At Lord Jameson, we acknowledge dogs of all breeds, shapes, sizes, and colors. In our eyes, every dog is adorable and special in their own way. Today is a day to celebrate a certain kind of pups: MUTTS! National Mutt Day, which is celebrated twice each year, on both July 31 AND December 2, is a day to acknowledge our furry friends of mixed breeds.
n honor of the holiday, we interviewed Patrick McDonnell, the creator of award-winning cartoon strip MUTTS, which appears in over 700 newspapers in 20 countries. We felt there was no better way to honor mixed breed pups than to speak with McDonnell himself. He is an extraordinary advocate for animals (especially mutts!) and has used his brilliant comic to educate his readers about animal rights by teaching compassion, love, and companionship through visual storytelling.
Since early childhood, McDonnell has had a special bond with animals. He has been awarded two Humanitarian Awards, one from PETA in 2001, and another, the “Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award”, at the Eisner Awards in 2011. MUTTS has received numerous awards for its environmental and animal advocacy including two Genesis Awards from The Ark Trust, The HSUS Hollywood Genesis Award for Ongoing Commitment, and a Sierra Club award. McDonnell served as a member of the Board of Directors for The HSUS for 18 years, and is currently a board member for the Fund for Animals.
Lord Jameson had the pleasure to speak with Patrick McDonnell about his earth-friendly philosophy and infectious love for animals. It is an honor to share his brilliant insights on the importance of helping our animal friends, especially on this celebratory day.
Q. We have heard you talk about the deep connection you shared with your former Jack Russell, Earl, who inspired MUTTS. It is our understanding that it was this connection that made you conscious of animals’ fragility as sentient beings. What are three ways Earl has positively impacted your life and inspired your deep commitment to animal advocacy?
A. It’s true that the “real” Earl was the inspiration for the cartoon Earl in the MUTTS comic strip. In drawing animals every day (not just Earl but his friends as well) and thinking about the world from their perspective, I became more aware of how tough it is for so many animals on this planet. He made me keenly aware that all animals have thoughts and feelings, and that they deserve more. When I looked into any animal’s eyes, I could see Earl looking back at me. Animals are all sentient beings with whom we share the earth.
Earl was an incredibly happy dog who positively impacted my life in so many ways: by teaching me about gratitude, patience, and unconditional love. His joy for life was contagious, and I try to honor that spirit through the character Earl in my comic strip.
The bond I shared with Earl inspired me to speak up more on behalf of all animals. I wanted every companion animal to find a loving forever home, just like Earl did. And I wanted to use my voice to help all animals everywhere on this planet.
Q. We know that food is a very important facet of MUTTS, there are many comic strips of Earl eating. Did Earl have a special meal of choice?
A. One memory stands out. At first Earl wasn’t offered any “people food,” but while dog-sitting him over a weekend, my wife’s father gave him spaghetti. After that, we couldn’t have any Italian food without Earl wanting some.
Q. Was there a defining moment for you and your wife, Karen, that made you go from being a once a week vegetarian, to a permanent vegetarian? Would you say that you recognized the animal cruelty in the food chain or was it more about your bond with Earl that made you conscious of the human-animal connection?
A. There isn’t a specific moment that I can recall. We knew we wanted to commit to a lifestyle that showed respect to all living creatures, so we took conscious steps over time to reach that goal. We started with limiting our meat intake to once per day, then went vegetarian. We didn't miss meat at all. After several years we became vegan which, in retrospect, wasn't hard to do. I’ve been vegan for about 10 years. Being vegan in 2018 is so easy. There are now many options in grocery stores and restaurants. It's good for your health and for the planet, and it will end so much suffering for animals. I strongly urge people to go vegan. Just start with any step to make kind food choices.
Of course, my bond with Earl (and many other animals I’ve befriended), becoming educated about the cruelties that farmed animals face, and having a deep respect for our environment are all reasons I’ve become vegan.
Q. As an incredibly gifted artist and person with a strong connection to animals since childhood, we have heard you talk about seeing the world through the eyes of animals. When you experience the world through their lens, is this exact vision the artwork and stories you then create?
A. That’s a great question. Yes, sometimes my art exactly (or very closely) depicts my interpretation of the world through the eyes of animals. Earl’s excitement about going for walks, Guard Dog’s loneliness from living on a chain, and the anticipation of shelter animals hoping to get adopted are all examples of this train of thought.
Cats and dogs have such distinct personalities and are quite funny, so they make great cartoon characters. It’s also important to me to present animal issues such as factory farming, extinction, and fur in an informative but gentle way.
Q. We are incredibly inspired by your specific shelter story strip about Shtinky, can you tell us what led you to create that strip, in which Shtinky refers to the animal shelter as “angels”?
A. After becoming more interested and involved in animal welfare, I quickly saw how challenging it can be for people who dedicate their entire lives to helping our animal friends.
As Shtinky explains in that particular strip, shelter workers not only feed, bathe, and provide veterinary care for animals — they also give them love and attention, and often help them heal from cruelty or neglect. There are a lot of opportunities for joy and fulfillment in a job like that, but it can also take a huge emotional toll. Shelter workers are our unsung heroes. That’s why Shinky calls them angels. Because they are.
Q. Your cartoons have obviously had a huge impact on others when it comes to adopting and volunteering at shelters. In honor of National Mutt Day, what is one thing people can do to make a difference today?
A. Adopt a homeless animal! If you’re unable to adopt, you can contact your local shelter to find out where your help is needed most. Perhaps you can volunteer your time, donate household goods, or become a foster parent for an animal still searching for his or her forever home. And spread the word.
Join Lord Jameson and MUTTS in our efforts to recognize mutts everywhere. Adopt, volunteer at a shelter, or give a MUTT a hug and pat on the head and remind them just how special they are.