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The Accidental Tsuris

Claim:   Destructive act is conveniently blamed on household pet.

LEGEND

Examples:

[Brunvand, 1993]

Their mother had baked a Dutch apple pie for a special event. She left it on the kitchen table to cool while she ran an errand, warning the boys not to touch it. But the pie smelled wonderful, and the boys couldn't resist a tiny bite. One bite became several, until a major chunk of the pie had been eaten. They then heard their mother's car pull into the garage, and they knew they were trapped unless they could quickly cover up their crime.

The future lawyer got a brilliant idea. He grabbed the family cat and shoved its face into the pie, smearing its whiskers with gooey filling and crumbs. His mother walked in, looked at the cat, and saw what she interpreted as guilt written all over its face. She immediately grabbed the cat and threw it out the back door into a stream that ran behind the house.
 

[Brunvand, 1989]

I recently heard about a friend of a friend — what you call a
FOAF — who is an interior decorator with a thriving business on Chicago's wealthy North Shore. He had just finished painting an elegant home in Wilmette, and was going around with a can of touch-up paint, making sure everything was perfect.

He finished the last brush stroke, stepped back to admire his work, and kicked the paint can over onto the priceless Oriental rug. What to do?

At that moment, the client's yappy, snappy, obnoxious toy poodle, Fifi, trotted into the room. Thinking quickly, the decorator scooped her up and dropped her into the puddle of paint, at the same time exclaiming loudly, "Fifi! Bad Dog! What have you done?"
 

[Collected on the Internet, 2002]

A husband breaks a purple vase that belongs to his wife. she thinks the dog did it and she hates the dog. In her husband's absence she kills the dog and buries it in the back yard. the story ends with the husband confessing that in fact he and not the dog broke the vase, and the wife, who is contemplating the mound behind the rose bushes in the garden doesn't know what to say.
 

Origins:   Shoving Cartoon of the legend a hapless pet into the incriminating mess is a traditional way of shifting blame. One of Brunvand's readers recalls hearing the spilled paint story in 1929, so this one has been with us for a while.

Although pets can (and have!) spilled cans of paint, it's not reasonable to assume any self-respecting cat would have an interest in Dutch apple pie. A more believable way of presenting the story would be to change the food item into a tortière, a renowned French-Canadian meat pie. (Though tortière is good eating any time, it's a traditional Christmas Eve food in Quebecois households, often served at "Le Reveillion," the meal following Midnight Mass.)

Another legend, one about kinky teen sex, employs the scapegoated pet theme. In "Stain Feign," teenagers who've decided to engage in anal sex on the family's brand new white sofa afterwards rush out to buy a puppy to have something to blame the mess on.

Barbara "canine one one" Mikkelson

Sightings:   Our "blamed pet" legend shows up in a 1972 Toni Morrison novel, Bluest Eye, in a scene involving two children, a cat, and a berry cobbler.

Last updated:   1 August 2011

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Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Baby Train.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.   ISBN 0-393-31208-9   (pp. 25-27).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5   (pp. 132-134).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good to Be True.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (pp. 61-63).

Also told in:

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.
    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 54).