Timmy in a Well

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

What's that, Tropey? You say Timmy fell down the well? [1]


Family pet or other (usually domesticated) animal displays unusual intelligence or skill, usually in order to save one of the characters from danger. Parodied to the point of being a Discredited Trope by now, maybe even a Dead Horse Trope. Heck, just the above phrase is common sarcasm for when someone has no idea what is being non-verbally communicated. (And Timmy never did fall down a well, anyway.)

See also Speech-Impaired Animal, Come Back, My Pet.

Examples of Timmy in a Well include:


  • Spoofed in a black-and-white TV spot for General Electric Security Services. Lassie and Timmy encounter a mountain lion, whereupon Lassie saves the day by showing off her incredible martial arts skills.
  • An ad for Capital One credit cards features a collie trying to tell her owner about an old man who literally fell down a well. Her efforts grow increasingly elaborate (at one point, she draws a picture of the man at the bottom of the well, and ad ends with her dialing 911), while the owner keeps Comically Missing the Point.
  • Parodied mercilessly in a Chevrolet pickup commercial. The truck plays the role of the dog and notifies the parents of their kid falling down a well...then getting stuck in a cave...then in the belly of a whale...then a balloon, then a VOLCANO. The last part is even mentioned by the father saying "I didn't know we lived near a volcano!" as he and his wife are running out to the truck.

Anime and Manga

  • In the Pokémon anime, this is done a bunch of times. Ash's Pikachu once led the gang to its teammate Bulbasaur using an advanced version of this—actually imitating the Pokemon that was kidnapped.
  • Pao from Deep Love knows exactly where the train station is even though he's never been there and fetches Ayu. At the end he delivers two Christmas presents.
  • The dub of Keroro Gunsou has a joke about this in a flashback to when Koyuki first met Dororo; Koyuki's dog Zeroyasha found him caught in a bear trap and barked to get her attention. She was momentarily concerned it was "another kid stuck in a well."

Comic Books

  • Snowy from the Tintin comics does this a lot.
  • In the French comic Les Tuniques Bleues (about two cavalrymen in the Union army during the American Civil War), one of the cavalrymen, Blutch, has a horse that has saved his life on multiple occasions. Also, because he is a Dirty Coward, he has taught his horse to play dead whenever anyone signals a charge.
  • Rex The Wonder Dog is probably the king (no pun intended) of this trope. Among other things, he can drive cars, become an award-winning photojournalist, be parachuted into enemy territory with a machine gun and proceed to use it, and beat up a T. rex.
    • He didn't beat up the T. rex, he fucking nuked the thing. With an atomic bomb.
    • Eventually, this became too absurd even for DC Comics, and in the late 1980s he drank from the fountain of youth, giving him the ability to speak human languages, removing the need for this trope.

Films -- Animation

  • In Toy Story 2, parodied when Woody watches the old ('60s) series where he was the star, and a few woodland creatures chirp what turns out to be an extremely complex and detailed account of what is going on in a distant mine, with two trapped characters, a stick of dynamite, and a impending explosion.

Rabbit: [incoherent chatter]
Woody: What's that? Jessie and Prospector are trapped in the old abandoned mine and Prospector just lit a stick of dynamite thinking it was a candle and now they're about to be blown to smithereens?
Rabbit: Uh huh.
Woody: Ride like the wind, Bullseye!

  • Disney's Beauty and the Beast has Belle's father's horse, Phillipe, run back to get help when Maurice is imprisoned in the castle.
  • Near the end of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, the woodland animals actually do this to the dwarfs after noticing the Evil Queen threatening to give Snow White the poison apple while disguised as the Witch. Unfortunately, it was too late, so the dwarfs and the animals immediately resort to dispatching the Queen by chasing her off a cliff.

