Showing the villain (or Anti-Hero) engaging in a moment of kindness, especially towards someone who can't repay them, as a way to humanize or soften them. May or may not involve an actual dog.
This is a screenwriting term: put in a scene where the nasty old crank pets a dog and the audience will think, "Aw shucks, he's not so bad." Often used to demonstrate that a Jerkass is really a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, or, if more limited, that the character is goal-oriented rather than sadistic and/or evil for evil's sake. If used as an Establishing Character Moment, it marks the character as "not too evil" right off the bat, whatever they might do later.
Sub Tropes include Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas, Morality Pet (a villain's entire relationship with a particular character is one long dog-petting session), A Friend in Need, and Androcles' Lion (the dog later aids the villain as a reward for their kindness). Compare Licked by the Dog, where the innocent character shows kindness to the villain.
If you want to pet dogs while keeping your villain credentials intact, try doing it anonymously, doing it but denying any benevolent intention, or doing it because you only kick PEOPLE, not dogs. Demonstrating Moral Myopia could also work (if the people you favor aren't evil).
Contrast Kick the Dog (doing something evil to establish an evil personality, with many, many villains having both), Photo Op with the Dog (where it's all an act for the good publicity), Must Make Amends (when a character tries to undo or atone for having Shot The Dog) and Bait the Dog (when a moment like this is set up and then darkly subverted). May overlap with Out-of-Character Moment if the villain shows kindness for no apparent reason.
In modern Hollywood circles, this is also referred to as "save the cat", with the idea being that if you show your hero stopping to save a cat stuck in a tree as his Establishing Character Moment, you're putting the audience on his side forever.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Comic Strips
- Fan Works
- Films — Animated
- Films — Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- Ads: Credit card companies love this trope, and know how to use it very effectively.
- Capitol One: Warkittens.
- Mastercard: Badger and the Biker.
- Mahabharata: The ambitious and antagonistic Duryodhana is shown to be both a strong and noble ruler in the Pandavas' absence, and very personable with those close to him. One story accounts how his Dragon Karna ended up in a precarious position with Duryodhana's wife Bhanumati. Her pearl necklace is scattered around the room because Karna grabbed it by accident while reaching for Bhanumati's shoulder as she stood up from hearing her husband coming, while the two were in the middle of a boardgame. Instead of flying into a rage when he enters, Duryodhana bends down and begins collecting the pearls because he knew neither his wife nor his friend Karna would never engage in that sort of behavior.
Duryodhana: "Do you want me to just pick up the pearls, or should I string them together as well?"
- Aztec Mythology: The god Tezcatlipoca was the resident Manipulative Bastard, directly responsible for three apocalypses and involved in a fourth, and the god of darkness, magic, chaos, rulership, and slaves. However, in this case, "God of Slaves" means "if you mistreat your slaves, prepare for a world of hurt."
- Classical Mythology:
- Hera is infamous for cruelly tormenting Zeus' mistresses (even the unwilling ones) and his illegitimate children, but there are a few stories where she has a good day, like when she allowed Alcyone to be reunited with her deceased husband Ceyx by transforming them into kingfishers.
- Zeus was an immense jerkass with a tendency to cheat on Hera, but he also had kind gestures. In the tale of Eros and Psyche, when Aphrodite is attempting to get Psyche killed with four tasks, Zeus intervenes on the third task, sending an eagle down to the abyss to beat up the monsters and retrieve the goblet for her. Later on, he even intervenes when Eros breaks out of Aphrodite's captivity to bring the dying Psyche to him for marriage. Zeus declares the marriage official despite Aphrodite's protests, and Psyche is brought Back from the Dead as the Goddess of the Human Spirit.
- Apollo was almost as bad as his father, but he also had several moments of petting the dog with friends and family.
- When punished to live as a mortal for a year for killing the Python (or, in some versions, several Cyclops), Apollo became Admetus' herdsman and made all his cows (or ewes) birth twins, which was quite a boon for a king at the time. Apollo also helped Admetus win the hand of his wife, Alcestis, by completing the near-impossible task put forth by her father, Pelias (yoking a lion and a boar to a chariot). When Admetus forgot to sacrifice to Artemis during the wedding, Apollo soothed his sister's anger. Apollo also got the Fates drunk and made them promise that should another die willingly in his place, Admetus would avoid the day of his death. Unfortunately, Alcestis died for Admetus. Fortunately, Heracles was in the area and wrestled Thanatos for Alcestis's soul.
