Brad Anderson has a 37-year-old dog.
"Dogs never live that long, but this one did. He's been feeding me all these years," allowed Anderson.
His dog's name is Marmaduke.
Marmaduke lives in Anderson's imagination but touches the lives of millions of people from all walks of life every day all over America and much of the world.
The dog is the lovable, mischievous, unpredictable, huge great Dane in Anderson's daily cartoon panel and Sunday comic strip appearing in more than 500 newspapers.
Thousands of dogs all over America and in many parts of the world are named Marmaduke after Anderson's creation.
"Readers send me letters and photographs telling me about dogs they named Marmaduke--Chihuahuas, chows, poodles, bassets, beagles, schnauzers, St. Bernards, Lhasa Apsos, Airedales, boxers, spaniels, pugs, all kinds of dogs," explained the 67-year-old cartoonist.
Anderson's current real life dog is a 5-year-old female great Dane named Marmaladee. His daughter Christine's great Dane is called Marmaduchess.
His cartoon panel and comic strip are carried in many countries, in places like Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Australia, England, France and Spain.
In most countries, as in America, the dog's name is Marmaduke. But in Germany, it's Archibald.
"Don't ask me why because I don't know. I guess the Germans want a German name for my dog," said Anderson.
Why did he call the great Dane Marmaduke when it first appeared on the funny pages in October, 1954? "I named him after a British lord," the artist recalled.
At least he thought he was naming the dog after an English lord. Years later, when Anderson was visiting Great Britain, the editor of a newspaper that carries the strip told him: "There has never been an English lord named Marmaduke."
All their married life, Anderson and his wife, Barb, have had dogs. They were high school sweethearts in Brocton, N.Y., and have been married 46 years, have three sons, a daughter and six grandchildren. They have made their home in Escondido eight years.
"We've owned various breeds of dogs. All have contributed ideas to Marmaduke, just as Marmaladee has been doing since she's been with us. Marmaladee helps me out a lot, the poses she gets into, the unusual things that happen to her," he explained.
"Everywhere I go, people tell me something about their dogs. Readers write and describe crazy things that happen to their dogs. Ideas pop into my head. I jot them down. Every drawer in the house has slips of paper with ideas for the cartoon."
On rare occasions someone criticizes something he has drawn, like a woman who chastised him for depicting Marmaduke chasing cats.
"Barb and I have a cat, a Siamese named King Tut. We like cats. But cartoonists have the last word. So, after I got that letter, I drew a Sunday strip about Marmaduke protecting birds from all those mean cats out there," laughed Anderson.
Born in Jamestown, N.Y., Lucille Ball's hometown, Anderson's father and grandfather were both inventors who had patents on farm equipment.
He was a cartoonist for his high school newspaper. During World War II he spent three years and four months in the Navy, 16 months of it in the thick of fighting in the Pacific as a motor machinist aboard the 744LCI (L), a landing ship.
After the war, he attended Syracuse University on the GI Bill. He did cartoons for the school newspaper and magazine and successfully free-lanced cartoons to the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers and other leading publications before launching Marmaduke.
"Marmaduke got off to a slow start. Only eight newspapers ran it the first few months, one was the Los Angeles Times," he recalled. The United Feature Syndicate cartoon is more popular now than ever. Collections of the cartoon have been published in 25 Marmaduke books with sales of more than 15 million copies.
He acknowledges that some of the situations are exaggerated in the comic panel and strip but insists they do reflect real life in the dog world. "Marmaduke is a real dog, not a talking dog. You won't find any balloons with words over his head except when he's thinking about a nice big roast or pie to eat," said Anderson, who is certain dogs have imaginations and dreams.
"I know they're dreaming when they yip and yelp and kick their feet while sleeping," he observed.
What really pleases the cartoonist are letters from parents and teachers thanking him for helping children learn to read because of their curiosity to find out what it says under his cartoon.