American Idol: Simon Cowell had a completely literal Pet the Dog moment on Season 7...a contestant entered with a six-week-old Pomeranian puppy named Panda, who she handed over to the judges. Simon very quickly nabbed the little creature, and his next words were, "I'm going to steal your dog." He kept stroking that little puppy through the entire audition, and it took some coaxing to get Panda out of his arms again.
Ray Carling, who began his tenure in-universe as one of the least endearing human beings on the face of the earth, gets a fair number of these, starting in Season 1 when, despite holding views that could accurately be described as "everythingist," he's the only one in the station who has time for a traumatized young black woman who turns out to be a prostitute, a rape victim, and the key to the week's case. More recently he gets a hugeTear Jerker moment while talking down the episode's antagonist, a traumatized Falklands veteran, with a speech about how he came from a family of decorated military heroes, and everyone expected him to follow in their footsteps, but he was so terrified that he sabotaged his own enlistment interview... And later on he kisses Alex on the cheek. Awwww.
And what of the Guv himself, the hardened DCI Gene Hunt? He's had quite a few "pet the dog" moments in the Life On Mars/Ashes to Ashes universe, including a particularly notable example at the end of series 1 of Ashes to Ashes where he rescues a very young Alex Drake from the site of an explosion. The way he lovingly embraces her like a father would a daughter as he's carrying her out? Awwww.
G'kar starts out as quite the JerkassSmug Snake. The first indication that he's not quite so bad of a guy is when he sends out Narn ships to rescue an impulsive woman who'd blatantly disregarded his advice, and follows that up with a pretty profound philosophical moment.
His counterpart (one might say opposite number, at least until later in the series) from the Centauri Republic, Londo Mollari, has many such moments. They're what keep Londo a sympathetic Tragic Villain throughout the series.
Toyed with in the miniseries. Doctor Gaius Baltar is shown to be a selfish, arrogant coward. When the opportunity to flee Caprica, under nuclear attack by the Cylons, comes down to a lottery, the chance to switch his number for the one drawn — by tricking the elderly woman whose number it is — falls into his lap... he is interrupted by Helo recognizing him before we find out what he would have done, and nervously tells Helo that the old lady has the winning number. Helo gives his own seat to Baltar because he's a famous genius scientist.
D'Anna Biers/Cylon Number Three rarely gets these moments (unless you count being nice to Baltar), but pets a dog affectionately on New Caprica.
Becker: The titular grumpy character showed his softer side frequently.
Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction: One of the stories during the last season had the famous outlaw Jesse James and his brother Frank help out an old widow pay off her mortgage using money they stole from previous robberies (and they give her the helpful advice to ask for a receipt when the debt collector shows up the next morning) after she let them into her home and served them dinner during a cold, rainy night.
In the pilot, Nucky Thompson seems to be a classic money grubbing sleazebag politician who is taking advantage of prohibition for his own financial gain, yet his concern for abused immigrant Margaret Schroeder seems completely genuine.
And then there's Nelson Van Alden, the inhumanly humourless and puritanical prohibition agent who, after destroying Lucy's dreams and crushing her spirit without even trying, inadvertently stops her from an old-fashioned abortion with the surprise gift of a record player.
Though the trope of Badass Decay originally bore the name of Spike, the character, despite also being something of a Magnificent Bastard, in fact exhibited signs of this from the start. More to the point, he was portrayed as being genuinely in love with his partner Drusilla (feelings that it would be difficult to interpret as genuinely mutual), and able to feel hurt and betrayed. In the end a combination of the two even led him to upset the Big Bad's apocalyptic plans. In the same season he had been introduced, no less. Furthermore, in connection to this it was soon routinely suggested that he held some kind of (twisted) affection for the main character(s), and possibly even the world at large. Though many more events (and many, many, more tropes) would be applied to him over the course of the show, the seed of his Badass Decay was visible almost from day one.
The definite Pet the Dog moment came in season 5 when Spike, knowing full well that Dawn was the interdimensional key Glory was looking for, is captured by Glory and viciously tortured for the information and did not tell her. This was the turning point in his Badass Decay where even Buffy considered him a reliable ally.
And there was his earlier moment when he used his chip (which sends electrical shocks through his brain if he hurts or tries to hurt humans) to show Tara that she wasn't a demon. He had absolutely no gain in doing this, and it also caused considerable pain to himself. Who'd have thought a punch in the nose would be considered a Pet the Dog moment?
There was also his honest platonic affection for and respect of Joyce, Buffy's mother, whom he got on rather well with after their first meeting (when she hit him with an axe and told him to get away from Buffy).
The best example of that affection is the episode where Spike, drunk and upset because Dru left him, proceeds to kidnap and threaten his way through the entire population of Sunnydale, except Joyce. From Joyce, he wants hot chocolate with marshmallows in.
Or when he leaves flowers after Joyce's death, without a tag so Buffy didn't know it was him. Prior to this Spike had been trying as hard as possible to get Buffy to like him, but this action proved that he genuinely liked Joyce.
The Mayor's treatment of Faith is a definite Pet the Dog. He was still an evil monster, but he did genuinely seem to care about her and was a lot better support for her than the Scooby Gang was.
For that matter, one could consider him to be herMorality Pet, at least until she becomes good again.
Out of all the villains who could get this, the rapist misogynist who murdered Tara, Warren Meers, gets one in Season 8 by jumping in and saving Andrew from a bunch of demons (using a repulsor gauntlet shield). Yes, it's as awesome as it sounds (note: he's still evil though, in fact, it's Amy who starts to want to help, Warren just likes Andrew).
Dracula has genuine fondness for Xander and considers Xander to be one of his dearest friends, to the point that he is enraged on Xander's behalf after Renee's death and tears vampire chumps to pieces like wet paper.
Halfrek seemed to genuinely care about Dawn's problems and thought she was doing the right thing.
The General allowing Dawn to get medical treatment during the battle against the demons in the Sunnydale sinkhole.
