Kip’s Addiction

I loved writing cartoon ideas for Strange Brew, a nationally syndicated cartoon panel originated and drawn by John Deering of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. One of my favorites was the cartoon I wrote about Kip, my Brittany Spaniel, attending a 12-step meeting.

After it was printed, a few people I showed it to told me they didn’t get it. And one friend in my writing group said she was getting the same reaction from her friends. I was perplexed. What’s not to get about a dog saying he’s addicted to cats?

As it turns out, those people weren’t reading very carefully. They read Cataholic as Catholic. What? Why would a dog be standing up at a 12-step meeting stating that he’s a Catholic??? I was flabbergasted.

A few days later,  Lou Gelfand, the ombudsman for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, printed this in his column:


The aptly named “Strange Brew” cartoon on the comic page Wednesday showed a dog at a dais addressing fellow canines. A wall posted said “12-step program.”

The speaker said, “Hi . . . may name is Kip . . . I’m a cataholic.”

Several readers who may have misplaced their reading glasses lost their intellectual equilibrium. Typical was this e-mail:

“It was offensive, caustic, ignorant and persecuting to even remotely imply that being a Catholic is in any way an affliction or addiction. Another example of irresponsible and unbridled liberalism.

Hilarious! I was curious so I called Lou, told him that the cartoon was my idea and asked about the other responses he had received. He said an irate dentist had called him, fuming about the paper’s anti-Catholic bias. Lou let the fellow finish ranting, then calmly said, “The dog is saying he’s a cataholic, not a Catholic.” Click.

SNL's Gilda Radner as Emily Litella: "Never mind."

Again, hilarious! Can you imagine that dentist going from outraged to mortified in one second flat? It calls to mind Emily Litella from Saturday Night Live: Oh, that’s different. Never mind.”

I called John Deering and told him about the complaints and he was floored too. It never would have occurred to us in a million years that Cataholic would be read as Catholic. We had a good laugh about it!

What a difference a letter makes!

The real Kip! (To the best of my knowledge, he wasn't Catholic)

Rockabye Kip and me

A nice Daddy and Doggie moment

Click here to see my Strange Brew cartoon about my daughter’s gold medal at the Bedtime Olympics!

Click here to see all my humorous posts.


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12 Responses to “Kip’s Addiction”

  1. Julie Says:

    Hi Phil,
    Just discovered your blog. I read the joke as “Catholic” also, but I found it to be funnier that way than by reading “Cataholic.” I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. As a liberal and a Catholic, I’ve been increasingly alienated from the church I grew up in, and wish I could just quit being Catholic. So the dog’s confession struck me as funny. I’m not surprised that the cartoon inspired outrage, though. People who take organized religion too seriously are a humorless bunch.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Nice to hear from you, Julie. A number of people said they thought the Catholic interpretation was funny, although I fail to see the connection between dogs and Catholicism! Maybe it’s because Kip is confessing??? ULtimately, I think what’s funniest about this is that John and I had no clue that people would read this as Catholic instead of Catholic. Perhaps we should have hyphenated it!

    But yes, people who are easily offended about any subject probably tend to be a bit humorless.

  3. Julie Says:

    I think people unconsciously substitute a familiar word for an unfamiliar one when reading, hence “Catholic,” “cataholic.” As for dogs and Catholicism, perhaps people are so used to seeing anthropomorphized animals in cartoons, they don’t make the distinction between animal and human behavior. After all, a real dog wouldn’t be standing at a podium addressing an audience of fellow dogs, any more than it would profess religious belief.

    I hope my comment didn’t leave the impression that I’m anti-religion; I’m not, just frustrated with my own church.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    No worries, Julie. I hope you work out your frustrations in a way that ultimately brings you satisfaction.

  5. Deb Says:

    Harumph. Kip looks like a Catholic to me.

    Thanks for the chuckle, Phil.

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You’re quite welcome, Deb!

  7. Virgil Says:


    I also read it catholic but did not take offense because I know of good Catholics who went through the 12-step process to shake off their addiction to alcohol. Instead I found myself asking what the deeper meaning was.

    Confession? Practicing Catholics go to confession at this time of the year (Advent) but not in Kip’s setting. It is a public/private event, publicly queuing with other penitents but privately owning up to one’s shortcomings. At its best, Catholics re-enact the encounter of the prodigal son with the good father of the parable where the encounter matters more than the recitation of sins. In the parable, the father barely listened to the son’s well-rehearsed line before declaring it’s party time. For Julie and your other Catholic friends, that story is in Luke 15:11.

    Kip reminds me of the pet dog of one who owned up to being a recovering alcoholic. Loneliness is a factor alcoholics contend with and, in his case, a dog was not only man’s best friend, it was God-sent.

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Good point about dogs being God-sent, Virgil. Couldn’t agree more. How can you be lonely with a goofball like Kip prancing around?

    Funny how a misinterpretation of a cartoon can lead to a discussion on religion and repentance!

  9. Mary Ellen Ott, M.Ed., RCC, C.Ht. Says:

    That blog about your dog is hilarious! When I clicked through from your newsletter to read it, I too misread the cartoon and thought, “Gee, that’s not really Phil’s style.” Very funny…

  10. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You know, I’m beginning to think that reading Cataholic as Catholic is the rule, not the exception. Thanks, Mary Ellen!

  11. mel Says:

    Mr. Phil Bolsta,

    I love cats! It’s the main reason why I like Garfield and Doraemon as my fave cartoon characters as opposed to my friends who likes mickey mouse and his friends. I just didn’t know that there’s a term for ‘addiction’ to cats which is cataholic until today.

  12. Phil Bolsta Says:

    As far as I know, there wasn’t a term for cat addicts, mel. I made it up!

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