The Year of the Dog brings Pacific Northwest small town charm to the Big Screen


Many film companies have pulled off low-budget movies and still managed to profit from them. One of the most prominent examples, 2004’s Napoleon Dynamite, which had an initial $400,000 budget. It was filmed in the Northwest, just like Rob Grabow’s Year of the Dog. Like almost all blockbuster movies, each film is a piece of art — a product of passion, dedication, and hard work.
While it’s often hard for a low-budget film to compete with multi-million dollar blockbusters, some find solace in not being overly flashy. Film production isn’t only about making money but also about creating a world, a story with purpose and love. Some filmmakers don’t just treat the work like a job, but as a passion. This is precisely what director and producer Robert Grabow does with Year of the Dog. He turned some words written on paper into a feature-length film.
In an interview, Grabow shared with The Bengal’s Purr about his inspiration for the film, which he released in February.
“I grew up around a lot of people who struggled with addiction [. . .] alcoholism and other mental health challenges,” Grabow said. “And I wanted to make a film that would explore this theme of connection and how we heal through the subjective experience of suffering.”
Grabow filmed the movie north of Yellowstone National Park in the Paradise Valley, Livingston, and Bozeman area of Montana. Year of the Dog is, in simple terms, the epitome of a low-budget movie. Even compared to others in that category, it had a tight budget.
“The film’s original production budget was $150,000, which is extremely low for a feature film,” Grabow said. “Even a low-budget version of our film should have been about 10 times that… We kind of pulled off a mini-miracle by shooting it on that budget.”
The Year of the Dog is a touching and emotional story about Matt, an alcoholic who’s hit rock bottom, and Yup’ik, a stray Husky. Matt struggles to maintain sobriety for 30 days in order to honor his mother’s dying wish, which is for him to visit her in hospice, sober. Matt takes refuge at his AA sponsor’s farm, where he meets Yup’ik. Together they connect and “discover what it takes to pull through to the finish line,” as described at
Grabow’s film has received much praise since its release date in February, and even some before that release. At an early showing in Montana, Grabow received a comment from a drug and alcohol counselor who “came up to us with tears in her eyes,” Grabow said. “She said this film will save lives.”
Grabow, having a sister and nephews who live in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, promoted the film with screenings at the local theater. He personally reached out to The Bengal’s Purr before the film’s release. Rather than review the movie to criticize or praise it, it felt more appropriate to highlight the creation of the film itself.
The movie is nothing short of a beautiful, with a compelling and touching underlying message. It deserves just as much attention as any Marvel or Disney movie. Check Amazon Prime Video to see for yourself.