Burn Notice: One episode features the team conning a soft-hearted gangster with a fondness for greyhound racing. One indicator that he's not quite the villain he thinks he is comes from his story about the biggest bet he ever lost: A dog that crashed and broke its leg before the race even started. His response was to buy the dog and turn it into a pet.
In the episode "Chuck vs. The Wookiee" of this comedic spy drama, Sara, a near-total cipher, is seen feeding a pet fish, a nice hint of humanity. Then she's attacked by a masked assailant. During the struggle, a gun and the goldfish fishbowl are knocked to the floor. The assailant seems to reach for the gun...and instead rescues the goldfish, making this an instance of two characters petting the same dog.
There have also been a few scenes which have shown that Casey hasn't repressed all his compassion, perhaps most notably when he offered to help Sarah's Lovable Rogue father get his sentence reduced.
Colony: Snyder shows more empathy and kindness than other CTA officials. He's permitted the LA Bloc citizens more privileges while Proxy and got Bowman a pass into the Santa Monica Bloc to find his son as a reward for his help. As a labor camp warden, he was far less harsh than the head guard, and even rescued Bram prior to the destruction of the entire place.. Though still brutal at times and a traitor to the human race, he's head and shoulders better than most of the collaborators we see.
Cracker: Subverted Trope in one episode where a serial killer reveals to Fitz that he was going to drown a litter of kittens but decided not to because 'they hadn't done him any harm'. Fitz points out that none of the killer's victims had done him any harm either and that rather than making him sympathetic, the villain was just showing a kind of 'sick sentimentality'.
When he's not strongarming people, James Wesley tends to be good at this when it comes to helping Wilson Fisk, such as bringing Vanessa over to ease Fisk's anguish after Madame Gao threatens him.
After wiping out a Kitchen Irish meeting, Frank Castle adapts one of the dogs they used in their dog fighting rings, and tries to keep it from harm. When the Irish catch up to him and torture him, he only gives up the money he stole from them when they threaten the dog, but even then has anticipated this, by planting a bomb in the briefcase containing the money.
After arranging for Dutton to be assassinated by Frank Castle in his cell, Wilson Fisk decides to spend the time Dutton has left near him in the hospital bed so he doesn't die alone. Of course, it's as much an opportunity to indulge in Evil Gloating as anything else.
Stick displays some genuinely fatherly affection towards Elektra when she is a child. He is the only one among the Chaste to show her kindness, while everyone else fears and is repulsed by her due to Elektra being a Black Sky. After she kills one of the students in self-defense when he tries to kill her, the Chaste sentences her to death and Stick saves her by delivering her to a wealthy Greek couple to keep her safe.
Deadwood: Al Swearengen is the camp's kingpin, a brutal pimp, highwayman, and murderer. He starts the series by stepping on a woman's throat and plotting a child's murder, but Pets the Dog a number of times throughout the show's run to almost become a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Beneath his unrelentingly caustic demeanor, he has a soft-spot for fellow orphans, and employs a handicapped cleaning woman as a way of looking after her. At the end of the first season he treats the debilitated preacher with kindness, and ultimately mercy-kills him. He also risks life and limb a few times protecting camp folk from Big Bad George Hearst.
Lieut. LaGuerta is initially introduced as the Pointy-Haired Boss, who netted the position through a combo of politics and luck and has a severe hate-on for Deb and an...interest in Dexter. Then, in an episode halfway through the season, a young Cuban boy is found at the site of one of Dexter's latest victims, and LaGuerta goes all maternal, looking after the kid and thinking of adopting him if the boy's uncle isn't found. This has not stopped LaGuerta from being any more devious than before (in Season 2, she sabotages her replacement by pursuing a clandestine affair with her fiancé).
From the very first episode:
Dexter: But if I could have feelings at all, I'd have them for Deb.
Doc Martin: Martin writes a prescriptionnote vitamin pills to the town's ranger, a traumatised war veteran. Later, he does the samenote with breath mints for a teenage girl who is suffering largely from being a teenager.
In the episode "Boom Town", Blon Slitheen has a nice chat with a young woman about family instead of eating her. It is subverted however, when the Doctor doesn't fall for it.
Blon: I could have killed but I didn't. I spared her life. Doctor: I believe you. Blon: Then you know I can change! That I am changing! Doctor: You let one of them go, but that's nothing new. Every now and then, a little victim's spared... because she smiled, cos he's got freckles, cos they begged. And that's how you live with yourself, that's how you slaughter millions, because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind's in the right direction, you happen to be kind.
It's also worth mentioning that said villain's scheme would have ended up destroying the world, making her arguments even more hollow.
Similarly, O'Brien is often so vile and petty she seems to be good for nothing except as someone to spread stress and misery among the cast, and then something like her devotion and care for Lady Cora will pop up and crap, there goes that budding love-to-hate villain.
Frank the Receptionist, who was generally a cynical, overweight, often prejudiced jerk but once had a heart attack; at the end of the episode, we discovered that he had a handicapped daughter who loved him very much.
Even further, it was revealed that Frank, usually so abrasive to everyone he works with, can't stop talking about how great they are and how much he admires them when he's at home, thus retconning in that he'd been petting the dog to some extent all along.
Dr. Romano was a real jerk in his first seasons, and kept many of those qualities throughout his stay on the show. However he had a number of Pet the Dog moments, such as when he told Benton's son Reese "look after your daddy" in sign language, or when he refused to give up on Lucy after she was stabbed. His love for Corday also provided him with several such moments. The most literal "pet the dog" moment however came when he called Corday into surgery and she was shocked to see who their patient was...
Corday: Robert, this is a dog. Romano: Correction Lizzie. This is my dog.
Everwood: Does it during the first episodes: Dr Abbott begins as an obnoxious almost misanthropic doctor, but then is revealed to be a very devoted father and husband; Bright starts off as a bully, but then he's shown to be a very sensitive person grieving over his friend's accident.
Petted the dog with an episode named "Pet the Bunny". Ray, when writing a premature eulogy for his father, recalled how he saw his moment of vulnerability... petting a bunny.
