Ross: That's funny, that, no, because our parents actually did send our dog to live on a farm.
Monica: Uh, Ross?
Ross: What? Wh..hello? The Millners' farm in Connecticut? The Millners, they had this unbelievable farm, they had horses, and, and rabbits that he could chase and it was... it was... Oh my God, Chi Chi!
How do you tell a child when their dog has died? The simple answer is, you don't. You just tell them that good old Spot has been sent to a lovely farm with new owners who will take very good care of him. This way, the kid doesn't have to learn about death and his parents don't have to tell him about it. Everyone wins!
The straightest example of this trope applies to pets, but in extreme versions can apply to actual people who have recently died. Of course, at some point, the kid is going to grow up and realize their beloved dog was never actually sent to a farm. This can also apply to cases where the child is told their pet simply "ran away" or something of the like.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, after Hughes dies, Mustang makes up on the spot the lie to Ed that he had retired to the countryside to try and spare his feelings. Unfortunately, not five minutes later, Maria accidentally reveals to Ed the truth when she mentions that after "what happened to him," he was promoted twice. Her confusion at Ed's own at being double-promoted upon retirement clues him in to the truth.
- In the Live-Action Adaptation of Bunny Drop, Kouki's father is deceased rather than divorced. In order to spare her six-year-old son the knowledge of his father's death, Kouki's mother tells him that she divorced his father. Kouki figures it out anyway and runs off with Rin to find his dad's grave.
- In Fielder's Choice, Zach's mother dies in a car accident while she's in San Diego. For days, Philip tells Zach that his mother is still in San Diego and will be home in a few days.
- In the 1970 film of Jane Eyre, the dying Helen Burns applies this to herself, assuring Jane that she's just being sent home to recuperate and will come back to school when she's well again. This is immediately followed by a Time Skip showing adult Jane placing flowers at Helen's grave. This trope is only found in this adaptation, though, as in the novel and most other versions, Helen comforts Jane by assuring her that she's going to heaven and that Jane will one day join her there too.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: When Greg's father Frank was a child, he had a dog named Nutty, who his dad told him ran away to a butterfly farm. In reality, the dog was accidentally run over. Frank was so mad his father lied to him that right away, he went to get a pet dog.
- In Son of a Liche Jynn is furious when he discovers that his childhood dog Patches did not "run away" but was really turned into a Hellhound by his necromancer dad, fortunately the dog is revived when they defeat the Hellhound.
- Played for Laughs in I Am America (And So Can You!), as one section is devoted to Stephen Colbert telling off his childhood dog for abandoning him to go have fun at some farm (along with his grandpa), and that his new dog is way better than she ever was! Even if he was getting slower with age, and couldn't jump as high anymore...
- In "The One With The Thumb", Ross comments that when he and Monica were kids, their parents actually did send their dog to a farm. However, as he's describing it he comes to the sudden realization that there was never any farm. Monica appears to have worked out the truth much earlier.
- One episode involves Phoebe being invited to play her songs for a group of children. This ensues:
Phoebe: [singing] Now your mom and your dad said [Grandma] moved to Peru, but the truth is she died, and someday you will too.
- She is removed from the library after some parents complain, but the kids love her and actively seek her out at the coffee shop so they can hear her songs again.
- The chick and the duck serve as Chandler and Joey's pets for some time before Chandler gets engaged to Monica, disappearing without explanation around this time. However, the Grand Finale (in which Joey gets Chandler and Monica a baby chick and duck for their new house and children) reveals that they both died of natural causes and everyone in the group lied to Joey that they were sent to a happy farm, but they couldn't visit them.
- The Good Place: A flashback shows Eleanor as a young child, with her mother Donna informing her that her dog Max has passed away. Eleanor is unable to understand, so Donna says that Max has passed over a rainbow bridge into a beautiful farm, and they can't visit because it's in Guam. Eleanor presses further, and Donna gives up and flat out says that Max died after she left him in the car and he overheated and that Guam isn't a real place.
- How I Met Your Mother:
- In a Season 2 episode, Robin starts to realize that keeping five dogs in a New York City apartment isn't such a good idea and says it's time to "send them to the farm". Lily is horrified but Robin tells her she's talking about an actual farm. However, since the entire series is a story that Ted is telling his children, he might have been playing this trope straight.
- During "The Autumn of Breakups", Robin tells Barney that as a child she had a dog sent to a farm where her aunt lived with her best friend. Subverted in that she really did send a dog to the farm, but discovered that her aunt was more than just friends with her housemate.
- In "Who Wants to Be a Godparent?", Lily and Marshall are in the process of choosing a guardian for Marvin among their friends in the case of their deaths. After asking Barney how he would tell Marvin why his parents aren't around anymore, he responds that he'd just change a few words to an excuse he often uses with his one-night stands.
