For some reason, it’s always the ones with animals that get me the worst.
As everyone knows from seeing CUJO (a movie that made me wary of my family’s poodle for weeks), rabies is pretty damn scary. I was far more deeply scarred by a cartoon public service announcement I saw back in the early ’80s or very late ‘’70s. It was animated, a simple line drawing of a friendly dog with a wagging tail on a plain white background. As the camera pushed in, however, the dog lost his friendly expression . . . eyes grew hard and flinty, lips curled in a snarl, foam dripping from the mouth. And then it lunged at the camera as the voice over rather needlessly reminded us not to pet strange dogs. I hid behind the couch when that one came on.
There was another one in a very similar style where a dog is closed in a hot car and dying. You think I’d be happy to see it go after that rabies commercial, but nooooo, it was time to run out of the room and weep. The P.S.A.s of that time period were high octane nightmare fuel. I was completely unstrung by the one warning us not to play in abandoned fridges because we could be locked in and asphyxiate. The idea of being trapped in a tiny space in the utter darkness, slowly running out of air and crying for help unheard was about the worst fate I could imagine. This was about 25 years ago that I saw it and when I accidentally shut my kitten in the fridge for about 5 seconds (he meowed to be let out), I almost had a freaking panic attack. I was sweaty and having heart palpitations for a long time afterward, and I blame that damn P.S.A.
About the worst ever wasn’t quite kindertrauma, since I saw it when I was in college, but I’ll share anyways because it’s one more in a long line of these things. This was back when Animal Planet had just gone on the air. I only saw the P.S.A. once – that was enough. Apparently it was for a rescue organization that saved pets from disasters when their owners had to be evacuated. It starts with a long shot of a sweet old lady in her rocking chair, hugging her cat (which looked identical to my cat at the time). We can hear sirens, people yelling and crying in the distance, the sound of running feet. The camera slowly pushes in. We hear knocking, and a man’s voice calling out, asking if anyone is in there, telling her she needs to get out. The old woman only hugs the cat tighter and whispers that she’ll never leave him behind. I swear to you, I am tearing up as I write this! That poor grandmother is going to DIE because the evil evacuation people would otherwise make her leave behind her beloved pet to certain DEATH, and now they’re both DEAD DEAD DEAD.
Thanks, Animal Planet, you bastards. I cried like a baby when I saw it, and then when I laughingly tried to describe my reaction – rather weird, since as an adult I love horror movies and that sort of thing – I started to cry again. It’s been years, but if I ever had to cry on cue, all I’d have to do is think of that P.S.A.