Films -- Live Action

  • Played entirely straight in 2011's The Artist. Justified in that the dog in question is shown beforehand to be a well-trained stage dog—and maybe also justified by The Artist being a deliberately old-fashioned silent film.
  • Double Subversion from the movie Good Burger: A dog runs up to Cloudcuckoolander Ed, who reads his barkings as "A bunch of clowns are stranded on the highway with a broken radiator." His partner tells him not to be stupid and that the dog's just hungry. At the end of the scene, Gilligan Cut to a bunch of clowns, standing by a broken car, wondering where the dog went.
  • In The Wizard of Oz (1939), Toto escapes from the Wicked Witch's castle, finds the other members of the group and starts barking at them. The Scarecrow says "Why, don't you see? He's come to take us to Dorothy!" Toto then does just that, arriving just in time to save Dorothy from death.
  • Joe Dirt has a hilarious subversion. A man has his leg stuck between railroad rails and a train is coming so he sends the dog for help. The guy had been mean to the dog, so the dog walks away... and is next seen having, uh, relations, with a female dog. Later, the guy returns... missing one leg. And with a shotgun. It doesn't end well for the dog.
  • Fido has a perfect example of this trope. It contains pretty much the exact same scene as Lassie, but the dog is replaced by the family's pet zombie.
    • They presumably named the boy "Timmy" just to set up that joke.
  • Parodied in Broken Lizard's Club Dread. Dave & Juan are cleaning up the Pac-Man maze, when they run into Putman (who is still in Banana costume) who is trying to tell them that he found Cliff's dead body, but is in such a state of shock that he can't speak. Says Dave, "Are you trying to tell us something boy? Is little Timmy trapped in a well?!"
  • Stanley Ipkiss' dog Milo in The Mask. He finds car keys, tracks down and rescues his master from jail, can open car locks, and figures out how to activate the title artifact, among other tricks.
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: Ron's dog is able to bark at him in both English and Spanish (though, Ron mistakes English spoken with a mild Hispanic accent for actual Spanish later so there's some doubt.) He's also able to communicate with a bear later on, talking the bear into not attacking Ron.
  • Parodied in Up The Creek, in which the dog informs the rafting party that one of their number has been tied up and abandoned by the competition by playing charades, complete with "sounds like" clues and number of syllables. Plus, the dog whistles to get the humans' attention, one paw to its mouth.
  • Parodied in The Jerk. Navin is sleeping in a hotel and a dog starts barking at him in the middle of the night. Navin "translates" his barking to a warning about a fire and frantically wakes everyone up, has the building evacuated and even calls the fire department. Turns out there is no fire.


  • Spoofed on a few occasions in Discworld. In Guards! Guards!, the Librarian (a wizard-turned-orangutan) laments having to resort to charades to inform Constable Carrot that a book has been stolen when "so-called intelligent dogs, dolphins, and kangaroos" have an easier time alerting people to danger.
    • In The Last Continent, a talking kangaroo named Scrappy (a Shout-Out to Skippy, see Live Action TV below) informs Rincewind that the kangaroo language has a gesture that means "come quick, someone's fallen down a deep hole."
    • Also played with in Moving Pictures, where the main characters have been trapped in a cave and it's up to 'Laddie' (an incredibly stupid dog who plays a Lassie-esque movie character) to go for help. Despite doing nothing more than turn up in the pub, the genre-savvy trolls recognise the trope from the movies Laddie's been starring in and decide to follow him back, while completely ignoring the real intelligent talking dog who's trying to tell them what's going on in their own language.
  • The original melodrama that spawned the Sweeney Todd mythos has the dog of one of the victims repeatedly lead people to and then make menacing noises at Sweeney's barber shop. The heroes don't especially take the hint.
  • Used in exactly this way in American Gods when Shadow is lost in the woods and a talking bird gives him a message and then caws at him to follow -- "You want me to follow you? Or has Timmy fallen down another well?" Only this isn't a cute woodland creature: it's an oversized and frankly scary raven which has just been "brunching on Bambi." (This is Neil Gaiman, after all.)
    • Shadow then proceeds to demonstrate why it probably should have played this one straight.
  • Averted in Animorphs when Tobias (stuck as a red-tailed hawk) knows where a missing kid is, he decides to screw the Animorphs' usual paranoia and just tells the kid's father to follow him. Tobias is genuinely impressed that the dad doesn't freak out over a bird is talking to him; the dad just goes with it because he loves his son that much and just wants him to come home safely.
  • In John Dies at the End, Molly the dog drives a car into a burning building to save her owner.
  • Done in David Weber's Empire From the Ashes series, with a set of dogs that have been genetically enhanced to near-human intelligence and then fitted with vocoders to translate their thoughts into speech. It goes into some depth about how they have simple sentence structure and don't have temporal verbs (speaking only in the present) but otherwise treats them as being pretty wise, if not always smart.
  • In Jack London's White Fang (the book), the titular wolfdog barks only once in the entire novel, to alert the humans to his master's peril.
  • Subverted in a Father Brown short story. A man is murdered and his dog's actions are interpreted as meaningful by some of the characters. They are meaningful, sort of, but not the way this trope does it.
  • Dave Barry Turns 50 notes that a real dog would reply to questions of her being hungry with "Hell yes!" and then spend the evening licking himself, forgetting all about Timmy.

