Meet the Creator of the MUTTS Comic, Patrick McDonnellPublished September 5, 2012
I've been a huge fan of the MUTTS comic strip for years. It manages to distil humor, beauty and sometimes sadness in just a few words and pictures. If you've ever loved a pet, you've probably seen glimpses of your best friend in the panels. I was honored to interview MUTTS creator Patrick McDonnell to learn more about my favorite comic and the stories behind it.
Victoria Schade: The animals in your strip feel so real - we all know an Earl or a Mooch, even though they're cartoon creatures that know how to talk. Do you look to your own pets to bring the MUTTS gang to life? (I'm assuming that you don't have a pet crab, though!)
Patrick McDonnell: The strip’s inspiration began with my love for my own dog, Earl. From the beginning, I wanted the animal characters in MUTTS to be as true to their animal nature as an anthropomorphic character could be.
My own dog, Earl, lived to be 19 years old and he truly was my best friend. My new dog, Amelie, has traits that are working their way into my comic-strip-Earl’s personality. Mooch is a combination of many cats I’ve had the pleasure to know. The two cats I live with now (MeeMow and Not Ootie) definitely influence my work on a daily basis.
Schade: Do any real life scenarios from your home life creep into the strip?
McDonnell: It happens all the time. For example, Amelie’s obsession with the ball has become a regular theme as Earl’s obsession. I spend a good part of my day studying my pets and wondering what they are thinking.
Schade: We all feel terrible for Guard Dog, chained outside by himself. (He makes me cry.) You've said that you'll set him free someday ... do you have that day in mind, perhaps when more anti-chaining legislation passes?
McDonnell: This question is the one I am asked most. MUTTS readers often tell me that Guard Dog should go free, while others say he is bringing awareness and needs to continue doing so. Some people have told me that, because of Guard Dog, they have gone to a neighbor, asked for their chained dog, and given that dog a much better life.
That being said, of course I do plan to set Guard Dog free. I’ve already written the story, and promise it will happen in the next few years.
Schade: Your “Shelter Stories” strips manage to convey the sadness that is daily life in a shelter, but there is an undercurrent of hope in many of them. Do you get feedback from readers who were inspired to adopt by the animals in "Shelter Stories"?
McDonnell: One of the nicest things about doing MUTTS is feedback from readers. Many tell me they were inspired to go to the shelters or rescue groups to find their new best friend. It’s especially wonderful when they let me know that they now volunteer at a shelter as a result of “Shelter Stories. ”
Schade: You've written a number of books. Is there one that best represents the spirit of your message?
McDonnell: Hopefully all my books convey a spirit of kindness, and of honoring animals. Three of my favorites are:
MUTTS Shelter Stories: Love. Guaranteed, a collection of the “Shelter Stories” strips, along with real life tales and photos of animals that were rescued; The Gift of Nothing, a children’s book which is a meditation on friendship and love; and Guardians of Being, a collaboration with Eckhart Tolle on ‘the power of now’ and the beauty of the natural world.
Schade: Was there ever a real little pink sock in your household? McDonnell: Yesh, but it appeared in the MUTTS strip first.