In a 1970 Beetle Bailey comic strip, the character Sarge scolds his uniformed dog, Otto.
“Think, Otto, think!!” Sarge says.
Otto replies, “We can’t all be Snoopy.”
Dog lovers can spot this oldie comic right now in the world’s largest cartoon museum at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a dog show like you’ve never seen . . . mainly because it doesn’t feature actual dogs, just drawings and videos of dogs as depicted by comic artists. The exhibit shows off two centuries of dogs in cartoons.
It all started when Brad Anderson, creator of the dog comic Marmaduke, donated his collection of cartoons in 2018. He included 16,000 originals drawn from 1954 to 2010. After that, museum employees started to wonder just how many other dog cartoons they could dig up.
People and dogs make great partners. Dogs can smell way better than we can—so much better that it’s hard to put into words. Dogs are loyal and can be trained, so people harness the dog’s God-given abilities. In return, dogs get food, shelter, and human friends for life. Once, people valued dogs mainly for the shepherding, hunting, and guarding work they did. Now people generally prize dogs for their friendship—and what people love, they make art about.
Otto the dog first appeared in Beetle Bailey in 1956. Until 1970, he was a regular four-legged dog. Then his artist, Mort Walker, gave him human-like qualities, plus his own uniform and desk. Most people seem to relate to comics about dogs. Something about eager-to-please dogs makes them the perfect species to anthropomorphize and joke about.
Exhibit viewers get a memory jog as they walk through history with well-known dogs like Sandy from Little Orphan Annie, Daisy from Blondie, and Dogbert from the Dilbert strip. George Booth’s scraggly New Yorker magazine cartoon dogs make an appearance, as do Trots and Bonnie, a toon girl and her talking dog.
The exhibit also includes a video about animated canines. Remember Scooby-Doo, Huckleberry Hound, Underdog, Disney’s Pluto and Goofy, or Slinky the Dog from the Toy Story movies? Spaghetti-sharing Lady and the Tramp make an appearance too.
And no dog story is complete without some cats. A few felines—Garfield, for example—sneak into the dog show too.