Live-Action TV

  • The trope is named for Lassie, who was always alerting the humans to any trouble in the area. Please note however, that the phrase is a Beam Me Up, Scotty, as Timmy never actually fell into a well. He fell into a lot of things, but never a well. Here's a short list of things Timmy has done that Lassie has saved him from:
    • let a rabid dog out of a cage ("Graduation")
    • ate deadly nightshade berries ("Berrypickers")
    • threatened by an escaped female circus elephant ("The Elephant")
    • hides out in the treehouse when he has pneumonia ("Spartan")
    • threatened by a mother wolf ("The Wolf Cub")
    • falls into the lake ("Transition" and "The House Guest")
    • develops a high fever from the measles ("The Crisis")
    • is almost shot by Paul ("Hungry Deer")
    • ignores severe stomach pains; he's diagnosed with appendicitis ("Hospital")
    • is trapped in an abandoned house with Boomer ("Trapped")
    • wanders into a live mine field ("Junior GIs")
    • is menaced by a bear ("Campout" and "The Renegade")
    • is trapped in a mine ("Old Henry")
    • gets a black eye playing football ("Growing Pains")
    • nearly flies a home-made glider off a cliff ("Flying Machine")
    • runs into a burning house to save a neighbor lady and passes out ("The Whopper")
    • is endangered by dynamite picked up by an escaped lab chimp ("The Man from Mars")
    • is locked in a shed with Lassie by an armed robber ("Star Reporter")
    • runs away from home believing he and a friend killed someone ("Alias Jack and Joe")
    • is exposed to radiation ("Space Traveler")
    • gets trapped on a cliff with Rudy and Don ("Explorers")
    • is trapped in a pipe ("Wrong Gift")
    • is caught in quicksand ("The Fog")
    • is trapped on a ledge ("The Rescue")
    • is out in the woods hunting a dangerous tiger ("The Gentle Tiger")
    • is tossed out of a little racing car and knocked out ("Big Race")
    • is trapped in a mine with Cully ("Fool's Gold")
    • is threatened by a bull ("White-Faced Bull")
    • is threatened by a rabid dog ("Mad Dog")
    • freezes while on a narrow path at the Grand Canyon ("Lassie at the Grand Canyon")
    • is threatened by a killer collie ("Mysterious Intruder")
    • is trapped in a badger hole ("Badger Game")
    • is knocked out ("Hike")
    • is stalked by a presumably dangerous tiger ("Lassie and the Tiger")
    • with Lassie, is carried off in a balloon, must survive in the wilderness, and almost drowns ("The Journey")
    • almost drowns ("Disappearance" part 1)
    • is caught in an earthquake and threatened by a dam spillover ("Moving Mountain")
    • is struck by a hit and run driver ("Hit'n'Run")
  • Flipper does this a lot too.
  • London, the German Shepherd from The Littlest Hobo, is also prone to doing this.
  • Skippy the Bush Kangaroo is an Australian series that does this with, you guessed it, a kangaroo.
    • Parodied in Skippy the Goth Kangaroo.
    • Also parodied in an early 1990s sketch series, Fast Forward, where Skippy would keep finding himself in more and more bizarre situations, such as "Skippy and the Exorcist," "Skippy and the Drug Cartel" and "Skippy and the Nuclear Bomb."
  • Parodied in Seinfeld, when Kramer suffers from chronic cough, and is sent by a random extra to nonverbally alert a pair of policeman about a violent Woman Scorned Elaine. Part of a Running Gag in the episode as Kramer had been taking the same medicine as a dog who had the same cough.
  • Played straight on Lost: Vincent pulls the covering off paralyzed Nikki and Paolo, trying to alert the other Losties that they're not really dead. However, it doesn't work, and it's only upon reflection that the audience realizes what he was trying to do.
    • Played even straighter in the series finale, so straight that it's surely a parody. Desmond is trapped - in a well. The good guys and the bad guys head toward it to retrieve him. But who gets their first and calls his real rescuers? Vincent!
  • Spoofed in a sketch on The Ben Stiller Show, in which Charles Manson took the place of Lassie. The wholesome farm family would interpret Manson's insane ranting with "What's that he's trying to tell us? Timmy's in trouble?"
  • Diefenbaker, Benton Fraser's half-wolf in Due South, was fully capable of being understood, but mostly only by Canadians.
  • Homaged in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Spike refers to Timmy being down a well as a reason he must go back and watch the telly, but he's almost certainly referring to a different Timmy.
  • In one episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Lassie was brought in to be the subject of a duet sung by Wayne Brady and Brad Sherwood. When Lassie barked, Brad responded "Jimmy's fallen down a well? I'll be right back!"
  • In an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a character gets knocked off his jet ski, which continues on without him; Mike riffs "Go get help, boy!"
  • Over the closing credits of a Mad About You where they were trapped in their bathroom, we see the dog going to the neighbors for help.
  • Wishbone had this happen in the episode "Salty Dog" when the kids get trapped in a condemned barn out in the middle of nowhere. Joe and David can't bust down the barred door, but Wishbone finds a hole in one of the wooden corners and digs through the straw. They realize that it means he can go for help since he's the right size to fit through the hole. Sam tucks the barn brochure into his collar, which inspired her venture to the barn in the first place, and tells Wishbone to get help. Wishbone does, delivering the brochure to the kids' scared parents at the Talbot household. Joe's neighbor Wanda spots the brochure, recognizes it as the one she gave Sam, and says that she knows where the kids are. Granted, by the time they arrive, Sam with Joe and David's help has already gotten them out just as a lightning strike sets the barn on fire, but the fire department comes and contains the blaze.