That wasn't the only time Frank petted the dog. When he found out his misogynistic buddies at the Elks Lodge were talking about Debra, he told them all off, albeit reluctantly.
In one episode, Frank actually holds Marie in bed to comfort her after a particularly abrasive conflict.
There was also a moment where he showed he really did care about Debra by taking the fall for her when Debra screwed up a Thanksgiving dinner, sparing Debra from yet another lecture by Marie. Right after that, Marie yells at Frankfor something hediddo.
Inverted Trope. Aeryn's mother's first appearance turned out to be, in light of her later actions, a pet the dog moment, which she very sorely needed.
Scorpius had a particularly interesting pet the dog moment in his third episode, when he takes in an orphaned girl: he embraces her, gives her a room aboard his command carrier, and states to his officers "we must know when to be strong and when to show compassion." However, it's subverted in that the "orphan" is a hungry carnivore in disguise, and it's implied that Scorpius has taken her in for no other reason than to use her as a minion.
More moments courtesy of Scorpius: when Sikozu was facing an execution, he helpfully supplied her with a password that allowed her to bluff her way out. Particularly interesting, considering that the two of them had never met before- and that he'd been "executed" less than a minute ago.
Commending Braca for obeying orders and taking part in mission that would have killed Scorpius had it failed.
During the two-part episode "Self-Inflicted Wounds," Pathfinder Neeyala has two Pet the Dog moments: firstly, she briefly comforts one of her crew-members before sending her on a suicide mission; the second is revealed to have spanned both episodes, in that her plan to sabotage Moya was intended to force Crichton and the others to escape aboard her own vessel and avoid death by wormhole when the Pathfinder ship left Moya. Ironically, this leads to her downfall when Moya's crew decide not to give up so easily.
Rygel gets a couple of Pet the Dog moments as well, namely in the season 2 finale when Aeryn dies he gives her his medallion, saying she is far more deserving of it, or after Zhaan dies, and he goes to steal her stuff, then admits he doesn't want it.
Throughout "Serenity", Mal is constantly and repeatedly shown to be a mean, cranky, selfish bastard.... until his touching scene in the infirmary with Kaylee that shows that he's not the "mean old man" he tries to be. By the end of the pilot, in spite of all the trouble it may cause him, he chooses to shelter Simon and River. As the series progresses, it becomes more and more apparent that Mal's JerkAss-ness is just a cover.
Jayne also gets his own Pet the Dog moments, such as when he watches Kaylee's operation in the pilot like a big, nervous Mama Bear, or when he is quite visibly shaken at the death of the mudder who gave his life to protect him in "Jaynestown", or when he frees River and Simon in the hospital in "Ariel" after escaping himself.
The Operative, of all people, gets a Pet the Dog instance, while he is killing a man. As the man is dying, the Operative comforts him with the knowledge that he did fine works, and made the world a better place, and is quite visibly affected as he watches the man die. When the Operative opts to let the heroes leave scot-free after finding out about Miranda.
Badger gets a kind of mild one in "Shindig". He pleasantly forces the crew of Serenity to stay on the ship while they know that Mal is probably going to be killed in a duel over Inara's honor. River comes wandering out to the cargo hold and Badger, who was completely unaware of her presence until then, demands to know who she is and why she's on board. After she fakes a Cockney accent and deciphers a number of facts about him (based on his appearance and demeanor), he lets her leave while declaring "I like her!"
In The Flash (2014), the season 2 pilot has Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne leave a video-will for Barry, in which he confesses to Nora Allen's murder, allowing Barry's father to be a free man once again.
In the last episode of Season 1, The Hound, portrayed up to this point as a Would Hurt a ChildJerk Ass bordering on irredeemable, stops Sansa Stark from suicidal impulsiveness after her father dies, and gives her some brief advice and comfort.
In the second season the Hound is the only one to come back for Sansa Stark during the riot, saving her from being raped and in addition at the end of the episode "Blackwater" after he resigns form the White Cloaks, the Hound offers her the chance to escape with him. Everything taken into consideration, Sansa Stark is the Hound's Morality Pet.
Cersei Lannister is ruthless and constantly scheming, but she loves her children more than anything, yes, even that child. In fact, it is because of this love a series of events was set into motion that started with Jon Arryn's death, and has continued to the execution of Ned Stark.
Tywin Lannister, while portrayed as a monster in the books, has a few pet the dog moments during the Harrenhal arc when he unknowingly takes Arya Stark as his cupbearer, complimenting and sharing a few paternal moments with her. He also reveals that he knows she is hiding something, but chooses not to do anything about it. This is pretty thoroughly undone when he reveals that when he leaves he plans to leave her in the personal service of Gregor Clegane, his Ax-CrazyBrute, a notorious rapist with zero qualms against killing children.
Tywin's speech revealing why he never killed Tyrion as a child also humanizes him.
Varys stops scheming for a moment to give Tyrion the only credit he'll receive for defending King's Landing from Stannis's invasion.
After four seasons of being a total asshole, Ser Alliser Thorne has a brief heart-to-heart with Jon Snow in which he admits a mistake and explains that he's an asshole due to the necessities of wielding authority.
Roose is actually quite nice to Walda, considering the way Ramsay was conceived and the fact that instead Walda seems rather pleased of their marriage. It's also clear that he's not letting Ramsay hurt her. How much this is due to the fact that Walda will give him a heir, however, will remain unknown.
Roose raises his bastard son, Ramsay, entrusts him with command, eventually legitimizes him (Ramsay becomes his heir after Ramsay murders him and his baby brother, just to make sure he'll be the next Lord Bolton) and tells Ramsay he will always be his "firstborn" after the birth of a trueborn son by Walda Frey. However, this is subverted in that Roose treated Ramsay very poorly, did not include him in castle life while he was growing up, and only legitimized Ramsay once his trueborn son was gone, realizing Ramsay was all he had left. In HBO's featurette 'Bastards of Westeros,' GRRM states, "Ramsay gets nothing from Roose," and contrasts Roose as a 'dark counterpoint' with Ned, who loved and raised his bastard child, Jon, as one of his sons alongside his trueborn children at Winterfell.
