The Christmas Shepherd (2014 TV Movie)
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And the entire plot with the dog, starting from the point that it ran away, was ridiculous. No self-respecting pet lover would keep a dog that belonged to someone else if the owner was found, especially not as in this situation where the dog was the pet of a soldier who was killed and then was the soldier's wife's reminder of him.
Not to mention the fact that no shelter would ship a dog out so quick clear across country. It came in with a collar with his name on it, meaning he has an owner and a family, and no shelter would ship it across country so quick without doing everything it could and taking several weeks to try and find the owner. Even then it would normally get fostered in the area were it was found, instead of adopted out.
And nobody ever addresses why it had no tag or wasn't chipped. That is irresponsible pet ownership. This would have been a great opportunity to spread the word about making sure your pet has a license tag on its collar at all times, along with a name and address and phone number tag (something you can get for $5 at your nearest Walmart where you can always find an automatic pet tag engraving machine), and to also get it chipped if you can. No pet should ever stay lost for long, it's traumatic for the owner AND the pet.
With all that said, it just stretches the imagination that a supposedly good man would be so selfish as to keep that dog away from its rightful owner, and to teach his daughter that it was OK. Just because she has had a difficult time doesn't mean you suspend teaching responsibility and kindness and generosity.
Understandably, to a child who has just suffered a major loss, it could be traumatic to suffer even further loss, but they'd only had the dog for two weeks, so for heaven's sake, if a dog is what the girl needs, teach her that she can't just keep another person's dog and go get her another one.
To the guy's credit, he did work to sway the girl's mind, but not at first, and a good parent would have just laid down the law and said we must do the right thing and give the dog back. That just isn't something you let a kid think is OK. And what is this bunk about letting the girl make the rules? Don't they even teach good parenting on the Hallmark Channel anymore?
At some point in the movie, there is a discussion that legally the man can keep the dog. I'm pretty sure that is not true. A lost pet does not legally change ownership if the original owner is found only 2 weeks after it ran away in a storm.
And the guy's sister questions that the original owner would want to take the dog away because the guy and his daughter have fallen in love with the dog? Come on.
And the daughter says, "I'm sorry Dad, but Buddy (the dog) is part of our family now." What? The girl honestly can't even empathize with the dog's owner's loss, especially after just suffering loss of her own? Is she a sociopath or something, unable to understand the pain of others? Normal people would be even more sensitive to the needs of others when they've suffered a fresh loss like that.
And when they take the dog back to its owner, the guy says, "I just wanted to make sure that we've done the right thing (bringing the dog back), but I can see we did." What? Again, what? First, you don't know you've done the right thing bringing the dog back to its rightful owner, then you have to gall to pass judgment one way or another? Even though you've previously met the dog's owner and know she is a good person and the dog still knows her and they care for each other? I'm still scratching my head on this one.
Not to mention, the girl doesn't seem upset at all by her separation from the dog. So what was the big deal again?
I like Hallmark Christmas movies, even the sappy ones. But this one just has all kinds of wrong all over it. Sorry, but I'm not a fan, it stinks. As a pet movie of any kind, it shows a total ignorance of every pet issue that should be addressed in the movie. And the parenting examples are horrendous.
If I had to guess, this was some clueless screenwriter who has lost touch with the real world, because the plot is so far off base it smacks of wacko Hollywood. I think that to like it, you couldn't understand parenting or pets very well.
With that said, I found the storyline very poignant and believable. Most everything has been tried before in Christmas movies, and this was a well-written drama without happy smiling faces all around. Without going into details (spoiler alert) people dealing with loss and coming together over a dog. At Christmas.
I'm from Massachusetts so the locations mentioned are spot-on. One year we had only a light dusting of snow until long after Christmas, so I didn't find the "no snow" scenery at all unusual.
I have some issues with the production. It is supposedly set in Massachussetts in November, although there are several outdoors shots with trees wearing their summer leaves. There isn't much to it except for the central cast: widowed Teri Polo and her dog, widower Mark Cummins and his daughter, played by Jordyn Ashley Olson. It's a sentimental woman's movie that should please its intended audience of adult women and dog lovers.
A beautiful sweet almost teen girl and a dog, how can you go wrong? And it was nice. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen a story setup like this.
I was a little distracted by the ambiguity of what was the right thing to do in the early part of the movie. Many critics have gone overboard in their criticism. Yes Mark and Emma struggled. Who doesn't sometimes struggle with doing the right thing? Instead of my first knee-jerk reaction which was to be appalled, as the story developed I realized this was a very realistic struggle. The one valid criticism is how quickly the shelters passed the dog along to the point of adoption. That is irresponsible, but the explanation was that they were all over-crowded. A little lame maybe.
But there were no bad guys in this movie. Sally was very gracious even in her struggle that they might not give Buddy back. Emma was an unselfish and kind young lady when she realized what she had to do. I say pretty good for her age. And Dad was patient, avoiding any rash irreversible decision.
The acting was very good. I have seen Teri Polo only once before but I am starting to really respect her acting, especially in these heartwarming stories. She is especially good with little girls. She has a great nurturing spirit. Both she and Jordyn Ashley Olson had to deal with their characters' difficult emotions and the emotional struggle of potential loss heaped on top of a history of a lost loved one. Olson managed to show how attached she was, yet made her choice real. Olson was also great in the rest of the story. Martin Cummins was also great as his character dealt with the moral dilemma vs protecting his daughter. Ace, the dog actor, was superbly trained. He managed some complicated maneuvers.
This is quite simply a wonderful and touching Christmas movie that doesn't have a ton of Christmas clichés piled up. It is compelling and real.
This is one of those movies where you have to ask why they bothered making it.