- Using a literal dog--Clint Eastwood is playing a cop. He's chasing a killer through dark streets. Bullets are flying. His back's against the wall in an alley when something crashes. He spins and points his gun at a scraggly old dog who has tripped over a trash can. Clint takes a moment to pet the dog. He's shown kindness to an animal in the midst of a shootout. (Is he crazy or something?)
- Using a figurative dog--in the movie The Fugitive, Dr. Kimble is in a hospital to gather information about the one-armed man who he thinks killed his wife. Cops are hunting him down. While trying to escape the hospital, he notices a sick boy on a gurney. He checks the chart and realizes the boy's been misdiagnosed. Kimble changes the chart and sees to it that the boy will receive immediate attention. He's taken time from his own troubles to care about someone else. (Now really, would he murder someone?)
Bell says, "A pet-the-dog beat, properly executed, creates great sympathy for the character, while at the same time may add to the suspense."
Have you ever heard of a pet-the-dog beat? Have you used one in your manuscript?