As a reward for his "loyalty," Ramsay finally allows Reek a bath. Almost immediately subverted when Ramsay takes this opportunity to add as many disturbing overtones to this favour as possible, eyeing Reek up as if he wants to violate him in other ways. Subverted as it quickly becomes clear that it's just to manipulate Reek into helping Ramsay take Moat Cailin by 'pretending' to be Theon Greyjoy.
Subverted again with Ramsay with the death of Myranda. He seems to almost be genuinely sad for her death... but then he says it's good meat and that she should be fed to the dogs.
Locke paid and released the traveler who told him where to find Jaime and Brienne, rather than killing him and dumping him in the river, which he easily could have done.
Sue Sylvester is a complete and total Jerk Ass with few redeeming qualities if any, so when in one episode she lets a mentally challenged girl onto her prized cheerleading squad the "Cheerios" the viewers along with everyone in the show conclude she's about to do something despicable that goes far beyond the Moral Event Horizon, reinforced by the fact she's pushing the girl just as harsh as she treats her other cheerleaders. At the end of the episode Sue ends up paying out of her own pockets for the School's handicap ramps, which baffles Will and the Principal as they try and figure out her motive. It's revealed she has a sister with Down's Syndrome living in a home, who Sue visits and reads to regularly. She gave the girl a spot on the cheerleading squad because she knows she just wants to be treated like everyone else.
Her harsh treatment of Becky (i.e. the exact treatment all her other cheerleaders get) can also be seen as this, especially as Sue very rightly points out to Will that all Becky's ever wanted is to be treated like everyone else. By yelling at Becky the same way she would any of her other cheerleaders, Sue is doing exactly that - which Becky understands and is happy about.
Puck started out as a Jerk Ass, before Character Development made him out to be more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. So his strong desire to be there for Quinn and help raise her baby when he finds out she's pregnant by him initially comes off as an example of this trope.
Gokusen: In one episode of the live-action version, Uchiyama, a member of the dreaded class 3-D and juvenile delinquent, is seen taking care of a small puppy. Later, he almost gets expelled for beating the daylights out of another student from a more prestigious school. It would later turn out that Uchiyama attacked the seemingly straight-laced student when he caught him tossing stones at the puppy.
Deconstructed. Whenever the Wives are showing bits of kindness to their Handmaids, such as Serena Joy handing Offred a cookie, it's clearly just to stoke their own egos. Also, Serena's excessive kindness to Offred later is due to the fact that Offred might be pregnant with a child she could claim as hers and it's implied she took Offred out to parade her supposedly pregnant Handmaid around.
The deconstruction of momentary kindness can also be found in the domineering, shock-prod-wielding Aunts. The Aunts sincerely congratulate and comfort Janine during the communal ritual of Birth Day. Later on, Aunt Lydia becomes genuinely dismayed after the disfigured Handmaids are barred from the fancy dinner with the Mexican delegation. Lydia protests that the disfigured handmaidens (mutilated under her own command) had earned recognition and rewards after all the pain they went through. Aunt Lydia is also genuinely horrified at Janine's suicide attempt, gets June to help talk her down, and is distraught at Janine's bedside later on.
The Wife of Emily's new Commander does seem to be genuinely nice — she offers to fake being sick, so that Emily doesn't have to be put through the Ceremony this month. However, as Emily points out, "You can't be sick every month."
Despite backing an ideology that is patriarchal in the extreme, Fred tries to let Serena speak before the council planning the coup. They unsurprisingly refuse.
Serena gives Offred a wind up ballerina from her childhood as a gift, which is a bit touching. However Offred notes it's oddly appropriate, as she's a girl in a box herself, wound up for other people.
This show is built upon the title character being one of the prime examples of a Jerkass, but a given rule for any protagonist Dr. Jerk characters is that they will be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. House may be mean, cruel and sometimes outright immoral, but he is still a doctor and his job is to save people's lives. One episode in particular had him treating a patient whose heart gave out and she needed an emergency transplant. House had deduced privately that she was bulimic, and had been using ipicac, a drug that caused heart damage. Both of these criteria would certainly void her chances of receiving a heart. House risked his medical license by lying to the transplant board that she had no psychological problems. Afterwards, she asked him why he risked so much for her. He replied, "You're my patient. Don't screw it up."
House also found a sick rat in "Hunting", treated it, named it Steve McQueen and kept it as his pet. In a later episode he asks his team to bring him a rat. Cameron replies that he already has one, and he indignantly informs her that [he is] "not gonna kill Steve!" Later on however, in "Euphoria", in a rather odd Pet the Dog moment, he subjects Steve to a poisonous environment in order to find out what disease is killing Foreman. (Both Steve and Foreman survive).
In season 5's "Simple Explanation" (and presumably in following episodes) House is genuinely grieved by Kutner's suicide.
"Merry Christmas, Cuddy."
In Wilson's Heart, there were two massive moments that silenced anyone who thought he didn't deserve Wilson's friendship; where he agrees to fry his brain (the only thing that he thinks makes him worthwhile, remember?) so that he can try to save Amber and the bus-limbo scene, where he admits that he would rather be dead than be in pain all the time, miserable and to have Wilson hate him, thereby proving that he really does care for Wilson and value their friendship.
Three Words, One Episode: "The Socratic Method". In fact, he petted the dog so much in this one that Hugh Laurie was worried that they were making House too nice.
House isn't exactly the biggest fan of human contact, so it's kind of a big deal to see him hug someone (in "Sports Medicine", "Honeymoon", and a couple times during the Stacy arc of season 2). It's interesting that House has actually beenhugged about twice as many times, (such as by Chase in "Half-Wit", Cameron in "Words and Deeds" and the little girl dying of cancer, Andie, in "Autopsy").
Plus there was also the part of "Words and Deeds" when he apologised to Wilson for the whole Tritter fiasco.
