Some years ago, I acquired a dog, and found myself for the first time having to consider what sort of dog owner I would be. During our first week together, I laid down some ground rules:
1) The dog could come with me in the car sometimes, but I didn't want to be one of those guys whose dog comes with him everywhere. Those guys have the filthiest passenger-side windows you've ever seen.
2) I would never hesitate to snap a photo of my dog, but I would also never, ever share those photos with anyone unless specifically asked. Even then, I resolved to keep the best shots on my phone handy for quick deployment and display before hastily being jammed back in my pocket as I changed the subject.
3) If my dog did something funny, it would have to count as an objectively funny act before I brought it up in conversation, and even then, we'd have to already be talking about pets or whatever.
4) No people food for her, and no dog food for me.
5) While I had every intention of speaking to my dog like a person, I must never think that she "gets me."
These rules would ensure that I could remain both a loving, attentive dog owner while not losing all my friends because I suddenly became a "dog guy." I'd seen it happen to others, and holy macaroni, do those guys get tiresome after ten minutes or so. They're worse than bird people, but not as bad as ferret people.
The only acceptable application of others' appreciation of their respective dogs comes in the form of a regular feature in Marmaduke's Sunday strips, in the "Dog Gone Funny" section. Readers' tales of pet-related mischief, farce and otherwise notable behavior is recounted for the world's amusement, and is ideally suited to the strip-- if you've just completed reading a Marmaduke comic, chances are you'll stick around a little longer to read about other things dogs do. The wording is cleaned up and the story streamlined to better fit within the panel's size and tone, and there's a nice little illustration of the incident nestled in for verisimilitude. It's in line with the elegance for which Marmaduke is known.
The strip gets a surprisingly large amount of mail from readers, judging by the lag between a submitted letter's date and the date on which it's used. For editing purposes, photocopies of the original letters were for years included alongside the line art and color guide sent to us for processing, mostly to double-check the spelling of names and towns. I haven't seen a new one in a year or so, which is more of a bummer than I feel comfortable admitting. What are people's dogs up to these days? Sunday is so far away!
Because we're a well-managed group of professionals around here, these old letters are preserved for posterity in our archives. Because I'm frequently rooting around in our archives and am curious by nature, I have read a majority of these letters and found them to be a fascinating mix of sweetness, sincerity and occasional evidence of dangerous prescription medication interactions. Because sharing them with you totally makes good on the whole "posterity" thing, the following are a few highlights from the ol' mail bag that I found notable for reasons upon which I'll either elaborate below, or leave to you to determine. All of the following letters are well over a decade old-- I assume these are from the last wave of first-generation Marmaduke fans, based on the handwriting and the writers' propensity for personalized stationery. Names and locations have been obscured, lest this post be misconstrued as mean-spirited mockery; all other details (save for added highlighting) are as they originally appeared.
Funny enough for inclusion in "Dog Gone Funny", but the original letter comes off as really sinister due to lack of punctuation and reckless capitalization. The original letter was assembled from words cut out of different magazine ads.
Your neighbors hate you. Furthermore, the photo of your dog included with your letter suggests it is actually a tuber.
Considering the heavy chain and what appears to be a radio-controlled exploding collar, maybe don't let your toddler grab the part of that giant dog's face that serves to keep its sharp, unbreakable teeth sheathed. And for heaven's sake, don't take a photo of the event, unless you need a "before" picture to show to the cops.
This is all the letter said. No signature, no return address. Even in the context of the Marmaduke folder in our archives, it still sort of creeps me out.
…in his stomach. Forever. We all float down here.
This letter, as well as the following one, have different addresses and names attached, but are very clearly from the same person. The first one is notable as both an example of totally unremarkable dog behavior, as well as the emphatic non sequitur at the end. Bonus points for the spooky handwriting.
Sort of buried the lede on this one.
The letter attached to this one isn't worth including, and I'm sure the original photo looked totally normal prior to being Xeroxed on the devil's copier.
Person 1: "Hey, what if Sauron was a dog?"
Person 2: [Holds up this photo]
Person 1: [Instantly turns to ash]
Madam, you're either the owner of a dog-shaped African Grey Parrot, or a bloody liar.
Out of context, "I keep my food in the washing machine" is a fun thing to overhear a stranger say at a rally to abolish shelving. In context, it's a deeply troubling sign that your animal companion needs some gentle correction, as well as an explanation for why you wore pizza to work the other day. A side note: many, many of these letters contained some mention of the dog in question being a rescue, usually framed as a point of either pride or an entreaty to the reader to admire the heck out of the author. Judging by this letter, the state is about to make this lucky dog a rescue twice-over.
What comes through in all of these letters, even the crazy ones (especially the crazy ones) is that people who love their pets love them in largely the same way; a sort of minor-key variation on the way people love their kids, a deep bond that prompts an overpowering hey-look-at-this-picture-of-my-li'l-guy instinct. It makes for some mighty tedious elevator rides or smalltalk at parties, but also speaks to the very reason pet ownership is a thing: a self-sustaining relationship that adds a little more love to the world. It goes against everything for which I stand to end on such a positive note, but I've been reading these letters all day, and I can't help it.
Hey, while I have you here, do you want to see a picture of my girl Sadie? Isn't she just a peach? Come back next week for a few dozen more photos and videos of her. I have so many stories to force on you. She's a rescue!