Earlier this week we published a piece examining the celluloid representation of the Christmas Spirit in relation to Charles Dickens’ seminal novella A Christmas Carol. The author noted that dogs often epitomize the Spirit of Christmas, especially in Hollywood. Although unfortunately there’s no real live-action Canine Christmas Carol, the canine Spirit is canonized in adaptations like the animated An All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998) and the all-puppet Ruffus the Dog’s Christmas Carol (2011). But even with the lack of a true Doggy Dickens, the genre of Dog Christmas Movies seems to have been around forever. Just about every Christmas classic has a dog at least as a sidekick: How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) has Max; A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) of course has Snoopy; even The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) has Zero the ghost dog. And in recent decades as CGI technology has advanced, we have a bountiful variety of “talking dog” Christmas movies using real-deal canine actors coming out at a pace of about two per season.
Humans even love dogs at Christmas so much that for decades we have listened with glee as they changed the face of recorded music entirely just by barking out “Jingle Bells.” But why is it that dogs are so closely associated with the yuletide? Well, dogs are the first domesticated animal. They are often linked with traits like loyalty and vigilance and serve as protectors of the household. Dogs are guardians who represent selfless service, and they accept us with no questions asked. How else can we explain Max’s loyalty to The Grinch? Dogs are the purest example of kindness, epitomize togetherness, and their presence in the home makes us feel warmer. And what’s the warmest season of all? You guessed it.
With all these roles to fill, it’s no wonder dogs are seen as the saviors of Christmas in Hollywood’s eyes. “Saving Christmas” comes in different forms. Ernest did it, Mickey did it, even Joe Bob Briggs did it (apparently). Usually to “save Christmas” you have to overcome some obstacle concerning people lacking Christmas Spirit or Santa losing his toy bag or the reindeer calling in sick. These things may be easy enough for everyday Joes like you and me, but for our four-legged friends, they become a little more complicated. With dogs’ famous loyalty and servitude comes great altruistic responsibility. And thus we can break down the three main types of Dog Christmas Movies: Catalyst, Magical Savior, and Total Whackadoo.
Catalyst movies typically include some type of family crisis in which a new dog ends up being just what the doctor ordered to bring the chaos back down to a manageable level. Often this involves a Career Gal, who may or may not be a single mom, who’s just too darn busy to do Christmas this year. In A Very Corgi Christmas (2019), our Career Gal is a single mom and widow, and she’s working hard to climb up the executive ranks of the marketing firm where she works. She thinks when she gets to the top, she’ll be afforded the perk of having more time off to spend with her son. So this Christmas she works to the wire, then drops by her parents’ house out in the country to find no one home. They had just assumed she was working like she always does, so they left to spend the holiday in Florida! But they invite her and their grandson to stay at the home for Christmas since, I mean, they’re there already. A flirty situation arises when their handy, handsome single dad neighbor asks the Career Gal to watch the corgi puppy he got for his daughter until Christmas Eve so her surprise isn’t ruined. In the case of A Puppy For Christmas (2016), Career Gal this time is in a bad relationship with a finance bro, and she thinks bringing a cockapoo puppy home will help steer him towards a better commitment. She’s wrong of course, and as he freaks out and boots her from the apartment ~ effectively making her homeless for the holidays ~ she and the puppy sleep under her desk in the office of the magazine where she is a columnist. A flirty situation arises when her handy, handsome coworker invites her to his family’s home in the wilderness (a Christmas tree farm!), so she spends the holidays warming up with the pup and snowball fighting with her potential new beau. In both of these examples, the puppy serves as the catalyst for not only romance but for our Career Gal to realize her priorities. She doesn’t have to miss out on making memories with her son by working through Christmas to advance her career; she doesn’t have to remain in a relationship with a man who takes more interest in financial notoriety than in her. These catalyst pups, even as secondary elements to the main stories, use their embodiment of the Christmas Spirit to motivate the characters to look toward the greater good in their lives and make positive changes for both romantic and familial happiness.
