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Dead Air

Claim:   A pet owner ships the body of a beloved animal by air; unknowing baggage handlers fear they've killed the animal and replace it with a live one.

LEGEND

Example:   [Eilbirt, 1991]

A lady is on her way to Israel. She wants to purchase a seat for her dog, which is in a special cage, but the airline will not agree. After a long argument, she permits the attendants to put the cage with the baggage.

At Lod airport she disembarks, and through some strange circumstance, the dog, cage and all, had disappeared. She keeps needling the airline people, telling them that they should have listened to her and permitted her to keep the dog with her on the plane. Needless to say, the airport personnel are very apologetic, but keep reassuring her that the animal will be found and returned to her.

Sure enough, the cage turns up, but to their consternation they discover that the dog is dead! Swiftly, they contact every kennel in Israel and, luckily, they find a dog that looks almost identical to the dead one. This whole process has taken several hours, during which they have received numerous phone calls and complaints from the lady.

Now the airport manager calls her up and tells her, "Madam, we will have your dog at your hotel within an hour."

And he is as good as his word. Forty-two minutes later he himself arrives at the Hilton with the cage and dog. The lady takes one look at the dog and starts to wail: "That's not my dog! That's not my dog! You liars, thieves. What have you done with my pet?"

Well, the manager sees that he is in the soup; he might as well confess. "Madame," he reports, "unfortunately when we found your dog, it was dead. So we disposed of it and got you a replacement which is almost an exact replica of the one that died."

But the woman won't be soothed. "You fools, liars, no-goods. That dog was dead when I put it on the plane! Don't you understand anything? I wanted to bring it to the Holy Land to bury in sacred soil!"

 

Origins:   This tale is nearly identical in structure to the Hare Dryer legend: Both feature persons who, mistakenly believing themselves to be responsible for the death of someone else's pet, try to cover up their culpability by replacing the dead animals — only to find that they have exacerbated an unfortunate situation by substituting a live (or seemingly live) pet in place of one that was already dead.

As anyone who has watched television knows, the substitution of a similar-looking animal for a pet that dies while in the hands of Dead dog cartoon a caretaker is a stock comedic plot. (The owner is rarely fooled by the ruse, of course.) This particular version (with its twist of an already dead animal "dying" again) had been around (according to Brunvand) for "at least a dozen years" by 1988. It enjoyed an upswelling of popularity that year, perhaps due in part to its inclusion in lectures delivered by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North (of Iran-Contra notoriety). More recently, during an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, actor Steven Seagal told this story as having happened to him.

Sightings:   It's impossible to keep a good legend down, as Click and Clack, the hosts of radio's Car Talk, discovered on 9 March 1996 when a caller named Max not only claimed this happened to him but added a level of hilarity to the existing legend by rounding out his version with a twist of being forced to keep the replacement dog and being billed $75 a week to feed it.

Last updated:   10 August 2011

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Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5   (pp. 156-158).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good to Be True.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (pp. 43-44).

    Eilbirt, Henry.   What Is a Jewish Joke?
    Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1991.   ISBN 0-87668-669-2   (pp. 239-240).

Also told in:

    Harvey, Paul Jr.   For What It's Worth.
    New York: Bantam, 1991.   ISBN 0-553-07720-1.   (p. 67).