In the season 3 episode "One Day, One Room" he takes a rape victim's case because she wanted to talk to him, despite the case being 'boring' as there was no mystery/puzzle involved.
In "Here Kitty", when Debbie jumps onto his laptop, presumably screwing up whatever he'd been working on, he pets her instead of the more expected action of shoving her away. On the other hand, he also carried her around in a bag for most of the episode...
There was also the moment in "Fetal Position" when he realised the baby was more than just a fetus when the baby reached out of the womb and grabbed his finger.
A literal realization of the trope was in episodes at the end of Season 3 with Wilson's dog, Hector.
Then in 'Wilson,' Wilson says he's going to have surgery to donate an organ to one of his patients against House's wishes. House tells him that he's not going to come because "If you die,...I'm alone." Once Wilson is in the surgery room and about to go under, he sees House watching him from above. House the last one he sees when he blacks out and the first person he sees by his side when he wakes up.
In House of Anubis, Victor tends to get these when the students are in life-or-death situations. While he is capable of being mean and apathetic at times, he also does care for their well-being deep down. His best moment is probably giving up his last tear of gold, that he had been after all season, to save a dying Joy.
Subverted Trope by Barney. Barney, who normally plays the role of the petty, womanizing, suit-clad jerk, was revealed to have formerly been a meek, loving hippie-type in an embarrassing old video. When asked to explain by his friends, he demanded that each of them tell an embarrassing story about themselves in return. After they did, he revealed that he had once deeply loved a hippie girl named Shannon. She eventually left him for a suit-wearing womanizer, prompting his stark personality change. Barney also told of how he recently visited Shannon, finding out that she was single again, with a job as a teacher and a beautiful kid. He mused on how that could have been his life in apparent sadness, while his friends comforted him. However, he then revealed that he greatly preferred his current life, and that in addition to tricking everyone else into telling embarrassing stories about himself, he had had sex with Shannon upon their reunion (even producing a cell phone recording of the incident when his friends didn't believe him).
Barney does not always subvert this trope — his willingness to travel to San Francisco to persuade Lily to come back to Marshall is a clear Pet the Dog moment.
As is the way he cheers up Robin in the third season episode when her old boyfriend comes to town and manages to destroy her self-esteem, despite her being much more successful than him. Sure, he got laid in the end, but just this once it didn't seem intentional.
In the episode "Single Stamina", after stubbornly refusing to support his brother's upcoming gay marriage (because he opposes all marriage in general), Barney suddenly softens and has a change of heart at the news that the couple's going to adopt a baby boy. Later, alone at the reception, he talks to his new infant nephew saying how he'll be there for him.
''JAG: In "Shadow", When Grover first notices Meg suffering a claustrophobia attack, his first reaction is to try and comfort her, before he goes back to taunting her. Meg is able to exploit this by convincing him to let her play games on his computer, giving her a chance to take it away from him.
Jessica Jones: Cruelly subverted by Kilgrave. After getting injured in a bus accident, he steals an ambulance driver's kidneys. He does make sure the poor ambulance driver gets a machine to keep him alive and money to keep him comfortable... after he's suffered a massive stroke that will forever leave him mostly-paralyzed and eternally under the thumb of his creepy, domineering mother. When Jessica meets the driver, he writes a note begging her to kill him.
Life With Derek: Every episode is set up so the title character can do this at the end.
Even though they were the de-facto villains, both Harriet and (prior to 1980) Nellie Olesen got their episodes where their more admirable, softer sides got their time in the limelight:
For Harriet, the audience got to sympathize with her when a quack doctor sells her a magic powder to help cure her appendicitis (it doesn't, and she must rely on Doc Baker to save her life). All the times Nels and Harriet fought and Nels did the right thing and left her, Harriet's emotions showed and that, even though she henpecked her husband, she really did rely on him for emotional support (and grudgingly, so did he). In one instance where Nels left her and (unknown to her) nearly had an affair, Harriet began getting lonely. In 1981, Harriet rallied the women of Walnut Grove to demand the same rights to own property as men.
Nellie's soft side came front and center in 1977's "Here Comes the Brides," when this time, she — not Laura — got to court the cute new guy at school. It turned out this "change of pace" episode did more than teach Laura "you can't win 'em all," but showed that even the Alpha Bitch Nellie had her redeeming values.
Sawyer has had several Pet the Dog moments, including some literal dog-petting when Vincent was the only one who'd have anything to do with him after his con involving the guns. Other moments include offering to babysit/read to Aaron for Claire and offering his fish biscuits to Kate when they were imprisoned by The Others.
Also, Ben Linus is genuinely fond of his adoptive daughter Alex.
Luke Cage: Shades genuinely expresses his condolences to Cottonmouth after Pop is killed in the crossfire of a botched hit on Chico.
Played for Laughs when Lois thinks she's just a monster and then does something responsible.
Even Ida gets one. Ida's probably the closest you can get to monster in the series, abusing her children, trying to sue Lois, manipulating a man to marry her with mood elevators, doing all sorts of psychologically abusive things to her grandchildren. Her Pet the Dog moment comes from when all of a sudden, Ida looks out the house, notices a car heading in Dewey's direction, then dives in the way and loses her leg to save him.
Major Winchester gets one when he tries to give a group of Korean orphans a bunch of candy for Christmas in "Death Takes a Holiday". He deliberately works to ensure no one knows about it.
Unlike Major Burns, Major Winchester was envisioned as a Worthy Opponent from the start, so he has lots of Pet The Dog moments.
Including talking a concert pianist whose hand was crippled out of depression and defending a stuttering patient Although the latter was inspired by his sister having the same handicap
Of course, Burns had his moments, too. In one episode, he continuously teased Hawkeye over a patient that was not recovering. However, after they found the cause, a tiny wound Hawkeye hadn't seen during the first surgery, Frank responded with a very sincere "anyone could have missed that." The way Frank responded to Hotlips' marriage probably counts, too.
