Just to let you guys know, I probably won't be sticking around here after this post. This is just one of many burner accounts I've made on various websites and forums to ask about this specific thing.
I know this community specializes in discussing and tracking down obscure children's media, but this is like, really obscure. The thing I'm looking for is one of those educational DVDs for K-12 schools that I'm pretty sure you could only ever get from one of those publisher agents that travel around to meet with school staff to sell their textbooks and other materials directly.
So I don't know if you guys will be able to help me with this. I've already asked about this on several different teacher forums and even went as far as to contact several of the big school text book publishing companies directly, with no success. I've come close to giving up several times, but I wouldn't be asking if this wasn't important to me.
I came across the video while serving detention in 6th grade for "getting into a fight." In truth, some bullies had started the fight and I was just defending myself, but due to the school's Zero Tolerance policy I also got detention for a week. The principal gave me a choice of where I could serve my detention, and I chose the library backroom. You know, the room at school libraries where they keep all the "extra" stuff like transparency projectors and surplus books.
I chose the backroom because I didn't care to be "supervised" while I pretended to be studying. Plus, without the burden of a teacher breathing down my neck, I might get some real studying done.
I realize I'm rambling a bit here, but that's because I'm still uncomfortable discussing the topic at hand. At any rate, I came across the video while rifling through the various DVDs—special ed instructional videos, disc companions to books that had been replaced already, etc.I don't remember the DVD art or even the title, but I know the disc was very cheap-looking and scratched-up.
I could have benefited from using the down time to study or do homework, but I resented the idea of having to do any real work during a detention that wasn't my fault. So I decided to pass the time by watching some of the DVDs. All the actual movies and stuff were outside the library backroom, so I would have to settle for the educational videos, and this one was as good as any to start with.
Taking care to make as little noise as possible, I maneuvered the big television on its cart into a position where it could be used, plugged it in, and hooked up the DVD player. I turned the volume almost all the way down and turned on closed captioning before inserting the disc. I didn't know whether or not the librarian would mind if I watched the DVDs back here, but I figured it was easier to ask forgiveness than permission in this case.
It seemed to be a health class type of DVD about teens and risky behaviors. You know, those videos. The menu had options for different "episodes" (only about ten minutes each) focused on different topics like drug abuse, underage drinking, guns, internet safety, trespassing, etc.
I clicked "Play all." The DVD had a sort of mascot named Sam the Safety Dog, a man in a brown dog costume wearing what looked like some type of police or paramedic shirt. It was never really clear what his profession was supposed to be, but he wasn't really central to most of the clips in any case. The "stories" were mostly led and narrated by different teen actors and occasional adults.
The shorts were surprisingly dark for a classroom DVD. I quickly realized this was one of those things intended to shock and disturb young viewers, and leave them internally disquieted, like those drunk driving PSAs or those Think Before You Post commercials if anyone remembers those. It was all especially off-putting when combined with that cheesy upbeat guitar music that was common in educational videos from the 2000s.
They had skits of teens doing various "risky" behaviors intermingled with real footage of the disastrous consequences of such. They never showed any real gore or dead bodies (although one of the episodes involved the teen narrators visiting a ward for crack babies, which was pretty horrific) but they showed just about everything an educational DVD could get away with showing. Car crashes, drowning victims being carted around under sheets, all the really graphic stuff was kept just off-screen, and sometimes supplemented by news anchor clips describing what had happened.
The fake skits could also get bizarrely graphic. Whereas most educational videos would shy away from showing any more blood than a nosebleed, these videos had several scenes involving the use of fake blood, not enough to push it into R-rated territory but enough that I could imagine parents complaining if this was ever shown in class.
There was also one very real clip that showed a bit of bone sticking out from a kid's leg, having suffered an injury after climbing a fence to get into somewhere he wasn't supposed to be.
I didn't really think much of it all at the time. It really wasn't any worse than other things I had seen by that point in my life. Still, it was bizarre for school material, and left me feeling slightly unsettled.
In the DVD extras, there was a section on the DVD's official website. I visited the site later that day. I don't remember much about the site, but there was a page where you were invited to write to Sam the Safety Dog personally. There was a field to write about what problems you were having in school, and to invite the character to come speak at your school.
I decided I may as well. I wrote Sam a message, telling him (or rather the site admins; it wasn't like I didn't know such characters were fictional by 6th grade) about my problems with bullies, specifically Brandon, Scott, and Taylor, the three who were constantly picking on me and who were responsible for my detention that week.
I'm not sure what prompted me to do this. Normally I would find such things to be very silly, but I guess it was a way of venting to someone whom I didn't actually expect a response from.
I don't remember what the URL for the website was, and believe me, I have tried dozens of different possible ones to try to find the site, both on search engines and web archives. If anyone knows what site it could be, even if you don't know about the DVD, please do let me know.
Anyway, here's where things started to get weird. Just two days after I sent the message, we were informed that we had an assembly in the gym.
None of us knew what the assembly was for, including me. But it wasn't as though surprise school assemblies were a new thing, so I didn't think much of it.
We sat in the gym for about 20 minutes before the principal stepped forward to address the student body. He gave a spiel about how student safety was important to him and how he was concerned about certain behaviors at the school. Then he introduced the guest speaker who was, as you may have guessed, Sam the Safety Dog.
The students clapped, but I heard some jeering and heckling from some of the older students. Even I may have been tempted to join in, given that it seemed a little silly to have a man in a dog costume speak to teenagers, but something just felt off about the situation. Even at my age I knew it was weird for the character to come speak to us just two days after I visited his website.
