In a touching tribute, a Portland-based photographer shares his final goodbye and the age old story of man and man’s best friend. The man’s sentiment is striking a chord with dog and cat lovers alike.
Ben Moon originally hoped to tell the story of his love of the wilderness and the ocean, but with his dog trailing him during initial production, his friends saw a different narrative unfolding.
“In its essence, it’s a love story,” said Moon of the film named after his dog, Denali. “It’s a true friendship and the love that you have with a pet — there’s not the baggage that we have a lot of times. It’s pure. You’re there for them and they’re there for you, and that’s it.”
The short video told from the perspective of Denali took 15 months to produce, starting back in January 2014. It debuted this April at the 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, Colorado and won the Best of the Festival and People’s Choice awards. Recently, the film was selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick, causing it to go viral this week.
Moon got Denali after a relationship had just fallen apart. The then 24-year-old and his dog hit the road, living in a van for three years as they traveled the West, taking photos for Patagonia and other clients. The pair spent a lot of time bouncing between Smith Rock in Central Oregon (Moon’s “home away from home”) and the coast.
“He was just my travel companion and such an adventure buddy,” said Moon. “And he gave me the courage to start over in a lot of ways.”
Five years later, Moon was diagnosed with cancer and spent a lot of time stuck in hospital beds. Denali was never far.
“When you’re going through all the cancer treatments and surviving all that, you really don’t have the energy to give on a human level a lot of times,” said Moon. “It takes energy to just hang out with your friends, but with a dog, they don’t expect anything. He was just that constant support by my side.”
Before Moon began shooting the film, Denali was in his final days and taking things slow, but Moon said bringing his 14-year-old dog to their favorite spots one last time was rejuvenating. Shortly after filming wrapped, Denali passed away.
“Towards the end of his life, he taught me so much patience, and when he was an older dog and couldn’t do everything he could, I felt like he helped me slow down and appreciate those quiet moments,” said Moon. “But I think the most important thing is he always taught me that nature was a preferred place to be.”
Moon said since the video’s release, he’s been overwhelmed by messages from people who also had a dog get them through rough period in their lives. He’s also heard from cancer survivors and people who have lost loved ones to cancer.
“People have had that one special dog in their life that saw them through some crazy experiences,” he said.