The Bark
Guardians of Being
MUTTS’ Patrick McDonnell on his new book, Guardians of Being

Q: Tell us about Guardians of Being and how the project came about.
A: Guardians of Being reminds us why we love our companion animals. While we are lost in our thoughts and busyness of everyday life, they have become the key to the present moment, our guardians of being.
In his books, Eckhart Tolle often says that true happiness is found in simple things, but you need to be present. He says that animals and all of nature can teach us that presence. That same teaching is at the heart of MUTTS. Seeing a photo of Eckhart with his new dog, Maya, gave me the impetus to pursue this project. I thought combining my art with Eckhart’s teachings on how animals and nature can bring us into the present moment could be a good entry point “into the Now” for some people.
I created a proposal and Eckhart graciously agreed to collaborate. He edited quotes I selected from his prior talks, interviews and books, and wrote new material. He created a passionate, humorous, enlightening meditation on the power and grace that animals can bring into our lives.

Q: Why is it important to connect with animals?
A: Animals are our link back to nature. Walking a dog, petting a cat or simply watching birds outside a window can all take you outside yourself and into the bigger picture. Our companion animals remind us of the responsibility we have in the stewardship of our planet and all its creatures. The simple everyday choices we make—what we eat, wear, recycle and think, and how we treat each other—can help make the world a better, friendlier place.

Q: When did you decide to become a cartoonist?
A: I wanted to be a cartoonist as far back as I can remember. I’ve always loved the simplicity, immediacy, intimacy and absurdity of the comic-strip medium. From the start, I was enchanted by how a few simple pen-and-ink lines can come to life on the page, which is, for me, the magic of cartooning. Many great comic strips (such as Peanuts and Krazy Kat) spoke to me directly and I always wanted to give back some of the joy and comfort I found there. And, at its best, the humor and truth of a comic strip go beyond the obvious.
MUTTS, my comic strip about a dog, Earl, and his unlikely friend, a cat named Mooch, started in 1994. MUTTS focuses on experiencing the natural world (gentle rain, quiet flurries, full moons…) and that special bond that forms between companion animals and their guardians. My own Jack Russell Terrier, Earl, was my inspiration. Earl was my teacher; he constantly celebrated life. I tried my best to convey his joie de vivre and good-hearted spirit in my strip.

Q: How does your work on books compare to your process producing a daily comic?
A: Books and comic strips are different mediums, but my books are in some ways similar to my comic strip. I’m still telling stories with words and pictures. But books allow me to expand artistically and to tell a longer, more formal, story.

Q: You have won numerous awards, not only for cartooning, but also for your work surrounding animal protection issues. Can you speak about how your animal and earth-friendly philosophy influences your work?
A: I’ve been on the board of directors of The Humane Society of the United States for nine years. The mission of The HSUS is to create a humane and sustainable world for all animals—a world that will also benefit people. Through education, advocacy and public policy reform, the organization works to prevent animal cruelty, exploitation, and neglect, as well as to protect wild habitats and the entire community of life.
Doing a strip about animals reminds me that all life on this planet is fragile. As I became more of an environmentalist, it was natural that I would create MUTTS themes centered on those issues. We all need to be more responsible when it comes to our environment.

Q: Walk us through your creative process.
A: Making art can be a form of meditation. I start my day in the early morning by reading a passage or two from a spiritual book to keep my head and heart open. When it’s time to develop ideas, I sit in my drawing room with a sketch pad. The secret is to just get out of the way and let the ideas come. I really know my characters, so they tend to just write themselves to a certain extent. I know how they act. I put them in different situations and they usually come through for me. I am very fond of Mooch and Earl.

Q: Is there a life lesson we can take from all the animals we encounter?
A: Animals are living in the here and now. Our companion animals are not judging us, they are simply being with us. And they want to be with us. I think that’s what we refer to when we say “unconditional love.” If we ourselves could stop judging and just be in the moment, we could all be at peace. Animals can be the portal.

Click here to find out more about Guardians of Being, with text by Eckhart Tolle and art by Patrick McDonnell, published by New World Library.

Web Exclusives: Sept/Oct 2009
Expand your horizons here.

Welcome to our web exclusives. This is where you’ll find new and topical articles, instructions, links for taking action, multi-media bonuses and expanded versions of material in the print magazine. Enjoy!
Exclusives and Extras

  • Dog-o-Lanterns How to sculpt a special Halloween pumpkin By Terri Hardin
  • Guinness the Smiling Dog Letter to the editor By Ann McLean
  • Goose Buster Who you gonna call when geese overrun your golf course? By Susan Sarver
  • Walk It Off Grab a leash and get moving! By Dawn A. Marcus, MD
  • Rescue, Doubled How the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation saves lives By Lisa Wade McCormick
  • Sew It Up It’s the perfect time to really dress up the pup. Download instructions on how to make your own flower costume.
  • Guardians of Being MUTTS’ Patrick McDonnell on his new book, Guardians of Being
  • Pedigree Dogs Exposed - BBC [Video]
  • Waggers - Find out where Spanish entertainer Charo got her "cuchi, cuchi" tagline. [Podcast]


  • Dressed up Dogs Winners of the 2008 Bark halloween costume contest
  • 2009 Halloween Costume Contest Enter a photo of your dog and be featured on our website.


August 17th 2009
Smiling Dogs

Send us your smiling dog! We LOVE them and we WANT yours! When you e-mail your photo, be sure to include your dog's name in both the subject line and as the title of the photo. We pick 40 favorites to appear in each issue of our magazine (published six times a year). All the others will be posted online weekly. Look for yours to appear soon!

August 10th 2009
Smiling Dogs!

Need more smiling dogs?

August 3rd 2009
Many more smilers

Visit our smiling dogs page to see more!

July 27th 2009
Smiling Dogs

More contests! More smilers!

July 20th 2009
A new group of Smiling Dogs

See more smiling dogs. Visit our contest page and enter to win!

July 13th 2009
More Smiling Dogs

More smiling dogs on our Smiling Dog page or visit more contests on our Contest page.

July 6th 2009

Want to see more smiling dogs? or enter more contests?

Web Extras & Exclusives: July/Aug 2009
Good stuff we couldn't quite fit into our July 2009 issue.

You know how when you order a milkshake at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor the really good soda jerks always manage to make a little too much, which they let you have to replenish your drink. That’s how we see Web Extras. This is where you’ll find stuff—expanded versions of articles, instructions and links for taking action, and sometimes multi-media bonuses—we couldn’t quite fit in the magazine but that we hope will add to your enjoyment of the current issue.

  • Summer Tune-Up Five tips for leaping into the season on all fours. By Lisa Wogan
  • Dog Camp 101 Or, What I Learned by Starting My Own Dog Camp By Rebecca Wallick
  • Choosing A Daycare or Kennel Eight questions to ask before leaving your precious pup with strangers. By Bark Editors
  • Shep Watch vintage 1940s video of Shep at the Fort Benton Train Station
  • The Value of Screening Tests Who benefits from bundling? By Richard Lerner, DVM, MPH
  • Tips on Local Fun Readers share tips on local favorites By Bark Editors