A very literal example: In another episode, Major Houlihan is secretly feeding a dog that is hanging around the camp. When she overhears some nurses saying that it was killed, she is visibly upset. After Hawkeye notices it, and tries to console her (he had seen her sneaking food to it) she tries hard to deny that she cares, playing up her hardened military image and saying that in a place where people die every day such things don't matter... Only to fall into his arms, sobbing.
Masters of Horror: In the episode "The Screwfly Solution", a literal one is given to the Energy Being aliens who engineered the genocide of the human race. After the aliens at the end extract brain matter from several of the men, they are shown playing fetch with the group's dogs.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Dr. Forrester invents Nummymuffin Cocobutter, the most sickeningly cute pet imaginable which he will use to distract the rest of the world and take it over. He eventually gets sucked into his own evil plan and ends up just fussing over Nummymuffin along with Frank.
Pearl had some of these as well; one of the most famous was her neighborly chat with Mike at the beginning of Time Chasers.
The second season of the American version gave regional manager Michael Scott, initially modeled after his English counterpart as an unsympathetic egomaniac, a few very poignant Pet the Dog moments early in its run, when the character tears up at "Office Olympics" day, and is shown to genuinely care for children in the Halloween episode. Later seasons write Carell's character to be much more likable.
A notable moment when Pam is showing her paintings at a local art show. Everyone trashes her work as mundane and unexceptional, but when Michael sees it he offers actual sincere praise for it.
Dwight Schrute (assistant TO the regional manager) is portrayed as a very unlikable (outside of humor value) character. Pet the Dog is subverted (TWICE) and played straight when he sits with a tearful Pam. He first takes off his jacket, making it seem like he's going to give it to her, but then just says "It's hot in here." He offers her a handkerchief and says he'll stay with her in a genuinely kind moment, putting his arm around her shoulder. Then he says, "You must be PMSing pretty bad." It's here
Another Dwight example is when he rescues his worst enemy Jim from getting beat up by pepperspraying the attacker. This is after Jim has spent every office day making things as inconvenient for Dwight as possible. Dwight refuses any thank you gift Jim offers, saying that he just did his duty (which drives Jim crazy).
Once Upon a Time: Both Regina and Rumplestiltskin have their moments, including a literal example of petting the dog between Rumple and Pongo:
Belle: I didn't know you were such a dog person.
There's also Hook saving Aurora's heart when it was about to fall into the abyss. Granted, he ripped it out first, but it still counts. It even prompted some Ship Tease.
Ron gets too many to list. Despite the fact that he continuously says that he dislikes people (even once expressing glee at the idea that one of the workers at city hall may have died but then becoming upset when he realized it was actually Lil Sebastian), his behavior towards fellow antisocial Deadpan Snarker, April, tends to be like that of a proud father. He always looks out for his coworkers. When Ben and Chris talk about firing Leslie, he says that he should be fired in her stead because "no other department has a Leslie Knope." When Chris makes Tom sell his shares in the Snakehole Lounge, Ron stands up for him defending him for pursuing his "goofy dream." He even offers Andy a "Ron Swanson Scholarship". That's right—he offers to pay Andy through college from his own pocket. The crown jewel of all of them happens in Season 4's Christmas episode, though. Ron enlists the other members of the Parks Department to come up with a gift for Leslie that can help equalize the years of thoughtful presents they've all been getting from her. In the end after her campaign managers abandon her, he and the rest of the department offer to take their place. It's Ron's idea, and it's glorious.
In spite of years of insisting that he doesn't care about his employee's personal lives, and in fact takes pride in knowing nothing about them, the prospect of losing April, she's mad at Andy and is contemplating taking a job in Indianapolis to spite him, he intervenes and saves their relationship.
April showing her loyalty to Ron and love for Andy count. In the episode where she and Andy get married, she shows that she cares deeply for Leslie. She gets a lot of them in Season 4, including showing her concern for Ben's feelings after Leslie and Ben break up. At the beginning of one episode, she wishes for Chris's happiness to go away. In the middle, of the episode, Millicent dumps him, effectively making her wish come true. At the end of the episode she offers him three movie tickets (inviting him to come to the movies with her and Andy) and a hug. Even though she hates Ann, one episode has her setting Ann up with Tom because she genuinely thinks Tom makes her happy. She even tries to keep it a secret from Leslie because she knows about Ann's probable embarrassment. D'aww.
Ben initially comes off as a bit of a jerk, but even after Leslie yells at him three times in a single episode, he calmly takes her out for a drink. The episode Freddie Spaghetti starts out with him proposing that Leslie be fired, but in the end not only does he not fire her, he saves Leslie's impromptu concert by getting Freddie to perform. Soon, he becomes the sort of character that doesn't need pet the dog moments.
If you think you've gone too far with Pet the Dog, you can always remind the audience of why the character needed it in the first place. They did it with Arnold Rimmer. He started out as a petty control freak with neuroses up to his eyeballs; in fact, for many of the early episodes, he fulfilled the role of the antagonist. But now and again the writers slipped in a moment of humanity, such as when he learned of his father's death, or a moment where he wasn't quite so self-centered as usual. Then they showed us what he could be like as a hero (the dimension-hopping Ace Rimmer: What a guy!), and let him show the occasional backbone ("Better dead than smeg"). By the time he left the cast, he was almost, shall we say, a decent human being. So Lister missed him, which was revealed through a... um... dream. And Kryten figured out the best way to cure Lister, as shown in this clip (or look up "The Rimmer Song").
The novelization of the series made this even more explicit when Rimmer creates a double of himself from an old computer backup, and it's eventually revealed (even to Rimmer himself) that he has changed, and the "new/old" Rimmer is a far bigger jerk.
Not to mention that the entire story begins with Lister refusing to surrender his pregnant cat Frankenstein.
The show itself would go on to show how far Rimmer's come in "Back in the Red." The whole crew of the Red Dwarf has been rebooted, and the gang gets help from their ol' pal Rimmer. Just like the old days, huh? Nope. Trusting a Rimmer who's still in day-one form proves to be an exceedingly bad idea. The guy's middle name is Judas for a reason.