- When Orestes fulfilled Apollo's command to kill his murderous mother Clytemnestra, Apollo tried to protect him from the vengeful Furies. Orestes ended up being prosecuted in Athens, and Apollo's speaking up for him helped him get acquitted.
- He gave his lover Cyparissus a tame deer as a pet, and when Cyparissus accidentally killed it, he asked Apollo to let his tears fall forever out of sorrow. Apollo granted the request by turning him into the first Cypress tree.
- The *chan boards, of all places, has this in the concept of the MS Paint relationship thread. See here for examples.
- Furthermore, the channel on 4chan known as /r9k/, a board originally developed with a filter that blocks unoriginal text or images, has (d)evolved to embody the MS Paint relationship thread, becoming the unofficial place to ask questions, share or complain about relationships. Many believe that it needs to be cauterized.
- 4chan saves a cat.
- Their love for cats seems to have developed into a general consensus.◊
- And they stand up to Scientology, although that may be Even Evil Has Standards.
- Recently. someone posted a picture of himself standing in lettuce containers at a Burger King. Rather than laughing, the members of 4chan instead said Dude, Not Funny!, tracked down the Burger King where this was taken, contacted the manager, local health department, and the media. This resulted in the person getting fired.
- Something Awful may proudly be (or at least used to be) some of the greatest jerks on the internet, but often remark that new members can get lost in Pet Island.
- On Encyclopedia Dramatica, often described as some kind of haven for trolls, the talk pages are quite civil, oftentimes even polite — moreso than those of The Other Wiki.
- The Fabulous Moolah doesn't have a flowery reputation, in or out of the ring, publicly or behind the scenes. She was thought to be rotten and told anyone who would listen her main motivation was money. So her jobbing to give Panther Girl Anne Casey the USA Women's Title belt, Anne Casey who earlier that year had been shot multiple times and was thought to be out of wrestling permanently as a result, it was definitely a case of this.
- When he was not tearing people's faces open with his teeth or stealing masks, Perro Aguayo Jr. could often be found playing with dogs.
- CM Punk voluntarily excused Colt Cabana from their Ring of Honor Tag Team title defense at Survival Of The Fittest, voluntarily taking on The Outkast Killaz, The Ringcrew Express and Special K by himself so that Cabana would have a better shot at winning the titular "Survival Of The Fittest'' tournament. Before this, Punk would become visibly angry with Cabana's silliness and Colt at times seemed to follow him more out of fear than friendship, so it was nice to see Punk really did care for him on some level.
- Shigeo Okumura is best known for his campaigns against Mexican luchadors in CMLL, but since he speaks Spanish quite well, the promotion keeps him around despite the trouble he causes to serve as a translator to the NJPW, REINA and other Japanese talents, which he does faithfully, even for baby faces like Syuri who aren't on board with his "Anti-Mexico" agenda.
- Hallowicked was teamed with Australian female wrestler Shazza McKenzie in a loss to Kimberlee and The Whisper at CHIKARA La Loteria Letal 2018, October 27, 2018. Shazza seemed really happy to be there and to be teaming with a CHIKARA all-timer such as Hallowicked, and, while you can't really read any emotion on Hallowicked's mask, he seemed to have no problem with her. This is quite different from when he referred to the other wrestlers in the Infinite Gauntlet matchnote as "infidel swine."
- John "Bradshaw" Layfield is most infamously known as a backstage bully, but he considered the late Eddie Guerrero one of his best friends and responsible for the best matches of his career. During the Eddie tribute show, Vince McMahon wanted Bradshaw to get a dirty win over Eddie's nephew Chavo. Bradshaw flat out refused, to Vince's face, to do anything besides lose cleanly to Chavo.
- Lo Zoo Di 105: Santina, the victim of the famous "Alan In Love" prank call, has been found out to be not particularly wealthy. So the show's crew unanimously agreed to reward her patience with them by donating some money to her.