I want you to do something Sunday morning. It’s pretty simple—just open your newspaper and look at the MUTTS comic strip by Patrick McDonnell. (If yours isn’t one of the more than 700 papers that carries MUTTS, or you’ve moved beyond paper, you can see an archive of the strips at muttscomics.com.)
Sunday’s strip is a tribute to animal shelters.
Twice a year, for the last decade, Patrick has created a week of shelter-themed comic strips. And all 10 years of strips, along with more than 70 candid and endearing photos of adopted pets, now fill the pages of Patrick’s latest book, "Shelter Stories: Love. Guaranteed." It’s a fantastic book, and one you should buy or give as a gift to any animal lover or to a friend who may not know much about adoptions and animal shelters.
I had the privilege of writing the book’s foreword for Patrick, who is a dear friend and one of the nicest people you will ever meet on this planet. He has served on the board of directors of The HSUS since 2000, and has been a tireless advocate for animals throughout his adult life. Over the years, MUTTS has mixed humor with real insight into every issue we work on—including the Canadian seal hunt, the cruelty of fur, factory farming, the wildlife trade, puppy mills, and the tethering of dogs.
His characters Earl the dog and Mooch the cat are most often the stars in MUTTS. In the shelter-themed strips, however, the characters are, to use Patrick’s words, “the innocent animals who patiently wait for a home, the dedicated workers who devote such care to them, and the kindhearted people who adopt them.”
If I were to make a list of the most valuable yet underappreciated jobs, “animal shelter professional” would have to be somewhere near the top. Every day, these men and women perform challenging—and sometimes heroic—acts to help animals, too often without the recognition they deserve. To have an artist as talented and popular as Patrick celebrate their work in front of millions of readers is a needed and well-deserved morale boost.
In a couple of weeks, more than a thousand animal care and rescue professionals will be able to thank Patrick in person when he addresses the crowd and signs copies of his book at Animal Care Expo, the world’s largest education conference for people working in the animal care field. (It’s still not too late to sign up to attend.) He’ll be joined by another great cartoonist, author, and animal advocate—Berkeley Breathed.
You probably know Berkeley best from his hugely popular creations, Bloom County and Opus. A couple of years ago, he turned his imagination and wit to "Flawed Dogs," a book about a mythical animal shelter and its equally unique inhabitants. His message: that even imperfect dogs can be perfect companions.
Comic strips that include a message, along with humor and irony, are part of the American cultural tradition. With Patrick and Berkeley, we are fortunate to have two immensely talented cartoonists using their talents to help animals. And we couldn’t be prouder to count them as friends.