Barney: (to Marvin in Imagine Spot) The president of the world has called your parents away on a super-secret space mission. For the sake of the planet, you will never see them again.
- Monk: An unusual example appears in "Mr. Monk and the Dog". Monk ends up agreeing to watch Shelby, Amanda Castle's dog, while the police look for her owner. When Monk gets the news of Amanda's death, he tells Shelby that her mistress isn't returning and she went to a beautiful farm with lots of cool features. However, then he decides he's not fooling anyone and just sympathizes with Shelby over her grief.
- The Red Green Show gives us an example in one of their segments called "The Experts". In it, a viewer writes in to talk about how his car is great, except it has such limited rear visibility that a St. Bernard could fall asleep behind it and the driver wouldn't notice until after pulling away. The viewer's question is thus, "How do you tell a child their pet is dead?" Red's advice is to lie by saying the dog has run off, joined the circus, and will be back in a couple of years. This is also what he told Harold when his hamster died, and Harold still believes him.
- Played with a twist in Rosemary & Thyme — "the farm" is real. A murdered blind man's service dog saves Rosemary's life. Laura is strongly tempted to keep him but entrusts him to a sanctuary, a kind of retirement community for elderly service dogs (such places do exist, see the Real Life entry below). The woman who runs it literally assures them that he will have "comfortable kennels, open fields to roam, as much food as he can eat, he'll have the life of Riley."
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch has one episode where Salem hides in a bubble to avoid catching Spring Fever (a disease that makes a witch easily distracted due to fixating on a certain issue). At the end of the episode, Hilda and Zelda remember he's still in the bubble, this exchange occurs.
Zelda: It's the grasshopper in the jar all over again.Hilda: What? You said Mitzy joined the circus.
- That '70s Show: "Black Dog" featured a reference to Eric's fourth grade hamster, Snowball. He was told at the time that his pet was sent to a farm upstate, but he learns in the episode proper that Kelso killed it while playing with a BB gun.
Eric: You shot Snowball?!
Kelso: The gun went off by accident!
- In one episode of Teachers (2016), one of Ms. Watson's students informs the class that pets don't die—his mom told him that all of his hermit crabs went to live on the farm.
- Riffing off claims that the Conservative campaign to protect Boris Johnson's career in the wake of Partygate was called Operation Save Big Dog, The News Quiz called the Tory rebels Operation Tell The Kids That Big Dog Got Sent to Live on a Farm.
- In Crusader Kings II, if your character has the Dull trait and owns a cat, an event may fire where your courtiers tell you that your aging pet was sent to live with your aunt at her country estate, where it will surely be happy frolicking in the woods and playing with other cats. The only response option is "I'm glad it's in a better place!"
- In Mutant: Year Zero, the achievement for putting 20 Zone Dogs "to sleep" is of course "Sent to the Farm."
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: The Palutena's Guidance for Pokémon Trainer has Viridi wondering about the "weak Pokémon who get left in their balls and forgotten", which gets Pit worried about "PikaPit". Palutena assures him that any such unused Pokémon are "playing together at a farm upstate".
- In one possible ending in Undertale (if the player kills every boss except for Papyrus) Sans calls the player after they return to the human world and Papyrus briefly talks to them. He says that he's noticed that the other bosses have gone missing, but Sans told him they're all on vacation. Papyrus buys it wholeheartedly.
- Parodied in the Framley Examiner advert for Doolittle's Pet Placements:
"We'll take the corpse of your pet and give it to a loving farm family. We have hundreds of rural families on our books, none of whom mind having a dead dog on the hearth rug. Now you won't be lying - both you and Rover can go to Heaven!"
- This Reddit is about apparent euphemisms that turn out to be true:
- The OP had his dog taken away over a classmate's Wounded Gazelle Gambit and was told the usual farm story, which his brother clarified. Months later he was taken down to his Uncle's farm and discovered the dog was still alive.
- Another poster claimed their parents used the farm story, after his friend's dog was getting increasingly aggressive. The poster did not believe the claim due to hearing about the euphemism from a short story. It turns out that not only was the dog actually at a farm, but the reason they never visited the farm was that being around children was too stressful for it.
- I Used To Believe, page about animal death has many stories along these lines.
- One person's belief was about their dog Muffy. The truth is, Muffy really did get sent to live on a farm, but they didn't realize why everyone looked so sad when informed of this.
- Another poster's parents told them their cat was sent to a farm, resulting in Mistaken Identity. The poster visited his grandparent's farm and thought their barn cat was his cat, who hissed at them for petting it.
