Pop Culture Pet Peeve: Movies that include pets just to kill them

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Image Credit: Barry Wetcher

I’m not your typical movie crier. Unlike most of my friends, I don’t tend to cry at big romantic gestures or when anyone in a Nicholas Sparks movie dies. But there is one thing that will always get me, as well as most of the other people in the theater: killing an animal. I just can’t. So this week, I quite literally have a pet peeve to discuss with Hollywood.

First things first, there’s a big difference between an animal film in which one dies and a film that includes an animal just to kill it. This particular pet peeve does not apply to the likes of Homeward Bound or any Disney film ever. At least with those, I know to bring tissues and have an episode of Friends waiting for me when I get home. It’s the movies that include a pet purely to kill it that really rub me the wrong way.

There’s almost nothing I hate more than walking into an action film, or a horror film, and finding out that the protagonist has a dog. From then on out, I do nothing but spend the entire movie covering my eyes and waiting for the horrible moment when that dog is going to bite the dust, because it will happen. It always does.

Take I Am Legend, for example. Will Smith is the only member of his family to survive the Krippin Virus outbreak, and yet somehow, he has his dog, Samantha. They sleep together in a bathtub and the poor clueless animal still believes she can protect her idiotic owner, even when he drives her right into the middle of a fight. Surprise! She gets bitten by one of the freaky things — do I call them zombies or not? — and despite his attempts to save her, Samantha eventually turns and tries to bite him. Smith is forced to strangle her in a scene that absolutely wrecks me (and is way too long). I knew it was coming, and yet I couldn’t emotionally prepare myself. It’s a trap that movies often catch me in, and I don’t appreciate it.

A slightly less emotional example is Secret Window with Johnny Depp. In the film, Depp plays a writer who lives out in a cabin all on his own. Well, he lives with his dog, because, you know, he needs to kill the dog later in the film before he finds out — spoiler! — that he has a multiple personality disorder. At least in Secret Window I didn’t have to watch as the dog died, but I still had to see the aftermath of the poor thing having been killed by a screwdriver. Honestly, would the film have suffered from not including the dog to begin with? Not at all. It was barely around and then it was dead. That dog deserved better!

If you haven’t seen either of those films, pick a Mark Wahlberg movie and you’ll see what I’m talking about. In Fear, there’s the family dog that is obviously not going to make it, which is an understatement considering it gets decapitated. Or how about Shooter? From the second Wahlberg’s dog fetched him a beer from the fridge and won over my heart, I knew he was a goner. And then I had to sit there all tense for the next hour before they revealed that they killed it.

Stop trying to make me cry, movies! If a pet furthers your story and really benefits the film, great. And if that pet then needs to die, I still won’t like it, but it’s fine. However, if your sole purpose for including an animal is to make me fall in love with it just so you can rip it away from me, then shame on you!

And apparently I’m not alone in this considering there is a website called “Does The Dog Die?” So now, all of us can “end” certain movies early, much like Phoebe’s mother did with Old Yeller on Friends. Take that, Hollywood!


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