Aside from those semi-fluff pieces, though, comes a verifiable Hallmark Hall of Fame film from 2009, A Dog Named Christmas. This story is about an autistic young man who lives at home helping on his family’s farm, doing daily chores, and passing the time with his hobby of painting and re-painting the various barns and sheds on the property. As Christmas approaches, he hears an announcement on the radio that the local animal shelter is looking for families to foster their dogs for the holidays, as no one should spend Christmas alone, not even doggies. Excited, the boy talks his father into letting them keep a dog at their home, with the promise that he will return it to the shelter after Christmas as the program specifies. The father does not want his son to be too attached to the dog because he has his own baggage with the grief of losing an animal he loved, compounded by related memories of the Vietnam War. He also thinks this is a good opportunity for his son to learn about real-life situations like keeping his word even when it is difficult. So when the nameless golden retriever in the shelter goes home with the family, they decide to call him Christmas. Of course, the bond between man and dog is unmovable, so the rest of the film is a debate on whether or not they will actually keep the dog, regardless of the son’s agreement with his father. An attack from a wandering cougar that showcases Christmas’ bravery and determination helps tip the scale in his favor, as does the animal shelter offering the son a job since he did such an amazing job at helping promote their fostering program. In the end, the family keeps the dog, but more so because the father needs a companion, and Christmas’ presence there has helped him resolve some of his emotional issues tied to his boyhood and the tragic outcome of his military service. The dog’s involvement in this story goes much deeper than in the Career Gal examples, and the therapeutic element of its presence is more clearly defined. This is the kind of simple Dog Christmas Movie that we all love to see; it’s heartwarming and silly at times, has a sense of peril, and is a real tear-jerker on both the happy and sad sides. The Christmas Spirit the dog brings here has manifested as a sense of healing and newfound togetherness, bringing again, positive change.
In Christianity, it’s difficult to find evidence in the Bible that says dogs are any kind of sacred animal. Most textual references to dogs seem to be symbolic, equating them to fools, sorcerers, and whores. It’s a bit ironic seeing that when we know what dogs have come to symbolize. But perhaps it’s people taking a cue from another world religion that’s given dogs their reputation as our loyal saviors. In Hinduism, dogs are considered sacred animals and guardians of the gates of Heaven and Hell. Sometimes Gods might even appear to humans disguised as dogs. Aside from religion, though, all across ancient mythology, dogs have had similar roles that solidify their sacredness via both their earthly bodies here and magical ones in the afterlife.
The Dogs Actually Save Christmas subheading does usually imply some kind of magic or super-dog capabilities. Here we dip into the “talking dog” category a little bit, but first, we have to mention Benji’s Very Own Christmas Story (1978), a TV special that is half meta/half magic in which everyone’s favorite scruffy adventure dog is asked to the be grand marshall at the Christmas parade in Zermatt, Switzerland, during a promotional tour. The sleigh taxi taking Benji and his handlers around town is manned by a guy named Kris Kringle, so you might be able to guess where this is going. Santa kindly dognaps Benji because he wants his elves to meet him since he’s got a broken leg and they’ll miss the parade because they have to deliver the presents for him. There’s a whole exaggerated song and dance number showcasing how different cultures throughout the world perceive and receive Santa Claus that’s akin to “It’s A Small World” in that it’s supposed to innocently evoke feelings of world unity and be a little educational, too. But as Santa is dancing, his cast shatters, and it’s revealed he’s faking his broken leg for the reason that, in his hundreds of years being Santa Claus, he wanted to spend just one Christmas relaxing at home. He looks over to Benji who’s patiently and comfortably being petted by the elves and realizes that the millions of children all over the world who believe in him welcoming him into their homes every December is the greatest sense of belonging he could ask for. Benji doesn’t do much but sit around in this presentation, but the power of dogs at Christmas is more compelling than we can imagine. Benji ~ doing virtually nothing but acting as a vessel for people’s love ~ inspires Santa Claus to not give up on the magic of Christmas, and not to turn away from the warmth and comfort of strangers who believe in him. Without Benji, Santa might have just as well retired.
