Most of those who venture onto this website know the lingering pain of losing a pet, how hard it is to let go of their memory — and how, often, we never do.
Some even know that the author of this website wrote a rather bizarre book about it, looking at the ways we try to hold onto a piece, or more, of our departed pets after they’re gone — in particular the newest and perhaps most outlandish of those, dog cloning.
Instead, most recent portrayals — of services ranging from cloning to freeze-drying – have been formulaic and superficial reality TV-type programs that fail to dig at all, or at least not as deep as the grief they’re focusing on.
So I’m eagerly awaiting, and have high hopes for, a new documentary called “Furever,” scheduled to premier next month as part of the Cleveland International Film Festival.
Director Amy Finkel traveled the country to look at the assorted — some might say sordid – routes we take to memorialize our dogs, or recapture a semblance of the life that once ran through them.
Her stops included a taxidermist in rural Pennsylvania, a religious group in Utah that mummifies pets, and various other parts of the country where entrepreneurs offer everything from jewelry to tattoos, made from the ashes of our dead pets.
She even popped in on Ace and me (though I’m told we don’t appear until the end of the film).
Endings are what the documentary is about, and our refusal, sometimes, to accept them — at least not without a freeze dried statue of our pet, a genetic twin created in a South Korean laboratory, or a trinket or shrine to remember them by.
Sixty-two percent of Americans own pets, spending nearly 53 billion dollars on them annually — most of that, fortunately, while their dog is still alive, but a lot of it, sometimes, after they’re gone.
The avenues they take, while they seem sane and fitting to the pet owners, sometimes strike others as bizarre.
Finkel’s examination, judging from time I spent with her, promises to be a non-judgmental one, and one that I expect , unlike other recent looks at pet preservation, doesn’t feel the need to inject additional melodrama. Often, there’s enough there already — so much that we don’t look beyond the outrageousness to see what we might learn.
“FUREVER is a documentary about the people looking to hang onto the memories of their four-legged loved ones, and the booming trade that is providing services that are an equal amount of creativity, empathy, and opportunity,” Finkel writes on the film’s website.
“FUREVER isn’t just about an industry that provides methods of pet preservation; it is also a study of how the relationship between owner and pet has grown throughout the centuries into a full-fledged family unit. Whether you’re a pet parent yourself, or friends with some, FUREVER gives you an intimate look into the gratitude and grief that goes with loving your pet.”
Amy Finkel earned her B.A. in Theater from Connecticut College and her M.F.A. in Design and Technology from Parsons School of Design. She lives in Brooklyn and works as a designer, photographer, documentary filmmaker, and writer.
Finkel’s project began almost five years ago, when she read a newspaper article about Mac’s Taxidermy and Freeze-Dry in Loudon, Pa., whose services included freeze-drying and preserving deceased pets — sometimes in part, sometimes in whole. One potential client wanted the ears of a Dalmatian to be preserved, and another brought an amputated dog leg.
From there she moved on to visiting the Summum, a religious group in Utah that mummifies pets, and people.
The film also looks at cloning — now available, for $100,000, in South Korea, at technology being used to turn animals’ ashes into diamonds, and at pet owners who get tattoos with ink that’s mixed with their animals cremated remains. Her brother has gotten several of those, made from the ashes of his pit bull, according to a New York Times article about Finkel’s movie.
“This is about the human-pet bond, and it’s also about mortality,” Finkel said. “We shy away from discourse on death. It’s uncomfortable and stigmatized, but maybe through talking about pets, we can open up the dialogue.”
The documentary will have its premier at Cleveland International Film Festival, with screenings on Thursday, April 11, at 7:20 p.m.; Saturday, April 13, at 3:40 p.m. and Sunday, April 14, at 11:45 a.m.
(Photos by, and courtesy of, Amy Finkel)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 12th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: amy finkel, animals, ashes, cleveland international film festival, cloning, cremation, dead, director, documentary, dog, dog inc., dogs, film, freeze dried, furever, ink, jewelry, mac's taxidermy, memorials, movie, mummification, mummified, pet preservation, pets, premier, shrines, stuffed, summum, tattoos, taxidermy
Minkyu Lee’s directorial debut, “Adam and the Dog,” is one man’s visually stunning take on how man and dog first bonded.
It won the 2012 Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject. It’s one of five Academy Award nominees for Best Animated Short Film, and a strong contender, according to some reports.
Betsey Sharkey, of the Los Angeles Times, called it a “painterly” film that “puts you in a musing museum state of mind. Lee captures the unfettered joy of discovery and how that feeling changes and expands when you’re no longer alone.”
The Washington Post called it a “visually masterful … film that perhaps should be considered the front-runner for an Oscar later this month …”
Lee worked on Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” and ”Wreck-It Ralph,” but this is his first own film. The 27-year-old director put up $25,000 and spent two years creating the hand-animated 15-minute film.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 12th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: academy award, adam and the dog, animals, annie award, bond, director, dogs, film, garden of eden, humans, man meets dog, minkyu lee, nominated, oscar, painterly, pets, short
Technically, maybe it’s correct to say no animals were harmed during the filming of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
But away from the set, when the cameras weren’t rolling, 27 animals signed up to take part in the production died, and more were injured – mostly at a New Zealand farm where they were being kept.
