LIVE WITH a character long enough, feeding your creation in a deep symbiosis over many years, and you can sometimes detect your creature’s needs, unspoken but clear, like a muted mission bell.

Several decades ago, Brad Anderson and wife Barbara set off on a Mediterranean cruise, so he got ahead of his deadlines at work. It was the equivalent of leaving plenty of food at home for your hungry pet till returning from your voyage.

Only Brad Anderson’s pet was Marmaduke, the galumphing cartoon dog who was appearing in hundreds of newspapers where millions of daily readers were paper-trained to find him. So Anderson FedEx’d his advance original art and said, “Bon voyage.”

Days passed, though, so that as the cartoonist basked in the Mediterranean breeze, the syndicate back in New York was waiting and waiting for the strips. Marmaduke had gone missing.

“The due date loomed, and we didn’t have the package,” recalls Amy Lago, his editor at United Media at the time. But on some level, Anderson seemingly detected his creature’s needs.

“Brad, God bless him, turned to Barbara during their trip and out of the blue told her he had to call the syndicate,” recounts Lago, now comics editor at Washington Post Writers Group. “Barbara thought he was, well, nuts, but he called. And I couldn’t believe he was calling from so far away … and just knew something was amiss.”

In this pre-Internet era, a cartoonist still often relied on physical art and familial help. “His daughter, Christine, lived near him and Barbara, so she was able to go to their home and send us his photocopies of the comics,” Lago says. “Thankfully, ‘Marmaduke’ never skipped a beat.” (This was years before Paul Anderson, Brad’s son, would help produce the feature.)

“An editor couldn’t ask any better than to have Brad on her roster of cartoonists,” Lago notes. “He was funny and kind, without the drama and angst that seems so often to accompany being so talented and creative.”

“I still don’t know exactly what happened to Brad’s package, though I suspect it was an overly conscientious cleaning lady,” says Lago (with whom the cartoonist “so enjoyed working with,” Paul Anderson notes to Comic Riffs).

In any case, as many a longtime cartoonist can tell you, the connection to your creation is profound. And Anderson — a 2014 recipient of the NCS Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award — was bound to his Great Dane for 61 years.

“I can’t explain Brad’s feeling that he had to call us,” Lago says, “other than Marmaduke was like his other self.”

Bradley Jay Anderson, who was born in Jamestown, N.Y., in 1924, died Aug. 30 in Woodlands, Tex. He was 91.