The 12 Dogs Of Christmas is a Movie About Kids, Dogs and Belief In Small Miracles
The story takes place in 1933 at the height of the depression. A widowed and out of work father reluctantly puts his 12-year old daughter on the train from Pittsburgh to Doverville, Maine where he tells her that he's arranged for her to stay with her Aunt Delores until he can afford to come for her. He promises that he'll get her by Christmas.
Emma O'Connor is very sad to leave her home and her dad but things get much worse when she arrives in Doverville and finds that Delores isn't her aunt but rather an ex girlfriend of her fathers who thinks he's a rat. Delores is a hairdresser whose salon is her living room. She reluctantly takes Emma in but tells her that she'll have to go to school and also get a job to pay for her room and food.
The town of Doverville has become famous for two reasons. It has a law that bans dogs and a mean dogcatcher, who is also the Mayor's brother. At the same time a woman named Cathy Stevens has turned her farm into a dog orphanage situated just outside of the city limits. She's made the cover of "LIKE" magazine and this has brought her more dogs than she can feed and take care of.
On her way to the first day of school Emma comes upon the dogcatcher as he captures one of two stray dogs.
She rescues the other one (a puppy) and suddenly has a new friend (and responsibility).
The dogcatcher and his henchman Melvin chase Emma and the puppy through the woods on their scary vehicle and she is rescued by a stranger on a dog sled who doesn't say a word but deposits her at the school house.
Later he turns out to be the gruff "Old Jake" who scares the kids but takes a liking to Emma.
She can't take the dog into class so she hides him in a box in the back underneath the school and heads inside for her first day.
There she encounters the irascible school teacher and principal, Mrs. Walsh and three "bully boys."
Later, when she goes back for her dog it's no longer in the box and she discovers that one of the students, Mikey has taken it out when he heard it whimpering. He tells her that she can't keep a puppy in a box and that his mother runs the dog orphanage and they can take the dog there. Emma also learns from Mikey that the dogs that are caught by the dogcatcher are never seen again, "they just disappear."
Mom picks Emma and Mikey up at school in her truck and offers to take the puppy but Emma says she'll keep the dog even though she knows she'll have to sneak it by "Aunt" Delores. She does that but during the night the puppy destroys the beauty salon knocking over things and generally creating a huge mess. Of course, Delores is furious but starts to melt a bit when the next day, thanks to Emma, she discovers the salon is totally back together and finds Emma and the puppy cuddled up and asleep on Emma's bed.
At that moment the dogcatcher arrives at Delores' door. He's come a' courting and once inside his evil cat smells a dog.
In a complete reversal, Delores diverts his attention while Emma, who has been awakened by the voices, sneaks the puppy out. She takes him to Cathy Stevens' farm (the dog lady's place) where she continues to develop her friendship with Cathy's son Mikey.
In the meantime the town's Mayor, who has run on a promise to enforce the "No Dogs" law has been convinced by his brother (the one he appointed dogcatcher) that he and the town council should move the city limits out further to include the Steven's farm. The Mayor visits Cathy's place and tells her that as of Christmas day her place will be in Doverville and all the dogs will have to go.
The dogcatcher reinforces this telling her "As Of December 25th all these dogs will be mine."
Back at school Emma finds that they are preparing "The 12 Days Of Christmas" to be performed for the holidays. The music teacher is very pregnant and suddenly goes into labor while she's rehearsing the kids. An angry Mrs. Walsh ("She promised me she wouldn't have her baby until after the pageant.") recruits the school's football coach to stage the musical because he's the only one with a free period.
His attempts to work with the kids are quite comical.
Desperately needing someone's help he drives out to "that crazy dog lady's" place after Mikey tells him his mom plays the piano.
He doesn't realize at first that the woman he meets outside the farm is actually Cathy Stevens and a humorous exchange is followed by the first inkling of attraction between them. He offers to get the kids to help her with the dogs in exchange for her help with the musical.
Someone cuts a hole in the Steven's fence and several dogs including Emma's puppy and Mikey's own sheepdog, YehTeh (named after the abdominal snowman) are soon in the possession of the dogcatcher.
In an effort to find them and learn what is really happening to the dogs, Emma gets a job (through Delores) cleaning up the muck at the scary "prison" where the dogcatcher takes the dogs after capturing them.
There she finds the puppy and YehTeh and attempts to free them. She's caught in the act by the dogcatcher who locks her and the puppy in one of his dog cages.