Though even this Rimmer has his moments, such as his returning to the disintegrating Red Dwarf in the season 8 finale. He had the opportunity to stay in the opposite universe Red Dwarf, were he was captain. Also, he would have suffered no ill effects from the alternate universe. But once he found the way to save "his" ship ( or so he thought) the first thing he did was to rush back to his ship and crew to save them.
Revolution: Captain, no, Major Tom Neville has been shown to do this toward some people, like when he gave mortally wounded Fletcher a suicide flask to die quickly with in episode 2, like when he ordered that bully Private Richards to give Danny water in episode 3, and like when convinced his wife Julia Neville to leave the Monroe Republic with him in episode 13. The same goes for his son, Nate Walker/Jason Neville, who saved Charlie's life from that rapist Trevor in the pilot episode, gave the power pendant back to Aaron when he begged for it back in episode 5, and finally refusing to call in an air strike on the rebel base in episode 11.
Dr. Kelso has a real fondness for his dog, Baxter. This is because, as he says, Baxter is "the only creature in my life that never disappointed me". Kelso is also shown to genuinely love his son even though his son can't hold down a job or a boyfriend. And he ends up liking the young son of a man needing surgery, as well. Yeah, Kelso gets a lot of these moments.
These effectually form half of Kelso's character, maintaining that his Affably Evil demeanor has an aspect of self-sacrificial necessity. He accepts being seen as a miserly bastard to keep Sacred Heart going. The Dog petting is just to remind us.
The Janitor has had a few as well, particularly when he once spent a day keeping a patient company.
The pilot does this with Bob and Perry: the former starts off being very easy-going while the latter's virtually an ogre, but near the end of the episode it's shown that while Kelso cares little (apparently) about the interns or patients, Cox is actually 'the good guy'. All throughout the show, Cox is shown as an incredibly insensitive or cruel character to his job-mates, his sister and his wife, but he cares a lot about his patients and his son.
Jordan also gets more than one — talking about the abortion she got years ago, saying how much she loves Cox, staring down at Jack with a loving expression... awww...
The titular character describes himself as a "high-functioning sociopath" and ridicules Watson for considering him a hero. That doesn't stop him from hating his brother for (allegedly) upsetting their mother, or seriously losing his composure when Watson is in danger.
And in "A Scandal in Belgravia", he realizes just how insulting he was being to Molly, apologizes, and kisses her on the cheek.
Smaller but very deliberate examples: when (he believes) he is being asked to choose who he thinks is the best man in history, despite his enthusiasm for scientific discoveries and intellect above all else, he chooses a man who opened a lot of orphanages. Later on, he shows very obvious disgust towards a man with a white supremacy tattoo. All this whilst repeatedly claiming to be a sociopath.
"His Last Vow": Sherlock getting John out of a bonfire, stopping himself from being clinically dead, AND OUTRIGHT killing Magnussen, to stop the guy from blackmailing Mary and keeping both John and Mary safe. In front of everyone, John included.
The writers tried many, many times to humanize Vic after his reprehensible murder of Terry Crowley in the pilot episode. This included his friendship with junkie prostitute Connie, a paternal need to protect children wherever and whenever, and the love he has for the members of his Strike Team and his family. This is then thrown right back in the audience's face by series creator Shawn Ryan in the final series of episodes, because for all the good Vic did in Farmington and for his family, he still committed a long list of serious crimes and alienated everyone who ever got close to him.
Shane Vendrell "kidnapping" Vic's family (in order to protect them from an Armenian mob hit) was meant to garner sympathy after he killed Lem (who Vendrell believed would turn the whole Strike Team and their criminal acts over to the Feds) at the end of Season 5.
Mob boss Tony Soprano is an inveterate dog-petter; his love of animals is frequently played up as one of his few signs of true humanity, as well as his protectiveness towards not just his children but, as long as they're young enough, others'. In one episode he loses it and kills one of his best-earning lieutenants for apparently killing a racehorse by arson (who did so for purely financial reasons) — the same racehorse Tony sat up with all night when it was sick.
It's never outright revealed if said lieutenant actually was responsible for the horse's death. Tony's love of and affection towards animals is one of his most redeeming qualities, so it's entirely possible it was just the horse incident that set him off, but it could also be that it was the last straw, Tony being sick of dealing with the bastard, and he used it as an excuse. But in any case, the guy'd had it coming since he'd murdered the stripper.
Though ironically, after spending his time on the series being an irredeemable jackass, Ralph was finally showing signs of heading towards redemption after his son was seriously injured, which occurred in the exact same episode in which he died.
It also serves as a way to reveal more information about the character. Sociopaths tend to have more affection for animals than people. In fact, the series makes the same comment toward the end, when Melfi's shrink shares new studies with her which state that although affection toward animals and small children may seem like it humanizes sociopaths like Tony, therapy actually does very little other than train them to better imitate normal people and thus become more deadly. Tony's supposed love for children is pretty shallow considering he's murdered plenty of people with young children and sent a group of thugs to terrorize a group of drug addicts who were squatting in a house even though there were young kids living there.
Despite Kate's awful attitude towards werewolves, she is a loving aunt to Allison.
Great example in "Lunatic." She comforts a sobbing Allison over her boyfriend - right after making Allison taze a teddy bear.
In Top Gear UK, at the end of the American Road Trip challenge, the trio are genuinely horrified by the level of destruction brought to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and decide to abandon their plans to sell the cars off in a final challenge in favour of donating their cars to local charities for free. Notable as the trio had spent the majority of the episode being rather condescending to American people and their culture, and the Alabama hillbilly incident likely didn't help their views on them either.
The Twilight Zone: In the 2003 revival, the episode It's Still a Good Life shows us that Anthony has grown up and is still mentally a child, considering people who hide things from him to be "sneaky people", bullying the townsfolk, and wishing away people to the cornfield (this, we find out, includes his own wife). In spite of this, he seems to love his mother and his daughter as much as he is capable of. In fact, his daughter is the only one who does not fear him at all, because he never threatens or harms her.
