By Lynnette Hintze
The Daily Inter Lake
David and Debbie Marion and their two sons couldn’t wait to watch ‘Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups’ when the direct-to-video movie was released last week. It’s not every day the family dog is the star of the show.
Their Great Pyrenees, Ace, was just a puppy when filming for the ‘Santa Paws’ sequel began a year ago in Fernie. Dr. David Marion, a veterinarian with offices in Eureka, Montana and Fernie, was selected to provide health checks for the puppies on the film set. He remained on call for veterinary services throughout the filming.
“As a thank you, they let us pick a puppy,” said Debbie Marion, the practice manager for their business, A Country Animal Hospital.
The film crew arrived in Fernie in September 2011 and had to make do with artificial snow until the real white stuff arrived in November. ‘Santa Paws 2,’ produced by Walt Disney Pictures, is the sequel to the 2010 direct-to-video film, ‘The Search for Santa Paws.’
It’s a fun holiday movie revolving around a group of playful pups who stow away on Mrs. Claus’ sled as she travels to Pineville. Cheryl Ladd plays Mrs. Claus. Taking mischief to a whole new level, the puppies begin granting joyful wishes to Pineville’s boys and girls, but something goes terribly wrong and the Christmas spirit begins to disappear. The Santa Pups and Mrs. Claus must figure out a way to save Christmas around the world.
Ace, who played the part of Noble in the film, wore makeup in the movie to create a black ring of fur around his left eye. He was the lead dog.
“He was the mischievous one who took things off the counter,” Debbie said, adding that the family had to correct some of Ace’s tendencies after he came to live with them at their Eureka home.
The Marions provided all kinds of assistance as the film crew worked with the rambunctious puppies. When the crew needed a quiet way to dry the puppies after their baths — conventional blow-dryers scared the pups — the Marions offered their Bear Hugger heating blanket that’s typically used to slowly warm hypothermic animals.
“They had all these goofy needs and we had stuff,” Debbie said.
Ace quickly became an integral part of the Marion family.
“He’s the coolest dog. He’s like a big polar bear,” she said.
At 120 pounds, the Great Pyrenees is a force of nature.
“I pet him at chest level,” Debbie said.
Their sons, Cody, 10 1/2, and Danny, 9, adore the dog.
“They’re always saying, ‘Our dog is so cool,’” their mother said. “They’re all brothers.”
The Marions opened their veterinary clinic in Eureka in 2007 and added the clinic in Fernie two years ago. A Country Animal Hospital has carved out a niche as the only veterinary clinic in the region and in Canada that specializes in stem-cell treatment that’s sought after for pets suffering from arthritis, tendinitis and other inflammatory conditions.
Establishing a second clinic across the border was a paperwork-laden process, Debbie said, but it’s going well. For clients who may not have passports or not want to travel to Eureka, a special shuttle transports animals to the Eureka facility for various procedures.
Christmas shopping is a little easier for the Marions this year. Many on their list will be getting a copy of the new movie, which was released on DVD, Blu-ray and iTunes.
“We bought quite a few,” Debbie said. “We just watched it last night and it was fun to say, ‘That’s our boy.’”