Newspaper Comics


Television: "What? You say a hunter has fallen into the abandoned mine shaft and has broken his legs, and needs insulin?" "Woof, woof!"

  • Parodied in The Far Side, in which Lassie lands an airplane.
  • For Better or For Worse had this happen in a comic where toddler April wandered out into the yard, using Loophole Abuse to give herself permission to go outside, and fell into a river in the ravine while trying to test out her toy boat. Farley fortunately followed April, jumped in, and kept her head above the water, while his son Edgar hurries back home and starts barking at the adults just as they realize April is missing and suffer some serious Adult Fear. They follow Edgar to the ravine, and he keeps barking until they spot April and Farley in the rapids. They manage to save April, but Farley's heart gives out from the stress and cold water, and he passes away in his sleep just as the older kids realize he's not waking up after assuming he needed a rest.
  • Parodied many times in Garfield. One occasion involved Garfield watching a "heroic cat" TV show in the style of Lassie.

Man: Oh no! Timmy's fallen down the well!
Cat: Meow.
Man: ... You pushed him, didn't you?
Cat: Meow.

    • To which Garfield replies: "You want a hero? Get a dog!"
  • In Beetle Bailey, Sarge falls over a cliff (again) and is hanging by a tiny branch. He tells his dog Otto to get help. Otto runs to base and makes every effort a (non-talking) dog can to get people to go with him, including jumping on them and pulling on their legs. The strip ends with Otto in the lockup and Sarge still hanging from the branch.

Tabletop Games

  • Chaosium's Stormbringer (later Elric) supplement Stealer of Souls. The Kelos family dog Rover is a clear Shout-Out to Lassie.