Next comes the The Dog Who Saved Christmas series, where we have finally arrived at “talking dogs,” but, as a distinction, only dogs who talk amongst themselves. Not only that, but we are slowly wading into the waters of “this is where former television stars go to die,” the novelty of which sickly makes these movies more appealing. The Dog Who Saved Christmas (2009) and its sequels The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation (2010) and The Dog Who Saved the Holidays (2012) all revolve around the Bannister family, who adopt a former K-9 golden retriever named Zeus. (Before we get too much further, let’s clarify that the special effects budgets in these films don’t yet allow for lips moving-talking dogs, that still comes later on our list.) Zeus (voiced by Mario Lopez) has to prove his worth to Mrs. Bannister (Elisa Donovan) because she’s really looking for a good guard dog for their new home, not just some cute and klutzy golden retriever who doesn’t even bark. The family leaves Zeus at home while visiting Grandma on Christmas Eve with the intention of taking him back to the animal shelter after Christmas because he’s just not well-suited enough to be their guard dog. Meanwhile, a couple of thieves (Dean Cain and Joey Diaz) who’ve been scoping the house all week break in aiming to rob the Bannisters of their cherished valuables and Christmas gifts. It’s now up to Zeus to overcome his nervousness and thwart the robbers to save Christmas for his family and earn his spot in the household. We can see without spoilers that Zeus succeeds, given there are two more movies in the series (plus a Halloween one), so if you’re wondering if maybe the sequels get a little crazier as they go, they kind of do. The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation takes place at a ski resort in which the Bannisters are joined by more random semi-washed-up celebrities (Casper Van Dien as the brother, Paris Hilton as the voice of a French poodle) and Zeus once again is up against the same two thieves (Dean Cain sporting a sleazier haircut this time) who are trying to steal a famous resort guest’s $125,000 diamond necklace. In the third installment, The Dog Who Saved the Holidays, the Bannisters visit the luxury mansion of their wealthy aunt (Shelley Long), who is in perpetual Christmas decoration competition with her neighbor (Michael Gross). The aunt gifts them with a new puppy, which is one of the most irresponsible gifts she could have given them, as the mother (still Elisa Donovan) is pregnant this Christmas. Like, come on, lady, they don’t need that. Mario Lopez is replaced in this sequel with Joey Lawrence, but due to mounting fatigue and being pissed off about that horribly unthoughtful gift, I turned it off before finding out if he ever says “Ho Ho Whoa!” Dean Cain and Joey Diaz return, though, as mobile dog groomers, which may or may not be a front for thieving, but we’ll assume it is and that Zeus finally rips their faces off or something. Christmas is saved!
Similarly, there’s the 2013 Asylum production Alone For Christmas, aka Bone Alone. This one stars Kevin Sorbo and David DeLuise and has the full doggy lips moving treatment (Asylum got those big bucks). A family leaves their dog Bone alone in a kennel for the holidays because he’s just too rambunctious to go to Grandma’s house. Bone gets a tip from another dog that a band of thieves is hitting houses in his neighborhood, so he escapes the kennel and runs straight home to immediately start setting up Home Alone-style traps to stop the robbers and save the day. Bone Alone is more far-fetched than any of the The Dog Who Saved Christmas(es), and the “heart” of it is slightly more shallow, as many potentially endearing moments are neglected in favor of gags (Bone manufactures his traps onscreen but just with his paws and legs showing, one of the robbers is victim to an ongoing fart joke), but it’s a good segue to our next subheading of Dog Christmas Movies, the Total Whackadoo variety.
As with the Magical Savior category, these films typically involve a saving of Christmas of some sort, but usually it’s less of a singular household in question and instead has more to do with the broad scope of Christmas. All of these have talking dogs, but the difference is that the dogs can now effectively communicate with humans and not just amongst themselves. Additionally, all of them have a broader sense of adventure or overly imaginative plot, and most actively visit with Santa Claus or his representatives for a good portion of the runtime.
You would think if an animal turned to a human and started talking, the human would experience some kind of major freakout, but maybe that’s not always the case. Folk tradition holds that talking animals are sometimes seen as Satanic, as with the cinematic case of Black Phillip or the legend that people who hear animals speak are fated to die. But there is also diversity in these legends, ranging from darker tales of animals plotting revenge against their masters to supernatural stories of the farm animals present at the Nativity being granted the ability to talk so they can help spread the word of Christ’s birth. The 1970 ABC Television special “The Night the Animals Talked” is a somewhat disturbing version of that legend showing how communication leads to corruption, but what else can we expect from cartoons in the ‘70s? The Nativity story also fuels the European legend that even our domesticated animals can speak, but only at midnight on Christmas Eve. And thus our modern tradition of Talking Dog Christmas Movies is probably born.
