A new British ad is combating the notion that puppies make for good Christmas gifts by detailing the abuses a stuffed dog suffers at the hands of a young boy.
In the 90-second spot from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or RSPCA, the kid rips open the wrapping on a present to find the stuffed animal. For a moment, it seems like everything is going to be alright—he gives it a big hug. But before long, the metaphorical pet is looking worse for wear, dirty and tattered after being dragged around and ultimately left in the park, abandoned or forgotten—then tossed into the trash like common litter by a passerby.
Cue the nonprofit’s workers, who gently rescue the pup from a black contractor bag, stitch up its torn ear and busted leg, before feeding it, petting it and eventually finding it a home. In the last scene, it turns out the stuffed dog is actually a real one, now receiving the appropriate love and attention from an adult.
The ad, called “Stars,” is part of the RSPCA’s “Kindness for Christmas” campaign, designed to raise money. It’s being well-received on Twitter, reports the Huffington Post, which calls it a “tearjerker.” It’s a touching and resonant message, to be sure, reinforcing the old saw that a pet is a lot of responsibility, and driving home the point that parents shouldn’t give them to kids lightly.
The use of a stuffed pet is a clever solution for the practical challenges and moral dilemmas of depicting an actual animal experiencing the same trials. Moreover, it speaks to the idea that a child not might actually be equipped to see a dog as real, or have the necessary compassion for it.
There are moments where the ad risks collapsing into the absurd. The image of the stuffed animal wearing an anesthesia mask as a veterinarian preps it for surgery could arguably not come across quite as somberly as it’s intended, and even devolve into comedic. But the melancholy soundtrack goes a long way towards keeping the tone serious (even if it falls short of that inevitable high bar of heartrending pet shelter chanteuse-endorsers, Sarah MacLachlan, and the use of her song “Angel” in a generation of ASPCA ads).
Plus, anyone who sticks it out to the end is sure to fall for the hound, after all.