in to improve the lives of every 'Guard Dog.' "

He encourages readers to contact state legislators to introduce a ban and points them to the Web site Dogs Deserve Better.

P.S. McDonnell also promises to someday turn the Fatty Snax Deli into a health-food store.

Paul McLane, Reston


I share Alice Lindsay's perception that it is "painful to observe" Guard Dog alone on a short leash in "Mutts."

These images, however, serve to increase awareness and remind us that many companion animals are neglected - they live (and die) without the love, companionship and exercise, and sometimes food, water and shelter, that they need. Creating emotional discomfort by showing Guard Dog's plight is therefore very much in keeping with artist Patrick McDonnell's humane philosophy.

Dalal Musa, Arlington

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