Well, it’s December again---one of my favorite times of the year! I love the holiday season with all of the music and sparkle, and even a bit of snow. Comet gets to twinkle in her favorite blue holiday sweater and I do my duty by digging through her vast array of snowflake and reindeer collars, choosing the right one that suits her mood for a particular occasion. Although I often get swept up in the hustle-bustle of a busy work schedule, my daughter’s school concerts, and holiday parties with family and friends, I make sure we all take time to “chill” and spend quality time together. For my family, this often means snuggling up with a big bowl of popcorn, a favorite movie, and a snoring pit bull by our feet. Some of our blog topics here can get heavy, so for a change of pace, I’m offering up some of my all-time favorite animal movies that I look forward to seeing again and again.
At the top of my all-time-favorite-movies-on-the-planet list is (drum-roll, please): Babe. This film has everything I want in a movie. Based on the children’s book by Dick King-Smith called “The Sheep-Pig,” the story features an adorable pig named Babe. After escaping the dinner table, Babe wants to do the impossible: herd sheep like the Border Collies who have raised him. In addition to the wee-pig, there are beautiful dogs, humorous and witty barn animals, and a compassionate farmer. The animals communicate amongst themselves, with perfectly cast actor voices, without the knowledge of the surrounding humans. I’ve seen this movie no less than a dozen times and it never ceases to make me laugh, cry, and simply “feel good.” There are many great messages that include kindness, compassion, and acceptance. Babe is my movie!
Another movie worth noting is Fly Away Home. After a fatal accident leaves Amy, a teenage girl from New Zealand, without her mother, she moves to Canada to live with the eccentric father she hardly knows. When a flock of geese are orphaned, Amy takes on the challenge of raising them, loving them, and then helping them migrate to warmer weather when it gets cold. With her father’s help and support, Amy slowly recovers from her trauma and develops a meaningful relationship with him. For somebody like me, who has always been slightly obsessed with geese, both domestic and wild, and flying my own plane, this movie is an inspirational and visually stunning treat. This film features amazing acting and leaves us with messages of bonding, persevering, healing, and love. This is a truly great story.
When I was in middle school, I remember being mesmerized by the book, “The Incredible Journey,” by Sheila Burnford. The movie, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, is based on that great book, and features three pets who become lost while their owners are moving. They endure much adventure and hardship as they find their way to their new home. The featured animals speak amongst themselves, but not in front of people. They are: Sassy, a dog-hating Himalayan cat who is perfectly named; Chance, an American Bulldog who is learning to trust and be with people; and the older, wiser leader of the pack, a golden retriever named Shadow. The movie is funny, nerve-wracking, and full of adventure and heart. It also is a good reminder as to why we microchip our pets and use leashes.
Lastly, I will mention a more recent movie that I liked a lot called Marley & Me. This is the often-humorous story of a young couple who adopt “the world’s worst dog,” an adorable yellow lab who is in need of some major training. The playful Marley eats and destroys everything in sight. He jumps and pulls, digs, and runs with boundless energy. As the couple’s family grows, so do some of the challenges with Marley. Eventually all is relatively calm and well. Although it is a pretty funny story, there are also moments filled with tension. And while I won’t give the ending away, I will advise all viewers to grab a box of tissues for the last half-hour. I didn’t think I would like this movie based on some corny coming attractions I saw, but I was proven wrong, as this film was both fun and touching.
And I can’t let you leave without giving you my humble opinion on giving animals as gifts during the holiday season. As you know, animals are living and feeling creatures: they are a huge commitment. Pets should only be adopted when all members of your family can decide if the timing is right and who will be responsible for care. Once everyone is on-board, then all family members should visit your local animal shelter to see the bounty of wonderful animals who are anxious to find their forever homes. Happy Holidays to all of you!
Almost all of these movies are available on DVD and can be found at your public library or video rental store. Here is my list:
Arctic Tale (2007), Babe (1995), Benji (1974), Because of Winn-Dixie (2005), Black Beauty (1994), Born Free (1966), Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon (1997), Charlotte’s Web (2006), Dr. Dolittle (1967), Duma (2005), Earth (2007) ,Fly Away Home (1996), Free Willy (1993), Gorillas in the Mist (1988), Greyfriar’s Bobby (1961), Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993), Lassie (1954, 1994, 1997, 2003, 2005), Lassie Come Home (1943), March of the Penguins (2005), Marley & Me (2008), My Dog Skip (2000), National Velvet (1944), Never Cry Wolf (1983), Old Yeller (1957), See Spot Run (2001), Shiloh (1996), Sounder (1972), The Black Stallion (1979), The Red Pony (1949), The Yearling (1946), Two Brothers (2004), Watership Down (1978), Winged Migration (2003), White Fang (1991), 8 Below (2006), 101 Dalmatians (1961-animation, 1996-movie)