• Thomas Bonifield

Snowy, the Family Dog in "Miracle on Christmas"

It's a strange name for a black Labrador Retriever, but there's quite the real-life backstory to this one.

Actor Ethan Mathias together with Gabrielle, the black Lab that plays Snowy in "Miracle on Christmas." Image: Horse is Ready Productions.

No modern American Christmas movie worth its salt would be the same without a family dog, so Miracle on Christmas - a faith-based film written and directed by yours truly - has one. And what better K-9 for the picture than a Labrador Retriever? They are, after all, the nation's most popular breed, according to the American Kennel Club, and have been for nearly three decades.


The real Snowy, who is a Labrador-Newfoundland mix. Image: Horse is Ready Productions.

So it is that we cast a seven-year old black Lab named Gabrielle in the movie. Now, Gabrielle is not specifically trained for this sort of thing, but rather is the pet of Michigan actress Tammie Lathram, who plays a church choir extra in the film, which we shot in that state. Gabrielle is also friendly, well-behaved and loves dog biscuits, thus making her easy to direct, so to speak.


Ah, but there is more to this story than that. We wanted a black Lab for the role of Snowy because the part is based on an actual dog by that name, and not just your average American pet either. In fact, she's not American at all. Snowy, a 10-year-old Lab-Newfoundland mix, is from Istanbul, Turkey, where my family and I used to live. She moved back to States with us a few years ago.


So how did a black dog end up with a name like Snowy, you ask? When she was a puppy, she had a small but distinct tuft of white fur on her chest. That didn't last long - she was completely jet-black by her first birthday - but the name stuck, and shall now be forever immortalized in the annals of American cinematography...thanks to Gabrielle.


As to the people in the picture, Miracle on Christmas stars Christian actors Erin Bethea (Fireproof), Jason Burkey (I Can Only Imagine), Brett Varvel and Micah Lynn Hanson. The film has the look of the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies and it tells an uplifting tale of faith, hope, love and forgiveness. It will be released for this year's Yuletide season.

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