We start with the absolute all-timer of Walt Disney Distribution, the ultimate in Dog Christmas Movies, 2009’s Santa Buddies. Who knew that Air Bud (1997) would spawn such a long and fruitful franchise? Regardless, Santa Buddies finds our five favorite talking golden retriever pups on a quest to help Puppy Paws (Santa Paws’ son) reinvigorate the Christmas Spirit so Santa Claus (George Wendt), Santa Paws (voiced by Tom Bosley), and the reindeer will have enough energy to deliver presents and cheer to all the world’s children and pups. Christmas energy is stored inside a giant icicle on the North Pole, and when the people of Earth start to lose their Christmas Spirit, that icicle melts. If it melts too much, Santa becomes lethargic and the reindeer become too sick to fly. Everything that is powered through Christmas Magic goes on the fritz, including the mail delivery truck the elves use to gather letters to Santa. Travel between the North Pole realm and our own becomes virtually impossible, so when Puppy Paws uses the last remaining power from the crystalized chip of the Christmas Icicle he wears on his collar to go hang with the Buddies and help Budderball get off the Naughty List, he’s stuck on Earth. Not only that, but the local dogcatcher (Christopher Lloyd) snatches Puppy Paws up and locks him in the pound! It’s only when a little mutt named Tiny sings a Christmas song that Puppy Paws sees Christmas Spirit isn’t completely dead, and the Buddies help him bust out of the pound. They gather just enough Christmas Magic to make it back to the North Pole where Santa Claus and Santa Paws have recovered adequately to deliver the presents, but the reindeer have not. Christmas is saved when the present duty is passed down to the energetic Puppy Paws, and through more Christmas Magic, the Buddies harness themselves up to Santa’s sleigh and take off into flight.
(Note: There’s a 2012 Santa Buddies knock-off called Golden Winter featuring another litter of talking golden retriever puppies who have to save Christmas from a gang of delinquent youth and a couple of robbers intent on stealing a sizeable monetary donation to the local Boys’ Club. This cast features Shannon Elizabeth and Haylie Duff. It really tries to give the same kind of charm and personality to the individual puppies that the Buddies franchise is known for, but most of the jokes lack charisma and seem tryhard at best. It’s hilarious to say, but Golden Winter is much less sophisticated than Santa Buddies, so we Grumps recommend you skip it.)
Taking a page from Benji, 2011’s Beethoven’s Christmas Adventure is set in the rebooted Beethoven universe (typing that feels ridiculous) in which Beethoven has nothing to do with Charles Grodin or his family and is a randomly discovered dog actor who becomes a worldwide star. For marketing, Beethoven is invited to be a grand marshall of a town Christmas parade, which sounds decently normal and down to Earth and not at all Total Whackadoo to begin with. However what tips this story over is one of Santa’s stable elves has an incident when testing the flight capabilities of Santa’s sleigh, and drops the big man’s toy bag in the middle of nowhere (coincidentally it’s the town Beethoven is in). Stuck in a tree after jumping out of the sleigh, the elf is discovered by Beethoven’s handler (a teenage emo boy) and they take him home. Unable to convince the boy that he’s really a magic elf, he unrolls a package of special candy canes that, when licked, give the licker the ability to communicate freely with animals so he can tell the boy what Beethoven is thinking. So if you’ve ever wanted to know what Beethoven’s voice sounds like, it’s Tom Arnold. From there, Beethoven, the boy, and the elf have to stop a couple of local swindlers who found Santa’s toy bag (Robert Picardo, Curtis Armstrong) from ripping off the entire town with their “endless toy supply,” return Santa’s sack to the North Pole and save Christmas in the process.
