“Happiness Is a Warm Puppy” catapulted Peanuts into the pop culture stratosphere. A book of the same name that featured various scenarios showing what the Peanuts kids considered the state of being happy became the fifth best-selling fiction book of the 1960s. Peanuts posters and pennants dominated dorm rooms. Schoolchildren bombarded Schulz’ office with their own “Happiness Is…” drawings. “Happiness Is a Warm ______” became a popular phrase, with no end to what you could use to fill in the blank. A firearms periodical titled one of their articles “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” which so intrigued John Lennon that he used it for one of the most beloved Beatles songs ever.
It is, of course, a simple strip. Lucy walks over to Snoopy, pats him on the head, snuggles up to him and walks away with a smile, uttering the phrase that launched an empire. The genius of it is Schulz’ decision to make Lucy the one who says this heartwarming sentence. She is easily the most irascible of the Peanuts children, yet even she needs to feel secure and loved and warm and happy. She’s a fussbudget supreme, and Snoopy isn’t even her dog, and sometimes she wants to pound him, but at that moment that dog represents the peace that everyone needs to find and nestle into.
There is no hatred. No doubting. No arguing. No clever reference. There is love here, and it’s requited. It’s so requited your teeth could hurt. Just happiness. Elusive for so many hours of our lives, but resplendent when realized. So much of Peanuts delineated in pinpoint detail the suffering that plagues us. This strip recognized that it is not all despair. For what it represented to the world of Peanuts as both a work of art and a business franchise, it is my favorite daily.