Downeast Dog News

Holiday Movies Have Gone to the Dogs

By Susan Spisak | Dec 01, 2021
Piper (Photo courtesy of Heidi Neal, Loyal Biscuit Co.)

Tis the season! Get into the spirit by watching holiday movies with your buds like we do. We light the fire, pop popcorn, and turn on our favorites guaranteed to make us smile. Teddy and Banx snuggle with us and are especially delighted if they hear barking or see four-leggeds prancing across the screen. Here are some movies we like – you may enjoy them, too.

The zany Christmas Vacation starts our seasonal binge-watching. Clark Griswold wants things perfect for his family and visiting relatives. Everything goes wrong, especially when his uninvited Cousin Eddie shows up with his wife, kids, and Rottweiler, Snot. The Rottie creates havoc by drinking the Christmas tree water, and the pine eventually goes up in smoke. Snot gets into the trash and hacks up a bone. He chases a squirrel who, of course, has gotten into the Griswold house, leaving it in shambles. There’s much more comical drama but by story’s-end everyone’s festive, and Clark basks in the moonlight with Snot.

The 2005 remake of The 12 Dogs of Christmas was shot mostly in Bethel and Portland, Maine and Conway, New Hampshire. (Tidbit: Filmed in May, snow was trucked in for authenticity.) The Depression-era story is about 12-year-old Emma O’Connor who lives with her aunt in a small town. She finds herself embroiled in a battle with the mayor and dog catcher who’ve banned dogs. Attempting to overturn the no-dog law, she garners the help of an area sanctuary owner. Then she brings together classmates, adults, and countless canines for a holiday pageant. It’s cute, heartwarming, and as the tagline says, “You’ll cheer for the underdog.”

A Christmas Story, set in circa 1940’s in the Midwest, is another fav. Young Ralphie Parker is the star of this movie – he dreams of receiving a Red Ryder BB gun. Part of the fun involves his neighbors’ Hounds who terrorize the boy’s “Old Man.” Mr. Parker hates them so much (it’s believed there’s 785 of them), declaring them “smelly buggers.” So many great scenes, especially when the Hounds sneak into their house while the turkey is resting (unattended) in the kitchen. The “Turkey Thieves” eat the bird, but Ralphie’s crusty dad comes through. “Let’s get our coats. We are going out to eat.” They end up in a Chinese restaurant and have a hilarious time.

Rom-com You’ve Got Mail is not a typical seasonal movie. That said, it’s based on The Shop Around the Corner which has a Christmas backdrop, so this remake includes a smattering of holiday settings. Book superstore entrepreneur, Joe Fox, meets independent, small bookshop owner, Kathleen Kelly, via the Internet. Joe’s Golden Retriever, Brinkley, is his partner in crime, especially while he’s email “wooing.” He’s often lying nearby or is “paws up” on Joe’s desk, as if proofing his written words. Joe and Kathleen eventually meet in person, and their dilemma unfolds as his superstore is winning over her customers.

A Christmas Wedding Tail is a chick flick, a canine tale, a family story. It’s set in the picturesque California wine country. The movie opens as a couple, with young children and a dog by each of their sides, are ready to wed. “This wasn’t just any Christmas,” narrates Golden Retriever, Rusty. To tell their story properly, he must go back to the beginning, to an afternoon in a dog park with his owner, Susan. She meets Jake there (apparently there are no last names in this movie), a local vintner who has a Standard Poodle named Cheri. The pooches grow close and are eager for their families to merge. Things unfold as expected. Yes, this is a sappy movie, but it’s easy viewing and family- and dog-friendly.

The 1965 animated TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas is as classic as it gets. It was the first of many specials based on the cartoon strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. It’s great for the family with messages on baby Jesus, angels, peace, and goodwill. A depressed Charlie Brown, disappointed with holiday commercialism, visits Lucy’s psychiatric stand for advice. She suggests he direct the school play to brighten his outlook, and he takes it on. For the stage centerpiece, he decides on a sparse, tiny tree and is mocked by his peers for it. As he trudges home, he’s disgusted to see his own Beagle, Snoopy, has joined in on the glitz by decorating and lighting up his doghouse. Eventually, the gang realizes they were tough on Charlie, and with the gift of Linus’ blanket for love, they rally to make the little tree a decorated treasure.

Heidi Vanorse Neal, co-owner of the award-winning pet supply boutiques, the Loyal Biscuit Co. with her husband Joel Neal, said they like How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The animated TV version, based on Dr. Seuss’ book of the same name, came out in 1966. It’s about a green Grinch who lives in a lair above Whoville with his dog, Max. Grouchy and small-hearted Grinch tries to ruin the Whos of Whoville’s Christmas. The adorable little Cindy-Lou Who takes it upon herself to teach the mean-spirited Grinch what the holiday’s all about. In 2000, a live action adaption was released with Jim Carrey as the diabolical Grinch, and the role of Max was shared by six mixed-breed rescues. (The Neal’s also recommend the Disney film The Search for Santa Paws.)

Heidi said treats that your pupper will beg for during the movies are these homemade Gingerbread Biscuits. The dog-friendly recipe will be included in Loyal Biscuit’s soon-to-be-published cookbook. (Watch for it at

• 4 cups all-purpose flour and 2 cups whole wheat flour

• 3 tsp. ground ginger, /2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

mix dry ingredients, set aside. Then in another bowl, mix wet ingredients, below.

• 3/4 cup molasses, 1 cup + 2 tbsp. water, 1/2 cup coconut oil (softened)

Combine wet with dry, expect dough to be stiff.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/4" thickness. Cut with cookie cutter and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in pre-heated 325* oven for 25-30 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container.

Notes: Use any leftover scraps of dough to make free-form bite-size biscuits. Use plain yogurt or cream cheese to frost and decorate.