The Microwaved Pet

An Urban Legend

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Legend has it...

A friend of a friend had a grandmother who was a little bit "dotty," as the family liked to say. One day after bathing her miniature poodle, Pierre, Grandma was preparing to towel-dry him when the phone rang. It was her daughter calling to remind her that they had arranged to meet for lunch a half hour earlier. Grandma apologized for being late and said she'd be there as quickly as she could.

As she began drying Pierre's fur, it dawned on her that there was a quicker way to do it — the microwave. So she put her beloved pet inside the oven, set the dial to "defrost" and switched it on.

A half a minute later, as Grandma was donning her coat to leave, she heard a muffled explosion in the kitchen.

Pierre the poodle was no more.


Analysis: In classifying this story as an urban legend, I don't mean to suggest that nothing of the kind has ever happened — surely it has. I am suggesting that, generally speaking, when a tale such as this is told as "true," the teller has no direct knowledge nor any evidence whatsoever to back it up. Having heard the story secondhand, he or she simply assumes it is true (or might be true) and passes it on, with or without personal flourishes. This is a defining characteristic of urban legends.

"The Poodle in the Microwave" (a.k.a. "The Microwaved Pet") enjoyed its first wave of popularity in the mid-1970s.

In part, it's a cautionary tale reflecting societal ambivalence toward technological change (a recurrent theme in contemporary folklore). Greater convenience entails greater risks, such stories seem to say, so we should approach new technologies with caution. Yet "The Microwaved Pet" also hearkens back to warnings dating back to the 1940s, if not earlier, about dogs and cats suffering injury or death after crawling unnoticed into old-fashioned gas ovens.

While one can always quibble over the "function" or deeper meanings of urban legends, it's safe to say that they almost always serve as a barometer of our everyday fears.

See also: Boiled Brains - Inserting one's head into a microwave oven to dry one's hair is not a recommended use of this appliance.