What good would one of the longest running shows be without a dog? The executives for the Simpsons didn’t hesitate to bring one in. In the very first (full length) episode, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” Homer did not receive a Christmas bonus to buy presents so he got a job at a mall working as a Santa Clause.
What little money he made he brought to the dog track to try to win more money. Homer was reluctant at first to spend his money on the “sure thing” and then the dogs’ names were announced, Santa’s Little Helper was the last one. Taking this as a sign Homer waged all his money on the (very) long shot. Sadly, Santa’s Little Helper came in last place and a depressed Homer slowly walked out of the dog track wondering how he could salvage his family’s Christmas.
Fate would play an interesting twist on Homer’s life when he heard some yelling going on. As he investigated he saw Santa’s Little Helper’s owner (?) scolding the dog for losing the race and abandoning it at the track. of course, the dog ran over to Homer and quickly won his heart. Homer took the dog home and the family quickly fel in love with him.
For 20 years Santa’s Little Helper has been a staple of the Simpsons lives and is quite often the antagonist in the episode (for example in Two Dozen and One Greyhounds he sires a little of 25 puppies named Rover, Fido, Rex, Spot, Rover II, Fido II, Rex II, Cleo, Dave, Jay, Paul, Branford, Dave II, Jay II, Paul II, Branford II, Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, Donner, Blitzen, Grumpy II, King, Queenie, Prince, and The Puppy Formerly Known As Prince (odd how that’s 26 names?)).
Santa’s Little Helper has had several people voice him (mainly barks, grunts, and growls) over the hears. Frank Welker did his voice from 1989 to 2002, Dan Castellaneta from 2002 to 2008, and he is currently voiced by Dee Bradley Baker.
Santa’s Little Helper was abandoned by the family in one episode (The Canine Mutiny) when Bart used a credit card to purchase a “fully trained dog” (collie). When the repo men came to take everything back, Bart pointed to the greyhound as the dog he purchased and not the collie. While on a walk, Laddie (possibly named after Albert Payson Terhune story, “Lad A Dog”) saves a baby’s life and during the award ceremony Chief Wiggam comments that he would make the perfect police dog so Bart donates Laddie to the police department. Santa’s Little Helper is now a guide dog for someone who is blind and Bart makes several attempts to get him back. The owner calls the police on Bart and they arrive with Laddie who quickly smells out a bag of marijuana that the owner had (and he is then arrested). Bart is finally reunited with Santa’s Little Helper.
There is no official reason why a greyhound was chosen as the family’s long-lived and loyal pet. Speculation has led to how it could fit into Homer’s addictive personality and quickness to gamble (dog track) as well as the storyline (but he could have easily ended up in a dog shelter, puppy store etc..) or it could have been to bring awareness to greyhound rescue (currently one of the most successful breed rescue organizations in the USA). Personally I think it is nice that they acknowledge that rescuing a dog can be a great thing for a family (being a big supporter of some breed rescues in my area myself). I’m personally glad they did not get the dog in a puppy store!