Recap / The Simpsons S 3 E 19 Dog Of Death
Episode - 8F17
First Aired - 3/12/1992

The Simpsons must make budget cuts in order to pay for Santa's Little Helper's stomach surgery, but Santa's Little Helper runs away after the family expresses resentment for having to give up their favorite things in order to pay for the vet bill. Meanwhile, lottery fever hits Springfield, and local news anchor Kent Brockman hits the jackpot.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Androcles' Lion: In a sense, as Santa's Little Helper snaps out of his attack state once he realizes who he's supposed to (help) attack. In fact, SLH turns on Burns' hounds and changes them instantly from bloodthirsty killers to whimpering, sniveling cowards, literally saving Bart's life.
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: A photo shows Homer strangling Santa's Little Helper.
  • Brand X: Encyclopedia Generica.
  • Come Back, My Pet!: The family realizes that they were wrong in how they treated Santa's Little Helper and send Bart out to get him.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The map of Springfield used to follow Santa's Little Helper's adventures when he runs away includes the "Michael Jackson Expressway"; Mayor Quimby renamed the road that when everyone thought Jackson was coming to town in the Season Three opener "Stark Raving Dad".
    • Ned is wearing his Assassins sneakers.
  • Disney Death: Right before the first Act Break, Abe declares Santa's Little Helper dead. When the show returns from commercials, it turns out not to be the case, and Abe refuses to admit his mistake.
  • Expy: The vet is a parody of Ben Casey.
  • Flashback: Homer suggests that he could perform surgery on the dog, since as he sees it it wouldn't be any different from carving a turkey. We then go to a flashback to a previous meal as Homer proves no expert with an electric carving knife...
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Homer is hanging up the posters, you can see one of the Principal Skinner "Have you seen my body?" posters from "Bart The Murderer".
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: After Bart learns they can't afford the operation to save Santa's Little Helper:
    Marge: Bart, I know you're upset.
    Bart: Darn right I'm upset!
    Marge: (Strictly) Bart! Watch your language! (Realizes) Oh, you did. Sorry.
  • Heaven & Hell: "There can't be a 'Doggie Heaven' without a 'Doggie Hell'."
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Mr. Burns wanted Santa's Little Helper to be a vicious attack dog and ended up being one person the dog attacked. Considering he was wearing protective gear at the time, however, it was likely he anticipated this.
  • Homage: Santa's Little Helper gets programmed into a killer in the same way that Alex was programmed not to kill in A Clockwork Orange. The montage (which features violence against dogs and things dogs hate, like cats and Lyndon Johnson holding his dog by the ears) even features Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as the soundtrack.
  • It's All My Fault: Bart really blames himself for making Santa's Little Helper run away.
  • Kick the Dog: In this episode, Burns not only tortures an actual dog to make him a killer, he sends him and the whole rest of the pack after a 10-year-old boy. However, Burns fails to count on SLH's instinct buried deep within him, denying him the satanic satisfaction of watching a young boy being mauled to death.
    • Homer and Marge initially decide that it would too costly ($750) to have Santa's Little Helper receive surgery, meaning that they would rather their dog face a slow and painful death than find a way to afford his treatment.
  • The Ludovico Technique: Burns brainwashes Santa's Little Helper into being a vicious, soulless killer.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Santa's Little Helper can be seen sickly limping and falling down in the background multiple times while the story is still focused on the lottery.
  • Near-Death Experience: Santa's Little Helper has one during his operation, proving that there is a Doggie Heaven (despite Homer's claim otherwise later in the episode).
  • Pet the Dog: Mr. Burns, of all people, gets one reminiscing about his favourite attack dog, the elderly Crippler.
    Burns: I remember the day he bagged his first hippy.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The story is loosely based in writer John Swartzwelder's experiences with his own dog, which had also suffered from bloat. However, unlike the events in the episode, Swartzwelder's dog did not receive treatment as the operation was too expensive and the dog was too old, so it was euthanized.
  • Running Gag: Homer tossing a book in the fireplace when he realizes that it's useless.
  • Shout-Out:
    • People buy/check out from the library copies of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, thinking it's a how-to guide to winning the lottery, when really it's a short story about conformity gone mad.
    • Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit451 also lies in the fireplace.
    • While Santa's Little Helper strolls in the forest, music from Peter and the Wolf can be heard.
    • Among the violent films Santa's Little Helper sees are the Hindenburg disaster and President Lyndon Johnson yanking a dog's ears (as he used to do in real life).
  • Special Guest: Frank Welker as Santa's Little Helper
  • Would Hurt a Child: Mr. Burns. Unsurprisingly really.
    Smither: I hate to interrupt your longevity treatment, sir, but there's a sweet little boy at the door.
    Burns: [without opening his eyes] Release the hounds!