There is possibly no relationship in Garfield that better exemplifies the classic “Love/Hate” dynamic than that between the titular cat and The Dog Next Door. Much as he does in his other work relationships in the strip, Garfield dutifully clocks in to go over to Jon’s neighbour’s yard and get violently and angrily barked at by their dog. Absurd, yes, but how many of us work eight (or twelve, or eighteen) hour days in a job where we’re only disrespected and demeaned? Some people are particularly unlucky enough to have a boss who seems to do nothing but scream and verbally abuse them. Those sorts of people might as well be a dumb, vicious guard dog with an explosively hair trigger temper.
But Garfield does still have an amiable relationship with The Dog Next Door. His design shows him to be a friendly chap when he’s not on the clock, and he and Garfield have shown on multiple occasions they can get along just fine if they want to. Indeed, I think they not-so-secretly enjoy the unique relationship they share: They will speak of love and hate as if they’re interchangeable emotions (and in some cases, I guess they can be) and they often make it clear to us and to each other they value and treasure the special time they spend together. How you interpret this probably depends a great deal on how cynical you are. Are we so starved for love, affection and companionship that we latch onto whatever relationship we happen to find ourselves in, no matter how abusive or destructive? Or, rather, is it more the case that we are all of us more similar than not and, if we were able to shed our borders, walls and categories we would come to understand that even sworn enemies can find common ground?
Today, however, it’s business as usual, even though it doesn’t appear to be at first glance. There’s no barking and hissing, but even the most seemingly pleasant of conversations can hide hidden daggers and machinations. There is in truth no difference between debating and fighting, and this is a truth Garfield and The Dog Next Door know better than anyone-Watch how, over the course of today’s strip, the two animal-neighbours deftly navigate the verbal minefield they have laid for each other. The Dog opens by asking the question “Heard the news?”. In doing so, he is attempting to secure himself a position of power and authority over his interlocutor: Knowledge is Power, The Dog Next Door knows something Garfield doesn’t, and he wants to make sure Garfield knows it. Why else would he phrase his question in such vague terms? Lots of news happens every day, and there’s no way Garfield could be expected to know which particular news The Dog was referring to.
Indeed, in this day in age we are our own newspapers and our own newspaper censors. We only expose ourselves to the news that concerns or interests us (or tells us what we want or expect to hear, no matter how horrific that might be), so we can probably safely assume The Dog’s “news” is implicitly and by definition only going to be something that interests and concerns him, as a dog.…