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Random Friday Question: How Much To Kill A Puppy?

How much would you pay to prevent the next 9/11? How much would it worth to you to put a major dent in the flow of illegal immigrants to this country?

How much would you pay to cut the murder rate by half? Or to be assured that every kid in town would finish high school?

These are fun parlor games but also serious policy questions. Not every social ill has a solution to which a price tag can be attached--surely, if money could fix the nation's schools problem, it would have been solved many times over by this point--but money buys a lot. That's why so many viral videos play with our sense of shame over the fact that there's a whole lot of awful stuff we would do for the right price.

This one has been kicking around the interwebs for about five years. It was one of the early viral videos and it's been outraging folks fairly consistently. For some odd reason, it's picked up a new head of steam and is zipping through the email channels, where folks pretend to be appalled that anyone would ask how much it would take for a stranger to kill a puppy with their bare hands.

"Fifty cents!" volunteers one woman in the video. "A tenner and a burrito," says some guy on one of the many message boards devoted to thrashing out the right price in this macabre transaction.

(There's nothing new under the sun: Recall the joke long attributed to George Bernard Shaw, though most likely totally apocryphal, in which he asks a woman at the dinner table whether she would sleep with him for 1,000 pounds. The appalled woman demurs. Shaw ups the ante: 10,000? 50,000? Finally, the woman pauses to calculate and Shaw pounces: "And what if I offered you five pounds?"

"What do you take me for?" the affronted woman exclaims.

"We have already established what you are," Shaw supposedly replies. "We are merely haggling over the price.")

The viral video phenomenon was still in its early phase back in 2002, when this classic of the genre first made the rounds. Back then, the Dead Puppies sketch was often referred to as just that, a sketch. But over the years, as often happens on the web, the disclaimers and underlying facts dissolve and the most outrageous bits get passed along ad infinitum.

In this case, a comedy troupe known as Olde English did this bit--it's all a spoof. But it probably wouldn't be too hard to do up this same question as a legit documentary (though the filmmaker would be taking something of a physical risk, given how heatedly some folks defend the poor animals these days.)

I showed this video to a dozen or so folks without telling them anything about its origin. Not a one doubted the veracity of the interviews. And pretty much everyone engaged in the basic exercise. I was quoted prices ranging from $400 to $1 million to take on the puppy-elimination task.

So what Shaw didn't say applies to this documentary video that didn't happen: We know what we are; we just need to come to terms on the price.

By Marc Fisher |  December 28, 2007; 7:23 AM ET
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Slow day, Marc?

Posted by: ID | December 28, 2007 8:41 AM

I'd be happy to pay any price for somebody to kill my neighbor's damned yappy cocker spaniel. And throw in a bonus to find the dog that dumps on my lawn and the owner doesn't clean it up. From the size of the deposit it must be a rottweiler or a hippopotamus. We have a leash law and a scooper law here but some people like to turn their canines loose and they don't clean up. If I ever catch the *astard, I'm going to take all the proceeds and dump them on his lawn.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | December 28, 2007 10:02 AM

I'd be pretty sure that anyone offering me money to kill a puppy with my bare hands was going to use the information that I'd killed a puppy to hurt me later, and I don't need money that badly.

Posted by: h3 | December 28, 2007 10:05 AM

My question is what did Mike Huckabee's son answer?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 28, 2007 10:32 AM

I'd like to think that I wouldn't do it for any price, but your opening got me thinking; what if I donated all the money to the SPCA, or a homeless shelter, or House of Ruth? How much good could possibly come from that one poor puppy's death if it was $100,000, or $1,000,000, or more?

But then if someone really said to me they would give that money to me for doing something without any intrinsic value, they're obviously just playing mind games, and I'd tell them to do what they like with their money, I'm not going to play their game. Eventually they will either give the money away or keep/spend it themselves, regardless of what I do, so my actions will not actually determine that person's actions, regardless of what they say.

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | December 28, 2007 11:22 AM

Charlie was an evil Guy.
He was planning the murder of his wife Cynthia.

Charlie knew a man, Artie, that would do the sinister deed.
Artie agreed to kill Cynthia for the sum of Five Hundred dollars.
The Murder was to take place at the supermarket where Cynthia did her shopping, and Charlie would hide there to make sure that things went as planned.

On the day in question, Cynthia was casually picking over the tomatoes at the Supermarket.
Artie snuck up behind her and strangled Cynthia from behind.
The market wasn't busy so the murder went unnoticed.
Charlie rushed over from his hiding place to make sure his wife was dead, and she was.
Having done his work Artie insisted on being paid right then and there, the Five hundred dollars he had been promised.

Charlie not expecting to pay on the spot, turned his pockets out to show Artie he only had a single dollar bill to his name.
Upon seeing that Charlie only had one dollar, Artie flew into a fit of rage and strangled Charlie.
The next day the newspaper read " Artie chokes two for a dollar at Safeway"

Posted by: Mister Methane | December 28, 2007 12:09 PM

Next story...

Posted by: Mike O | December 28, 2007 12:51 PM

In view of the various significant events happening in the world at this moment, a more pertinent question for you Marc is:


I can assure your readers that no matter how insignificant the amount is, it is still way too much...

Posted by: Robert Marley | December 28, 2007 2:01 PM

It's basically a rhetorical question, because no one is going to pay me to kill random puppies, just to find out what my price would be. mike vick should have been interviewed for this, he's the expert. My answer is that no one is going to offer me money to kill a puppy, so I'm not even going to ponder the question.

Posted by: Glen | December 28, 2007 2:55 PM

Robert Marley, if it's that stupid, why are you wasting your time reading it? And then commenting on it? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: h3 | December 28, 2007 3:00 PM

Robert Marley:
There are two things called humor and fun. Ever heard of them? If you just want the straight-up news, why not just read the NEWS articles?

Posted by: Mary | December 29, 2007 12:06 PM

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