Animal wranglers involved in the making of “The Hobbit” movie trilogy say the production company is responsible for the deaths because it kept the animals at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other “death traps,” according to an Associated Press report.
Despite that, the movie’s credits do carry the American Humane Association’s “No animals were harmed” stamp of approval — the exact wording of which is “No animals were harmed in the making of this film.”
The AHA says its monitoring of animals is limited to the actual filming of a movie or television show, and that it lacks the manpower, funding and authority to police animals when they are away from the set.
But others, PETA included, think that’s splitting hairs.
“How can something like this happen when the unit production manager was warned and the production was monitored by the AHA,” asks PETA, which has been critical of AHA in the past, and which was involved in breaking the story.
PETA also wonders why — given the state of the art of computer graphics — live animals had to be used at all:
“This movie was directed by Peter Jackson, a master at computer-generated imagery (CGI). In a movie that features CGI dragons, ogres, and hobbits, CGI animals would have fit in perfectly. Jackson could have made The Hobbit without using a single animal—and he should have.”
AHA called the deaths “needless and unacceptable,” and said they show that there are shortcomings in the oversight system, which monitors film sets but not the facilities where the animals are housed and trained. Read more »
Posted by jwoestendiek December 4th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 27 animals, aha, american humane association, an unexpected journey, chickens, deaths, director, entertainment, filming, goats, horses, making, movie, movies, new zealand, no animals were harmed, peter jackson, sheep, the hobbit, trilogy, warner bros, warner brothers, wellington
Leave it to director Tim Burton to get across the point — in his characteristically gothic manner – that I’ve been trying to make for two years now:
You can’t bring your dead dog back to life, at least not without running into some trouble.
At least that’s a point I selfishly hope his new full-length, 3-D animated movie, “Frankenweenie,” will make when it comes out in October.
As the author of a book on the brave new world of dog cloning, and being generally opposed to the practice, I’ve got some confused feelings about Burton’s new movie, which comes out — unlike his 1984 short film of the same name – at a time when dogs, deceased and otherwise, are being “re-created” in South Korea.
Science has caught up with science fiction, it seems, and sometimes brings equally scary results.
In the movie, a boy named Victor, grieving the death of his beloved dog, Sparky, conducts a science experiment to bring him back to life “only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.”
Based on that summary, Burton’s new movie, like the classic work of literature upon which it is based, could have a few things in common with today’s reality, in which the cells of dead dogs are merged with egg cells from donor dogs, zapped with electricity and, after being implanted in surrogates, come to life. The going price is $100,000.
Do bereaved pet owners get the same dog — a reanimated version of their deceased one? Of course not. Do they think they are? Sometimes.
When I started researching “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry,” the first book I read, or re-read, was “Frankenstein” — given all the parallels between that classic story and cloning.
Both featured grief, selfishness and laboratories, borrowing parts from one being to assemble another, and plenty of mistakes and deformities along the way. Both relied on a zap of electricity to spur things on. Both related to the stubborn refusal of humans to accept death, and the powerful drive, among some, to bring a being, or at least a semblance of it, back to life.
Burton’s new movie itself is a reanimation. “Frankenweenie” was originally a 30- minute short film. Now he’s done what he originally wanted to do — make it a full-length feature. Here’s the official synopsis:
From creative genius Tim Burton comes “Frankenweenie,” a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.
While much has been written about the making of the movie, and about the stars providing the voices — Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, among others — what message it delivers hasn’t been written about much. (Not that it must have one, or that it must be the one I’d like to see.)
The original short film — we’ve posted it here — was fantastical and charming. In it, the reanimated dog, though humans outside of his immediate family fear and misunderstand him, goes on to save Victor’s life and become beloved by all.
“The reason I originally wanted to make ‘Frankenweenie’ was based on growing up and loving horror movies,” Burton explains in the new movie’s press materials. “But it was also the relationship I had when I was a child with a certain dog that I had.”
“It’s a special relationship that you have in your life and very emotional,” he adds. “Dogs obviously don’t usually live as long as people, so therefore you experience the end of that relationship. So that, in combination with the Frankenstein story, just seemed to be a very powerful thing to me -— a very personal kind of remembrance.”
The original short film didn’t go into the folly and dangers of attempting to bring the dead back to life, and — being fictional, being fanciful, being art — it, and it’s lengthier animated 3-D remake, shouldn’t be required to.
It should need no “don’t try this at home” warning.
It should be allowed to just be fun, and not be subjected to hand-wringing reminders that resurrecting dead dogs, or at least what’s portrayed as such, is actually going on, or the moral and ethical issues surrounding it, or the sometimes horrific results.