The mascot introduced himself in an exaggerated "hip" voice, the speakers in the gym screeching from the feedback from his taped-on microphone. He did one of those things where a speaker at a school challenges the students to cheer at them as loudly as they can. No one was interested, and the result was some very awkward silence.
Before long I realized the kids around me were already starting to fantasize about how much more fun it would be to be in class doing math problems right now than sitting through this assembly. This was clearly a presentation designed for much younger children. The character did some very cringe-worthy skits with teachers based on different scenarios involving opportunities for specific risky behaviors. He also showed us videos of equally cheesy stories with kid actors.
As the presentation went on however, it started to get...darker. The man started telling specific stories about real kids who did dangerous or rebellious things and paid the price. The speaker's tone and inflection also became more adult-like, and it became unsettling in contrast with the costume he was wearing.
The videos also became grittier. At one point we were treated to a clip of five teenage actors playing stereotypical "tough" middle school kids. They smoked, drank, and bullied other kids. At the end of the video they decided to steal a car despite not knowing how to drive. They ended up driving it into a river. The scene faded and was replaced by a scene of police cars, with a police officer reporting on his radio that there were five bodies.
Some time later Sam's cheery demeanor suddenly returned. He asked for a volunteer from among the students. No one raised their hand, so he picked a student.
The costumed man walked close to the bleachers, and pointed up to the back row. He indicated the student he wanted by his shirt, one of those "Show Me Your Tots" shirts that used to be popular among middle school kids. All eyes turned toward the student. It was Brandon, the leader of the trio of bullies I had fought with.
Brandon looked positively mortified to be singled out, much to my schadenfreude and probably that of many others there. He crossed his arms and looked away to send the message that he was not having it, but Sam's tone grew commanding. It was clear that the man would not relieve the awkwardness for Brandon until he complied. There was a lot of giggling from my peers as he slowly got up and walked down the bleachers to the costumed character.
Sam said he was going to roleplay with Brandon. He would be an older kid or adult asking him to do certain "bad" things, and Brandon would have to respond appropriately.
Naturally, Brandon decided to try to make the man regret picking him by flipping the script. Every query from the character drew a snarky response from him.
"Hey kid, I got some marijuana here that's not going to smoke itself. Wanna try?"
Brandon's response: "Sure, but only if it's the good stuff. You sure you don't have anything harder?"
The students all laughed at his quip, even me. Sam seemed unfazed though. He responded in an unbroken cheery tone.
"Tssst, oops, that's not quite the right response. What you should say is 'No way, and I am going to tell a trusted adult.' Now how about this, imagine I'm an older student. Hey Brandon, wanna go jack someone's ride?"
"Do I get to drive? Only if I get to drive."
More laughter, more friendly chiding from Sam the Safety Dog.
The character did a couple more, each receiving similar responses, before sending Brandon back to his seat. Sam just chuckled and resumed his presentation.
I don't remember much about it past that point. If anyone here has ever had a presentation at their school by Sam the Safety Dog, please, please tell me.
I have talked to my former classmates about it. Most of them do not remember it at all. A couple had a light bulb go off when I mentioned it, but their memories of it were vague and they said they couldn't remember anything specific other than the fact that it happened.
I even contacted our principal of the time, who is now retired. He said he didn't even remember that the presentation happened until he got my message, and he did not recall whose idea it was to invite Sam the Safety Dog to speak at the school or how the conversation with the company that sponsored the character went.
The reason I'm so desperate to find information is what happened after that day. Just four days later, we were gathered in the gym again. The principal had some grave news. Over the weekend, Brandon and his two cohorts, Scott and Taylor, had stolen a relative's car and driven it. They were chased by the police and ended up driving the vehicle off a bridge and into a river.
Scott and Taylor were found dead, having drowned. There would be a memorial service at the school later that week.
I never saw anyone make the connection to the fact that we had been shown a fake drowning incident with eerily similar circumstances just four days prior. No one ever brought up the presentation by Sam the Safety Dog.
I now wish more than anything that I had said something about it. I guess at the time it seemed insensitive, but I really want to know if anyone remembered it even at the time.
Everywhere I've looked, I have failed to find answers. None of my former classmates or teachers recall anything about the presentation now other than the name and appearance of the character and the location. They certainly don't seem to remember that it took place four days before two of our classmates died.
There is one person in particular I wish I could ask. Someone I believe could give me concrete answers, if only he could.
I have been allowed, several times a year, to visit Brandon, who now lives out his days in a hospital room in a Persistent Vegetative State. I told his parents I was friends with him in middle school. They didn't question it. They seemed happy that anyone at all was coming to visit him.
I sometimes suspect that I am the sole reason he has not been taken off life support. I see him on weekends, during the times when he is most often "awake", his eyes open and staring forward, the unconscious result of his body maintaining a circadian rhythm despite his condition.
The TV is always on in his room, despite the fact that they don't know if he has any awareness at all. I have asked him many times in vain to tell me what he knows, what he remembers, or, if this is all just a coincidence of circumstances, to just be able to talk about it.
I keep thinking back to one of the few clips on the DVD that actually had Sam the Safety Dog in it. He was in a man's hospital room, a man in the same state as Brandon is now. The man was sat upright behind Sam, his eyes involuntarily following the character as he walked closer to the camera.
Sam's exact words: "This is what happens to kids who don't listen."
If anyone knows anything at all about Sam the Safety Dog, any DVDs he appears in, the website, or any school that has been visited by the character, please tell me whatever you can. Even if you only heard it secondhand, any information would be immensely appreciated.
Because Brandon isn't talking, and I may be running out of time with him.
Written by HopelessNightOwl