Bob has a dog. You see the dog greet him exuberantly when he comes home, he introduces the dog to Alice when she visits, the dog enters into a couple of episode plots. Then the dog gradually fades from view. Entire episodes take place in Bob's home with no sign of his dog. You begin to wonder if the dog has taken to hiding whenever other people are around. Have the writers forgotten that he has a dog?
Then, unexpectedly, they mention the dog. Apparently he ran away a long time ago, or maybe was killed. The Fridge Horror
sets in as you realize that Bob didn't even mention, much less mourn, the loss of his pet.
Basically, this is when the disappearance of a pet from a show's plot is explained long after the fact by the pet's death or disappearance. To qualify, there must have been no comment at the time - the only explanation occurs much later, well after they should have shown a reaction.
Contrast Brother Chuck
, in which no explanation is given.
Live Action TV
- In the Tom Clancy novel Patriot Games, Jack got his daughter a Labrador named Ernie. It does not appear in any later book, though a comment in Red Rabbit, the next book in chronological (If not publication) order, implied that the dog stayed in America when the Ryan family moved to London for a year or so. No explanation is given for why they aren't reunited with the dog when they moved back to Annapolis.
- Averted in Something Positive: Word of God says that the original plan was that Davan would (reluctantly) adopt Choo-Choo Bear, who would then disappear for years until a dark Brick Joke where they discover his corpse behind the sofa or something. Perhaps due to his popularity, he's remained a part of the cast, even though he should be pushing forty by now.
- Invader Zim has a variant: in one of his possibly-prerecorded messages to his children, Professor Membrane reminds them to feed the dog. This reminds the pair that hey, they used to have a dog, didn't they? and they take a minute to look around in confusion. The viewers, however, never heard of it before.
- South Park pets (like Stan's dog Sparky or Cartman's cat Mr. Kitty) have a tendency to disappear for whole seasons at a time, but reappear if needed for a plotline or joke.