The Kelos family pet is a collie with an almost psychic awareness of trouble. When she senses danger she goes through elaborate pantomimes to warn her owners. Most of the family act as though they understand everything the collie tells them.




Margot: Bruiser, where is Elle?
Bruiser: [Yaps]
Margot: She doesn't have an engagement outfit?
Bruiser: [Yaps]
Margot: She's totally freaking out?!
Bruiser: [Yaps]
Margot: She's trapped in the Old Valley Mill?!
Bruiser: [Yaps]
Margot: Oh, whoops, sorry... the Old Valley Mall?!


Say, Hank, I think Rin-Tin-Tin is trying to tell you something!


Video Games

  • Spoofed in Fallout 2, in one possible option:

Laddie: Woof! Woof! Woof!
Chosen One: What's the matter, boy, are you trying to tell me something?
Laddie: Woof! Woof! Woof!
Chosen One: Is Johnny someplace close by in Modoc?
Laddie: Woof!
Chosen One: He was playing cowboys and Indians when he accidentally fell down the well and you want me to use my rope and go down and rescue him. Okay, let's go! [Astounding!]

    • As well as in Fallout: New Vegas, if you have the Wild Wasteland trait. It's the only way to get the Abilene Kid LE BB Gun.
  • In the MMORPG EverQuest, there is a quest called Timmi Fell Down the Well!. You need to follow the dog La'See to save Timmi.
  • In a different version of this trope, Sonic Chronicles features a Timmy who really is down a well. But it's subverted - "Timmy" is actually "Timothy," a grown man whose job is maintaining the well. His father, who asked you to go make sure "Timmy" was safe, is too old and senile to remember that his son is supposed to be down the well.
  • Played with in The Secret of Monkey Island. One of the first characters you can speak to is a dog, who can (apparently) explain the entire plot of the game, but speaks in woofs and barks with the occasional real word thrown in. This is about as helpful as it sounds.
  • In Space Quest V, Roger's pet facehugger Spike jumps on the cryopod holding a mutating Beatrice and then on the transporter. There are four options of what Roger can claim Spike is trying to say. One is "Timmy fell down the well". Another is a method of using the transporter to reverse Beatrice's mutation (The intended answer), which implies that Spike is a lot smarter than most of the people on that ship.
  • In the Bloodmoon expansion of Morrowind, a man named "Lassnr" sends you to look for his son "Tymvaul", who has gone down a well near their house. The names and the well are an obvious reference to Lassie and Timmy, though the outcome is somewhat different. Tymvaul has joined a group of necromancers that live in a cave at the bottom of the well, and you pretty much have to kill him.
  • Played with in Ghost Trick. Missile is fiercely loyal to and protective of his owner, but doesn't come off as terribly bright: he's easily distracted by flashing lights, loud noises, and spinning doodads, all of which will incite him to bark incessantly. On the other hand, in a previous timeline, he tracked down the people responsible for his owner's death without any outside help, and after time traveling into the past and taking The Slow Path to the present day, he skillfully manipulated Sissel into setting things right.

Web Comics


Helix: Things go so much faster when you speak the lingo.


Anakin: What's that Artoo? Timmy's trapped down a gravity well?


John: What's that, Rose? Are you getting aggravated that I am talking to you kind of like you are a dog?


