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The Canine in Conversation
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illustration of a dog wearing glasses and holding a notebook in its mouth
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dog ate my homework. A lame excuse.

During the Enron scandal, Representative James C. Greenwood (R-Pennsylvania), chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee leading the investigation, characterized former Enron CEO Jeffrey K. Skilling's testimony as “noncredible,” and added, “It was, `The dog ate my homework.'”reference 1 Mr. Skilling, a purported control freak, seemed surprisingly forgetful to Mr. Greenwood.



1. Oppel, Richard A., Jr. 2002. Ex-Chief of Enron Will Not Testify before Congress. New York Times, Feb. 11, C1.

Personally, I have never heard this excuse from a student who is unprepared, despite almost twenty years of teaching. Perhaps it's because I deal primarily with adult college students, what do you think? Once someone did claim that his puppy had pulled the plug on his computer, causing their hard disk to crash, which, in turn, destroyed his paper. However, it was told well, so I decided to accept it. I have had several variations on the equally clichéd dead grandmother excuse, though perhaps they really did die. In any case, this desire to blame our stalwart canine friends for our own failings seems to me to be going a bit too far.

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illustration of a dog eating homework spacer
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This is not to say that dogs never eat homework, just as grandparents do actually die. My wife tells the story of having put together a massive chart of the history of Western Thought, carefully piecing together dot matrix print-outs and then hand writing in connecting lines and text. Red Hen, one of the dogs to whom this set of texts is dedicated, chewed the piece beyond recovery.reference 2

In a wonderful play on this image, New Yorker cartoonist Danny Shanahan shows an elderly man speaking with a child. The caption reads, “In my elementary school days, we were too poor to have a dog. If we wanted our homework eaten, we had to eat it ourselves.”

2. Crawley, LaVera M. 2003. Red Hen Story. to A. MacLeod. conversation, Oct 1.

3. Shanahan, Danny. [n.d.] In My Elementary School Days, We Were Too Poor to Have a Dog. New Yorker. Accessed Mar 14 2002 from: http:// cartoons/ anthropo/homework/toopoor.JPG.
About the illustration: There are surprisingly few pictures of dogs actually eating homework. This might suffice. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.
cf: eating one's own dog food Last updated: February 10, 2008
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