This week I would like to recognize Brian Griffin, singer, writer, porn producer, and loyal dog to the Griffin family, drinking buddy to head of household Peter, who suffered unrequited love for his Mom Lois, and best friend to youngest child Stewie. He passed away after suffering injuries when he was hit by a car.
Actually….I wouldn’t. Brian was a cartoon character on a sometimes amusing, often shocking, TV series, where all the characters stayed the same age, so Brian was lucky, with no one getting older, he was given the rare gift of being able to stay with his family forever.
As dysfunctional as these cartoon families are they are a bit of a fantasy for our parents, who would like to freeze a specific moment in time, when all their children were living under one roof, everyone was healthy, and the family dog never showed a second of aging.
Which is why Brian’s death struck me as cruel. Like most dogs, he was the moral center and voice of reason in a home filled with overly emotional humans. I know my parents would have loved if I could have comforted them with words, not just actions. And if I never aged, could be with them forever, that was beyond their wildest dreams. As often happens with works of fiction humans identify with the work, especially with a dog who never grows old and never dies.
Peanuts was, like the item always attached to Linus’ hand, our security blanket, and pet parents knew, even as their pups grew older, that Snoopy would always be there, on top of his dog house. In the strip For Better or Worse, where the characters aged, their dog did die, a heroic death, saving the youngest family member from a raging river, and we mourned with them. (Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was vehemently opposed to Better Or Worse writer Lynn Johnston’s killing the family dog and it caused a rift with Schulz’s former prodigy.) In movies, the death of a dog is always treated respectfully, and mournfully. It’s why Mommy doesn’t like watching movies about dogs. She agrees with Tom Hanks, who, when his movie “Turner and Hooch” bombed at the box office, said he learned the number one lesson of movies: “Don’t kill the dog!”
Every dog lover who has reached their teen years has lost a dog and knows that unendurable pain. Some choose, like my Mom, to avoid any program that features the death of a beloved pet. She was not watching Family Guy Sunday night. It it a show that she has watched a scene occassionaly but she has found a of a little of it goes a long way.
Others were not so fortunate. What they saw, while thinking they were watching a half hour of absurdist comedy, was the family dog run down in the street in front of a toddler. It was done without a spoiler alert so anyone who wished to avoid the scene was caught unawares , to “shake up” the show and take it “in a new direction.”
The bond between humans and dogs, the terror of a child watching their beloved pet killed, the horrible memories such a scene can recall, all trampled on and disrespected in an officious attempt at comedy.
Brian deserved better.
We all did.