Web Original

  • Parodied in AH Dot Com the Series "The Gates of Dawn," in which Doctor What's cat Mynx meows at him and he interprets her sounds perfectly as an ongoing recount of events, until at one point the non sequitur "and then Timmy fell in a well?" comes up, upon which Mynx hisses angrily at him and Doc realises "he conjugated the verb wrongly."
  • Used in episode 48 of Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series, with Yugi's Kuriboh (who can only say three words, "Do the lalalala" and mostly speaks by saying the "la" sound repeatedly). It informs Yami at the end of the episode that Tea has been kidnapped by internet trolls, and that little Timmy has fallen down a well.
  • In V2E10 of RWBY, zwei rushes back to the team's camp to alert them that Ruby's fallen through a crumbling road and into a cavern beneath.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender's Appa and Momo. Both show an unbelievable level of intelligence over the course of the show.
    • But while Appa understands human speech, Momo does not (at least situationally). When Katara and Sokka were metaphorically stuck in a well and asking him for help with getting water during "The Blue Spirit" he could tell they wanted something but had no idea what it was.
  • Parodied in Family Guy, when Brian, the talking dog tries to tell Peter something in English. Peter starts acting like a Lassie character, guessing (badly) what Brian is trying to say. He finally gets the message when Brian deadpans "Woof."
  • Tiny Toon Adventures also did a similar parody, with a talking Lassie telling Elmyra that Montana Max has fallen off a cliff. Elmyra just barks.
  • Played straight in Barbie and the Diamond Castle, with one of the heroines' puppies going for help after the girls fall/are pushed over a cliff, and the other picking up and dropping a necklace over the side to the girls.
  • In a flashback episode of Futurama, Fry's dog leads the family to the cryogenic unit he's in, but they don't notice him there and are instead worried about the weird way the dog is acting.
  • Hanna-Barbera shows:
    • Jonny Quest TOS episode "Skull and Double Crossbones." After the Quests are taken hostage by pirates, Bandit goes for help and brings back the police to save the day.
    • Tagg, Gulliver's dog in Hanna-Barbera's The Adventures of Gulliver cartoon. He is highly intelligent (for a dog) and often acts on his own initiative to warn Gulliver and the Lilliputians of danger (and sometimes save them from it).
    • Blip the monkey in Space Ghost.
    • Ork the flying dodo in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon Mighty Mightor.
    • The Herculoids. Gloop and Gleep often acted in an intelligent manner to communicate with and protect the human members of the team on their own initiative. The other animal members could do the same but not quite as well.
    • Birdman. Avenger the eagle did this all the time, and Birdman seemed to understand what his screeching cries meant.
  • The Simpsons: Some of Laddie's many skills include gathering fruit, rescuing Baby Gerald, and sniffing out marijuana.

Bart: He's trained to do all sorts of stuff. He can herd sheep and perform CPR.
Marge: (reads from the manual) Some call it the dog that never sleeps, though it actually does -- while jogging!

    • Mr. Burns is also impressed by a dog.

Burns: Smithers, I've just seen the most heroic dog on television. He pulled a toddler from the path of a speeding car, then pushed a criminal in front of it. Find this dog. I want to make him my executive vice president.

    • Doesn't involve an animal rescue, but in "Radio Bart," Bart puts a radio down a well and, using his microphone, claims to be a boy named Timmy O'Toole.
    • Parodied in "Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind."

Homer: Santa's Little Helper! Hey, boy, do you know where the family is? Show me on Mapquest!
SLH: *Growls*
Homer: Fine, Google Maps.

  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy sends Cerbee to get Heloise after he and Beezy are trapped in prison. He quickly gets distracted when Heloise thinks he's hungry and offers him a steak.
  • Parodied on Freakazoid!, when he sends Foamy the Freakadog to get Cosgrove to save him from the deathtrap he's currently trapped in. Foamy crosses the desert, overcoming several great obstacles before reaching Cosgrove... and running right past him to a fire hydrant.
  • Darkwing Duck: Just Us Justice Ducks

Neptunia runs into her octopus friend
Neptunia: Hey Hal! What, what is is?
Hal motions with his tentacles
Neptunia: Someone fell into Devil's Gorge and has a compound fracture of the lower mandible?


Launchpad: What is it, Archie? Someone fell into Devil's Gorge and has a compound fracture of the lower mandible?

  • In the King of the Hill episode "Raise the Stakes", Hank is helping out a hippie-run co-op; late in the episode, one of the hippies runs over (while the neighborhood is having a barbecue) and tells Hank there's trouble at the co-op. Dale remarks "He's like a human Lassie!"
  • In the The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball and Darwin have been intimidated into not saying anything (out loud). So when they play charades when trying to say something important. The first two people to watch it, (who they were telling it to) interpreted it as someone fell down a well (that is not what happened though).

Real Life

  1. And you want us to bury him in with rocks? Great idea! Good boy, Tropey!