- Another poster's father worked at the shipyard which had stray cats to catch mice. The father convinced the poster that any dead pets were living in the shipyard until he was caught burying one.
- The Onion:
- Fire Consumes Big Happy Farm Where Families Send Sick Dogs To Run Free And Play lampoons the trope by reporting an incident where a farm where many people's beloved pets were sent to live had caught fire and all of the pets burned to death. It is also mentioned that the fire also killed several long-lost fathers who had gone to the store years ago to buy nice presents for their children.
- We Gave Rex To A Nice Farm Family vs. They Had Me Put To Sleep At The Vet has a parent informing their child that they've sent their dog Rex to live with a new family and giving convenient excuses for why the child can't see Rex (e.g. losing the camera containing the pictures taken of Rex's new home, insisting that Rex is much happier in his new home), followed by the dog telling the blunt, non-sugarcoated truth that he was euthanized and cremated.
- And again with Packers Tell Fans They Gave Favre To A Nice Farm Family after Favre was traded by said team to the Jets over his waffling about retirement when the Packers wanted to give the starting quarterback job to Aaron Rodgers.
- Bob's Burgers: In "An Incon-wheelie-ent Truth", Gayle is dismayed to learn that her childhood goldfish is not immortal and living at an aquarium for study.
- Season 5 of BoJack Horseman saw BoJack's mother Beatrice pass away, with BoJack insisting that everyone just treat him like normal. Mr. Peanutbutter (who's a dog) then mentions that he'd never had a death in his family; his mom just went to live on a farm upstate. Both BoJack and Gina point out the truth, prompting Mr. Peanutbutter to break down into tears and subsequently get all of the support BoJack secretly wanted. The episode concludes with Mr. Peanutbutter thanking everyone for being with him when he most needed it, and that the person he feels the most sympathy for is his father because if his mother is dead his father is all alone out there on that... same... farm...
- In the Disney Doug episode "Patti's Dad Dilemma," the B-plot reveals that Doug once had a hamster named Happy that died when he was five years old. At the time, Judy told him that Happy ran away to join the circus, but now, at age twelve, he finally learns what really happened.
- El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera: Manny was given the classic version of this as a child, the "They went to live on a farm where they could run free and chase rabbits" kind of classic... except this wasn't about a pet, it was about the superheroes killed by El Mal Verde.
- The Fairly OddParents: "That's Life" has Timmy accidentally turn his dead pets into zombies via magic when trying to help his mother's garden grow. He's shocked to see each of them (especially his gerbil Eddie, the focus of the episode), as he was always told his pets just "ran away" while he was at summer camp... camp... camp...
- Parodied on Family Guy when the Griffins decide to move to a farm. When they tell Brian that he's going to be living on a farm soon, he freaks out when he thinks this means they're going to have him put down. He screams that they'll never take him alive, pulls out a gun, and takes Stewie hostage.
- Implied in Making Fiends with Charlotte's parents. Charlotte lives with her grandmother and says that her parents astronauts in space. Some of the wording in the episode implies that they're actually dead.
- Phineas and Ferb: Parodied in one episode, while visiting the Danville Museum, the boys see they have a dog's skeleton with the same name as their old one, which their parents told them went off to kindly old man Simmons' farm after he got sick. Before they can fully realize the connection, their father steers them towards the next exhibit, which turns out to be the skeleton of kindly old man Simmons. At this point, he hastily hurries to the next wing.
- Robot Chicken had a segment that parodies Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? centered on Brutal Honesty (such as clarifying that Santa Claus isn't real), and one of the questions asked what happened to his dog when he "got old", and the fifth grader replied with the farm excuse, which the adult contestant quickly disabused him of.
- Star Trek: Lower Decks: When Boimler gets stuck in teleportation phase and Tendi creates a doglike abomination, T'Ana sends them to Starfleet's medical resort planet that specializes in the weirder conditions people face, which is called the Farm. On the transport ship to get there, the rest of the "freaks" explain that this is the Farm, and Starfleet is just hiding them because there is no cure for their conditions. Of course the Farm turns out to be a real place, just as wonderful as they were promised it would be.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In the episode "Return to Mewni", Queen Moon tells Star that she won't let her fight Toffee and his army, breaking down as she confesses they killed her own mother when she was Star's age. This is news to Star, who had previously been informed that her grandmother had been sent to a "grandma farm".
- There actually are farm sanctuaries for older animals. Along with elderly and sick pets, many of the residents may be adopted out of high kill shelters. Unlike the stereotype, of course, you can visit your old friends at these places.
- Can also happen if a family member or friend owns a farm. Likewise, this will likely be an open arrangement, with regular visits to the pet in question.