But the Total Whackadoo Dog Christmas Movie that takes the cake is likely the worst one across the board in terms of quality, script-writing, acting, and execution: Jim Wynorski’s A Doggone Christmas (2016). The CIA discovers a telepathic Jack Russell Terrier and wants to weaponize him, but he escapes from his cage and jumps off a train to hide out. The dog is found by a couple of brothers who secretly smuggle him home to stay in their treehouse where they learn he can communicate with them telepathically (no expensive doggy lips-moving necessary). The dad of the story has just lost his job at the toy company, so things are a little bit tight this year and maybe they can’t afford to give their kids any presents. But the mom can still somehow manage to serve them lamb for dinner, so this family’s holiday priorities are actually pretty questionable. Strangely, the FBI is after the dog ~ not the CIA, even though the CIA is established in the story already ~ and has sent a pair of agents (one cosplaying as a dominatrix for some reason, perhaps the Wynorski touch) to find him. But their efforts are of course thwarted by the kids protecting the mutt, leading us to think about how ineffective federal agents may be if they’re defeated by a blundering group of school children and a small terrier. Now, if you’re blown away by Jim Wynorski, soft-core peddler extraordinaire, writing and directing a kid-friendly Christmas movie, you’re not alone. But apparently, this genre isn’t too far gone for directors like Wynorski, as Fred Olen Ray also dips his toes into the Dog Christmas Movie brand with Holiday Road Trip (2013). That one falls into the Catalyst category, as it’s more about the budding romance between the two main protagonists than anything the dog actually does, but it’s worth mentioning here based on mind-blowing namedrops alone. Oh! Speaking of namedrops, the Jack Russell who acts in Holiday Road Trip is Uggie, the same dog who charmed us in 2011’s The Artist. What a life Uggie must have had, walking the red carpet at the Academy Awards and turning right around to work with Fred Olen Ray. That’s Hollywood!
OH, HEAVENLY DOG(S)
With all the characteristics that dogs possess making them the perfect avatars for the Christmas Spirit and all the cinematic representations thereof, there’s still one connection missing. For this discussion, we’ll return to Charles Dickens, and dig a bit into the briefly aforementioned animated adaptation An All Dogs Christmas Carol. It can be argued that since this is a cartoon it can’t be taken seriously, however, if we practice our suspension of disbelief it can prove a valuable source of insight into human behavior and the Christmas Spirit, through the analogs of cartoon dog characters acting out cartoon dog drama.
All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989) cemented what we’ve already known: when dogs die they are given a free pass to Heaven. Considered to be inherently good and loyal by default, they have automatically secured a place in the eternal sanctuary. Pope Francis even alluded to this belief; in 2014 he defied Catholic tradition by consoling a distraught boy whose dog had just died by saying “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.” By that logic, even an opportunistic, cheating, gambling mutt like Charlie B. Barkin is entitled to a halo and wings. But if we are to believe this mythos, the application of it to the story of A Christmas Carol presents us with a problem. Essentially, if Ebenezer Scrooge was a dog, he wouldn’t have to worry about redemption, would he? The short answer? No. However:
What we understand about A Christmas Carol is that Scrooge has been a greedy miser his entire adult life, profiting off the backs of the working class. His motivation is financial gain, citing “it’s just business” when making cutthroat decisions that will raise his profit margin. Altruism puts love over money, but Scrooge has abandoned that altogether in favor of cynicism and demanding work. It takes seeing the joy experienced by his nephew’s family and the Cratchits to understand that love can be had regardless of financial status, and is, in their cases, more powerful. But still, even with this realization, Scrooge uses his money as a redemptive instrument for the people directly in his life alone, thus the hold unchecked capitalism has on miserly men and the tragedy of the overall wealth gap remain intact. We can speculate whether or not Scrooge makes a permanent change as the story ends before we’re exactly told, but we can also presume being a better person is a difficult change for Scrooge, as any change of habit may be, with a complete turnaround of character being the hardest to achieve.
To help mend the flawed nature of this adaptation and to sidestep the problems within the titular “all dogs go to Heaven” rule, more is added to the story. The Scrooge analog in An All Dogs Christmas Carol is the dastardly Carface Caruthers, Charlie’s old business partner whose double-dealing and ruthlessness make him a clear villain. Carface is indeed the one who needs to learn a lesson and change his heart, but this Christmas he’s been recruited to help the evil witch-bitch Belladonna execute a plan to hypnotize every dog in town so they’ll bring them all their presents and chew-bones using a giant magical dog whistle. Belladonna is the true villain here, giving Carface some wiggle room in the evil department ~ he’s not so bad, he’s just misguided. The addition of this supernatural witch character takes some of the heat off of Carface, but, as Scrooge’s analog, his eventual redemption still hinges on whether or not he repents his service to the greater source of greed and evil, symbolized here in Belladonna. After Carface breaks up the neighborhood dogs’ Christmas party, steals their bones, and swipes the money collection going towards a puppy’s surgery, Charlie, his friend Itchy, and his wife Sasha use a “miracle tag” (a magical dog tag) to enact the whole Three Ghosts of Christmas rigamarole on Carface with themselves as the Ghosts.