Upstairs Downstairs: In the relaunch, Hallam's mother comes across as imposing and annoying, butting heads with her daughter-in-law, shipping the Cute Mute orphan Lotte to an asylum, and sending Hallam's sister, who had Down's Syndrome, to an asylum and telling him that she died. We find out at the end of the season that Hallam's mother truly loved her daughter and took care to send her to a place that were she was kept very comfortable and happy. She also sent Lotte to the same place, foreshadowed when Hallam wonders how in the world his mother would know of a "good" asylum to send Lotte to.
Damon offering to erase Jeremy's memory in "Haunted".
And later insisting on erasing the sheriff's memory rather than killing her, despite the fact that the person in question is on vervain, so it will take a few days before Damon can actually do it, during which time he'll have to keep her in his house. "You're my friend."
Actually Caroline eventually wiped her mother's memory, but not before it seemed that she accepted what her daughter was and was prepared to have a relationship with her despite it.
Klaus actually manages this when we find out that the reason he's keeping Stefan around is because he considers him his only friend. Of course, Klaus being Klaus, this involved far too much blood and murder.
In season 2, when the Sheriff is called on Duncan and Veronica breaking into the household of some abusive parents, it is expected the Sheriff - usually an incompetent Jerkass - will arrest them and not believe the parents are abusing their daughter. Instead he pretends to arrest Duncan and Veronica, goes back to the household and investigates the parents. He also indicates his own father was abusive.
Season One's "Hot Dogs" serves as something of a Pet the Dog moment for that extraordinaire, Aaron Echolls. Okay, not many Pet the Dog moments involve beating a man to a bloody pulp, but still, this guy loves his daughter.
Merle Dixon has a few moments of this in AMC's series. He's a sociopathic, shockingly racist and sexist dick, but upon being informed of Amy's death, he notably pauses before saying that she was a nice kid and that he's very sorry. Also, he's visibly horrified by the sight of the Governor acting like he's going to rape Maggie. Oh, and don't mess with his brother Daryl. Ever.
Negan has a soft spot for kids. When Carl infiltrates his base and guns down several of his men, Negan is clearly impressed. Not only does he treat Carl as a guest in his home, but he also refuses to lash out when the boy threatens him, even sincerely apologizing for hurting his feelings when he forced him to remove the bandage covering his missing eye. After he takes Carl back to Alexandria, he makes him spaghetti and spends the afternoon sitting on the porch drinking lemonade and babysitting Judith.
Weird Science: Chett played by Lee Tergeson in the Weird Science TV series is not quite as hopeless a jerk as in the movie at the worst of times, but is usually somewhat of an antagonist, so the trope isn't all that strong. But he completely breaks what appeared to be his role before his nice-guy image was at all fostered when he walks by a bunch of kittens on the sidewalk and can't resist fawning over them. Much like the nazis, he likes teh kitties apparently.
When Dennis "Cutty" Wise asks Avon Barksdale for a donation of $10,000 to start a boxing gym as a means of youth outreach, Avon proceeds to erupt into incredulous laughter at the proposal. Once the laughter subsides, Avon reveals that he's laughing because after all the build up and talking, he was shocked at Cutty only asking for $10,000, and promptly donates $15,000 instead.
Additionally, Wee-Bey Brice, drug dealer and assassin, owns multiple tanks full of pet exotic fish, and talks about them with the same fondness that any other dedicated pet owner would. Even after he's incarcerated he continually makes sure that his wife and son are taking care of them properly. More importantly he lets Bunny Colvin adopt his son to give him the chance that he never had, recognizing that his soldier's life and gangster mentality has got him nowhere.
On the side of the Law, we have Bill Rawls, the superior officer to our Cowboy CopAnti-Hero, Jimmy McNulty. Rawls had been established as a vindictive, spiteful jack off whose Establishing Character Moment featured him flipping McNulty off with both fingers, but after Kima is shot and put into critical condition, McNulty blames himself for getting her injured. Rawls then takes McNulty aside and tells him that, even though he hates his guts, he's not going to stand there and let him beat himself up over something that wasn't his fault. "Shit went bad," he says. "She took two for the company. That's the only lesson here."
Even Marlo Stanfield gets this in the fourth season. After it's established that Marlo is an amoral killer who wants to be the king at any cost, he gives a group of students (which include Michael, Kenard and Dukie) $500 each, and has his lieutenant Chris Partlow make sure they're cared for and have clothing and books for school. This leads to a subversion - Michael refuses the money, and stands up for himself in front of Marlo, leading to the kingpin eventually bringing Michael in as a part of his organization.
Jay Landsman portrays himself as the ultimate company man, vigorously pursuing Rawls' needs for better stats. However when one of his detectives brings in Bubbles for accidentally killing his friend with tainted heroin, he shows compassion and has him released. Given that Bubbles tried to hang himself in the interrogation room, he notes that no punishment will ever equal what he will put himself through.
Wizards of Waverly Place: Alex has several, especially with Justin but also with Harper when she helped her at Gigi's "loser party". Also when she helped an old lady cross a street.
Shuuichi Kitaoka aka Kamen Rider Zolda normally is a self centered and arrogant lawyer. But on one occasion, he secretly pays for the surgery fee for the mother of a little girl. Despite the fact said girl ruined his sneaky plan kill The Hero.
Zig-Zagged with Blood Knight Takeshi Asakura. During one episode, he saves a girl from being eaten by Mirror Monsters. It later turns out he was using her as bait so he could kill said monsters for their energy. But the episode ends with him still watching outside the hospital to see if the girl is all right.
Souji Tendou, the title character in Kamen Rider Kabuto is a bit of a jerkass, who does not waste any second in showing his huge god complex to other characters. But he does show his softer side from time to time. Mostly when he is around his sisters Jyuka and Hyori. He also has a soft spot for Arata Kagami, whom he sometimes secretly helps.
Kaito Daiki, Kamen Rider Diend from Kamen Rider Decade is an egoistical thief, but does take on a big brother role to the young Asumu when Asumu's mentor Hibiki rejects him.