Awww, "the dog ate my homework." It's an ironclad alibi. The dog was there, he saw it, he just can't say he saw it, and no one wants to take a close look at the "evidence" once it's "presented." This delightful excuse has been used for decades. But how did it begin, and do dogs really eat homework?
How the excuse began.
The origin story of "the dog ate my homework" is pretty charming. In 1905, the music critic for a Welsh magazine called The Cambrian wrote about a minister temporarily filling in at a country church in Wales. After the service, he asked the clerk if his sermon had been long enough. The minister was relieved to hear that it was and admitted to the clerk that his dog had eaten some of the paper the sermon was written on just before the service. The two had a good laugh and mused about whether the dogs might suffer indigestion from consuming paper.
"The dog ate my homework" in pop culture.
The phrase was used in various other publications over the following decades but became widely popular in the 1970s. Young adult author, Paula Danziger paid homage to it with the title of her 1974 novel, The Cat Ate My Gymsuit. And in 1976 Eugene Kennedy described Richard Nixon as "working on the greatest American excuse since 'the dog ate my homework'" in the Watergate tapes.
According to popular TV shows, dogs were the No. 1 reason homework wasn't getting turned in the '80s and '90s.
In a 1991 Simpsons episode, Bart muses "I didn't know dogs really did that" when he finds his dog, Santa's Little Helper, chomping up his math assignment.
And Saved by the Bell cites the dog as the reason the homework didn't get done in the lyrics of its theme song: "If the teacher pops a test I know I'm in a mess And my dog ate all my homework last night"
Do dog really eat homework?
So is this all just a convenient excuse or do dogs really eat homework? Turns out, they do! NPR found two actual accounts homework hungry hounds.
The first is Jacqueline Moss, from Cumberland, Maine. Her beloved Labrador, Dusty, turned out to have a taste for history. Moss remembers, "When I was in sixth grade, we had to make a project for ancient civilization, and it was a Sumerian brick. I made it, and I left it on the radiator overnight. I came downstairs in the morning, and it had disappeared. And my dog - my Labrador was looking very guilty." Dusty was fine, the formula her teacher gave her for Sumerian brick, was more like a recipe for a historically big dog biscuit. Graciously, Jacqueline's teacher accepted her excuse.
And in an interesting twist, teacher, Linda Becker from Williamstown, Massachusetts, reports her dog ate her students' homework. She explains, "I came home from teaching one day, and left my bag on the floor in the kitchen; went about my business. When I returned to the kitchen, my puppy - with his little, needle-like teeth - had pulled some student papers out of my bag, and chewed them up. Imagine the embarrassment of having to tell students, my dog ate your homework."
Looks like this tried and true excuse isn't going anywhere. So long as there's homework, there will be dogs to eat it.