The injured pup who needs the operation is Timmy, our Tiny Tim analog; in this version, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Sasha) shows Carface what a good boy Timmy is and scolds him for making off with the kid’s surgery money. In our world, dogs have no reason to concern themselves with financial gain. If a dog exhibits any kind of greedy behavior, it’s more tied to its instincts of survival than some kind of billionaire power trip. A dog may hoard bones, burying them here and there, but that’s more for the purpose of guaranteeing they have something to chomp on later. Since money does nothing for dogs directly, a dog’s loyalty to humans is loosely symbiotic: they protect us so we can continue providing them with food, shelter, and care. Carface stealing Timmy’s operation money is a blow to his own character, an insult to the other dogs’ organized generosity, and to Timmy himself. So when we remove financial gain as a motivating factor in this Scrooge tale because obviously, in the real world dogs aren’t the ones taking themselves to the vet for operations, we have a pure battle between good and evil and stakes that mean more than a potential bad-faith take of throwing money around after the fact to win adoration and affection.
If the Christmas Spirit is based on familial love, then we should up the game and do something for the good of all humanity. As Belladonna’s “helper,” Carface ultimately has to choose between pulling the lever that will activate the dog whistle and, well, not doing that. After using the “miracle tag” to influence Carface to be a better person/dog via the typical A Christmas Carol tropes, Charlie notes that it’s now out of the dogs’ hands and they just have to “trust Carface to do the right thing.” Carface still pulls the lever because he’s afraid of Belladonna and what she may do to him if he doesn’t, but thinking about Timmy and everyone else, he finally gathers the courage to sabotage the whistle instead, snapping all the dogs out of the spell. Belladonna is livid and threatens Carface, but at that moment he steps up and unselfishly takes responsibility for his actions ~ noted by the surprise in his friend Killer’s voice when he witnesses Carface “take the rap” ~ showing a true change in character that is untouched by greed and does more for the Scrooge story than countless other adaptations could.
In this, An All Dogs Christmas Carol sneakily talks about freedom of choice, free will, and personal responsibility. Annabelle, the angel dog – cousin to Belladonna – says to her upon her defeat, “No cousin, people belong to themselves, so they can choose between good and evil.” This sort of bridges a gap, showing the most quasi-humanlike qualities dogs can possess, and demonstrating how they choose to be our loving companions and potential saviors. Dogs’ character is in being altruistic regardless of wealth, which, as highlighted by Dickens, we humans have somewhat of a difficult time wrapping our heads around. Carface is redeemed, although since he’s a dog, he doesn’t need to be in order to have a place in Heaven. Again, we ask the question: if Heaven is a reward for a life of good deeds, but you’ve got a free ticket anyway, why be nice? First of all, “Heaven as a reward for good deeds” is a man-made concept. If we’re looking at Christianity, time and again it is stated in the New Testament that Heaven is awarded to all those who believe in Christ, regardless of past transgressions (All Dogs Go To Heaven might actually be onto something). So the deeper philosophical quandary is, is altruism even real? To be altruistic you have to care about the people around you in order to have a fulfilling life, and you choose to do good deeds because it benefits everyone. It’s true doing a good deed can be its own reward, however, that means reward can still be the motivating factor. The point is whether or not altruism is real we strive to attain it anyway because the love we need from one another outweighs personal satisfaction or selfish gain. Scrooge doesn’t necessarily need forgiveness, but seeing the error of his ways humbles him at that moment. And now it’s his choice whether or not to keep it up when facing the consequences.
Carface brings back all the presents he stole, impressing Charlie and the other dogs who say they didn’t know he had it in him. But Carface laughs, “don’t expect it to last long, I’ve still got a business to run!” Unlike what we see of Ebenezer Scrooge, Carface fully admits this bout of altruism might be temporary and isn’t trying to buy his way back into the hearts of his canine peers. However, what Carface has shown them is he is at least willing to try change when it really counts. And as Charlie said, we have to trust that Carface is going to continue to do the right thing. That’s part of our own altruistic challenge: putting good faith in each other despite our differences and disagreements. That challenge is the biggest embodiment of the Christmas Spirit anyone can actually muster, and in this case, it takes dogs ~ the catalysts, the magical saviors, the totally whackadoo companions, and the purest creatures of all ~ to show us how. ★