Delores comes to the rescue further cementing her support of Emma and the puppy. Emma takes the puppy but can't do anything about freeing YehTeh. Mikey is furious with her for not getting his dog out.
Emma sneaks back to the dog prison one night and discovers the dogcatcher and his henchman loading dogs in cages into their truck. As they drive out Emma jumps on the back and soon finds herself deep in the woods at an old barn where men are betting on dogs put into a ring to fight each other to the death.
There she sees the dogcatcher getting paid for delivering the dogs to the man running the ring. As one of the handlers brings YehTeh into the ring Emma swings down from above and rescues her, kicking the handler in the shins and dashing out the door with the sheepdog.
Back at the Steven's farm, where she is now staying, Emma tells Cathy Stevens and Coach Cullimore about what she saw. They convince her that she must go confront the Mayor and tell him what his brother is doing. They go to the Mayor's office but encounter little sympathy from him. He seems to believe that Emma's is lying just to save the dogs. He says that he and Mrs. Stevens are "like opposing commanders in a war, ready to use any tactics to win the battle."
Not to be so easily defeated Emma comes up with a plan to turn the Mayor and the Town Council around, showing them just how wonderful dogs can be by restaging the school musical as "The 12 Dogs Of Christmas." Cathy, for her part, calls the lady who did the "LIKE" magazine story and invites her to come back for this unusual show. Cathy Stevens is quite surprised to receive an invitation for her and the children to come to the annual big Christmas party at the Mayor's mansion.
They decide to use the event as an opportunity to insure that the Mayor and the Town Council attend the school pageant. They present the Mayor with a large gift box which they insist he open in front of all his guests. It turns out to contain a delightful Labrador puppy with the invitation to the musical tied around his neck. Faced with this "gracious" gesture and in front of the town leaders the Mayor simply can't refuse.
While everyone is enjoying themselves at the party the dogcatcher, his henchman and the dog ring owner sneak into the Steven's farm and remove all the dogs. Cathy and the kids return to find the place empty. Emma then leads everyone (kids, parents, the sheriff, etc.) out to the dog fight ring where they confront the culprits and the sheriff arrests the man who runs this illegal and vicious entertainment.
Now the kids take over "Aunt" Delores' salon and enlist her help getting the dogs cleaned up and ready for the big show. It appears that they have enough of each breed ("five golden retrievers" for example) with the exception of having only one sheepdog (they need eight) and 12 of anything ( they decide to use 12 mutts).
Just before the show is about to begin they also discover that YehTeh has given birth to 7sheepdog puppies. The Mayor and the Town Council arrive along with the rest of the town but the show is delayed by the chaos backstage. The Mayor is impatient and is about to leave when he encounters the lady from "LIKE" who tells him that they are doing another cover story on this wonderful town and, of course, they would like to feature the Mayor. Suddenly he's taking credit for the whole idea and sits back down.
The show begins with Emma telling everyone about how important our relationship and love of dogs is and that they plan to show the town just why they should embrace the dogs. They then present the musical featuring 70 kids and 64 dogs and lots of Christmas decorations and small town charm.
It's a big hit but just as they are getting to the spot where the final 12 mutts are supposed to come on stage the dogcatcher appears backstage and tries to disrupt things. He lets the mutts lose but Emma grabs his cat and rushes on stage as the kids sing "on the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me &"
"A Cat" she yells as she holds the evil animal high above her head and the kids (expecting the 12 mutts) all yell a surprised "A Cat?" back.
As the show ends Emma spots her father in the back of the auditorium (Delores said he'd never come) and rushes from the stage to leap into his arms. There's even a moment of reconciliation between "Aunt" Delores and the father.
In the meantime the dogcatcher has been attacked behind the curtain by the dogs and when it opens he is on the floor disheveled with his ill gotten money fallen from his pocket. His brother, the Mayor is furious to find that in fact Emma was telling the truth and rips the Dogcatcher insignia from his coat and says "you're going back to Sanitation and you can take that cat with you!"
The story ends at the dedication ceremony of the Steven's farm as the "Doverville Dog Orphanage." Everyone's there --
the Coach and Cathy are kissing, Emma's dad and Delores are holding hands,
Mikey has YehTeh back
and even Mrs. Walsh is singing with the children's choir.
Emma's father asks her if she's decided on a name for the puppy and she replies "Miracle." THE END