"The Way of The Dog" is the seventeenth Christmas episode of The Simpsons, aired as the thirty-first season finale, and the second of the two Christmas episodes of that season. As the episode centers on the family dog nicknamed Santa's Little Helper, it was dedicated to the memory of Little Richard, who was passed away over a week before the episode aired.
Santa's Little Helper is dreaming at the Simpson house, watching Ralph reaching for popcorn. When he wakes up to the smell of popcorn prepared by Marge so Bart and Lisa could make a string to put on the Christmas tree.
When Marge tries to put a Santa hat on Santa's Little Helper, he is afraid, getting flashbacks from his past, and resists them putting it on for a picture for the Christmas family card.
When the family returns from shopping for presents, they found the couch shredded by the dog and the dog depressed on an angle, and Lisa proposes to take him to a psychologist, Elaine Wolff.
They bring him at the Springfield Knowledge College, where Elaine is giving a lecture, which gets interrupted by her lover, Clayton, informing her that he left his ex, but after the lecture she refuses to help them. At home, when Marge tries to take the Santa hat to clean it, the dog bites her, so they take him to a pet doctor that proposes to put him down but they refuse.
While they make arrangements to keep the dog outside, unsuccessfully, Chief Wiggum arrives at the house informing them that animal control is coming to take him away, but Elaine arrives before them, taking him with her at the Dognitive Behavioral Therapy Institute.
At the institute, Santa's Little Helper dreams of his mother, when his previous owner took him from her, so Elaine gives him a pill to sleep better. Meanwhile in Bart's room, Bart asks Homer when the dog will back, and then they both start praying and Lisa and Marge join the prayer. But Homer says the dog was possibly lost forever, which make Bart cry. The next day, Elaine asks him how he feels about the family, during which she is interrupted by Clay proposing to her, but she refuses.
Right after, he attacks another dog in his chest, and she finds out that he hid the Santa hat in it, the reason for his behavior. She takes him home and Bart remember it's the hat that Bart was wearing the evening they got him. Elaine says he has to confront his previous owner due to him having PTSD of him.
At his place he recounts the story of how he took him away from his mother once he finds out how fast he is and everyone take turn slapping him for his action, till the dog finally reunites with his mother, She Biscuit. In the end the family takes She Biscuit home with them, working out the issues, but Snowball signals their fish she's going to eat it.
- The episode was dedicated in memory of Little Richard who passed away on May 9, eight days before this episode aired.
Aside from the opening choir part of the series' theme music.
- "Sleigh Ride (Homer's Version)" (uncredited) - Dan Castellaneta
- "Score from Candy Crush Saga" (uncredited)
- "The Way We Were" - Unknown artist
- When Bart reveals that his Santa hat Elaine is holding is when they got Santa's Little Helper, clips from "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" is shown.
|Dan Castellaneta||Homer Simpson|
|Julie Kavner||Marge Simpson|
|Nancy Cartwright||Bart Simpson|
|Yeardley Smith||Lisa Simpson|
|Hank Azaria||Comic Book Guy|
|Harry Shearer||Dewey Largo|
|Cate Blanchett||Elaine Wolff|
|Michael York||Dr. Lionel Budgie|
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