And, or course, not being my movie, it shouldn’t have to make my point — one that wasn’t even necessary to make in 1984:
A dog’s death is final, and cherishing a dog’s memory (not to mention the dog while it is still alive) is a far more meaningful pursuit than trying to artificially recapture its essence in a laboratory.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 17th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 3d, animals, back to life, book, clone, cloned, cloned dogs, clones, cloning, death, director, dog, dog inc., dogs, entertainment, experiment, fantasy, frankenstein, frankenweenie, gothic, grief, horror story, message, moral, mourning, movie, pets, reality, resurrection, science, science fiction, sparky, tim burton, victor
The American Veterinary Medical Association next month could give final approval to a policy that discourages feeding pets “raw or undercooked animal-source protein diets” — on the grounds that they are unsafe for dogs, cats and humans.
Some people see the measure as a proactive and well-reasoned stance, aimed at making our dogs and ourselves safer.
Some see it as meddling.
And some see it as a conspiracy.
I, not being a dog food expert, fall into the middle ground — those vast numbers of folks who are highly confused by our dog-feeding options, puzzled over what truly is best for our dogs, befuddled by how so-called experts can be telling us exact opposite things, scared by anything from China, fretting over what we can afford, and, all the while, wondering how something like dog food has managed to become the volatile topic it has.
Emotions about dog food, given all the scares and recalls of the past decade, sometimes seem to run nearly as high as those in the abortion debate, and proponents of one kind of food or another are just about as firmly entrenched in their beliefs.
My dog Ace thrived on a raw diet the two years he was on it. His coat was shinier, his health was good, his stools were less massive, leading a layman like myself to belief that, as its proponents claim, it was a more natural choice for his species, and one he seemed to absorb something from, unlike kibble, which just seemed to go in one end and out the other.
(We switched back to kibble and canned when we entered a refrigerator-less phase of life, and haven’t gone back on raw for budget reasons.)
Even without Ace as a customer, the raw diet has continued to grow in popularity — probably at least in part because of all the issues surrounding other forms of dog food, which, we’d point out, the AVMA hasn’t felt a need to take a stand on.
Next month, at its meeting in San Diego, the AVMA House of Delegates will be voting on a policy discouraging feeding pets a raw diet, based on scientific studies that have shown raw meat, unless it has been subjected to a process that eliminates pathogens, can be contaminated with Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus.
These infections can sicken pets and pet owners alike, and even be life-threatening, the AVMA says.
All that is true enough. Then again, it’s also true of the hamburger meat you bring home from the grocery store. Read more »
Posted by jwoestendiek July 23rd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: american veterinary medical association, animals, avma, bacteria, barf, brenda bax, conspiracy, delta society, director, dog, dog food, dogs, feeding, house of delegates, industry, marketing, meat, meeting, pet food, pets, policy, proposal, purina, raw, raw diet, raw meat, salmonella, san diego, susan thixton, the truth about pet food, theory
When a Hollywood movie goes over budget, it’s no big deal.
When one being paid for by taxpayers — or even toll violators — does, it is.
So, as snarky as this investigative report by the 13 Undercover team at Houston’s KTRK is at times, it makes some valid points.
The Harris County attorney’s office hired director Fleming Fuller to produce a public service documentary about the dangers of dogfighting, offering $10,000 for the finished product.
The movie was intended to show the horrors of dogfighting, and get across Ryan’s message that he was going to be tough on people who take part in it.
Normally, we’d applaud something like that, but the movie went 10 times over budget, the county attorney seems to be taking credit for a previous county attorney’s dogfighting bust, and the movie’s director was a good friend of the Harris County attorney’s top assistant.
As the report points out, County Attorney Vince Ryan campaigned as an ethics watchdog: “So you’d figure his office would the first to make sure your money wasn’t wasted, reporter Wayne Dolcefino says. “Instead, they spent money like they were in Hollywood.”
On top of that, the report says there hasn’t been a big dogfighting bust since Ryan took office.
And, in yet another criticism offered by the news report, the documentary includes scenes of Ryan frolicking with his dog at the beach, which gives the film the appearance, at times, of a campaign ad.
The director charged $500 for his time on an overnight trip to Galveston — apparently just to obtain that beach footage — and expenses there included multiple hotel bills and a pricey dinner.
Fuller is a North Carolina-based director who has made a few horror movies, including Prey of the Chameleon and Stranded.
While the county’s contract specified $10,000 would be spent on the film, and that it would be completed in one month, the final pricetag came out to more than $100,000 and the film took nearly a year to make.
The movie was paid for from a special fund consisting of fines imposed on drivers who fail to pay tolls.
Ryan said the video has been used to train law enforcement officers and to show high school students and others that dogfighting is inhumane and illegal.
KTRK says the documentary ended up costing cost $13,000 a minute, and that only 171 people have watched it in on YouTube.
The original documentary, as it appears on YouTube, is in three parts, which, combined, add up to nearly 30 minutes, not seven minutes, as the news report says. (The version being distributed for education purposes has been shortened.)
Here’s part one:
To see all three parts, click here.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 30th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 100000, animal cruelty, animals, budget, county attorney, cruelty, cruelty to animals, dangers, director, documentary, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogs, education, fleming fuller, fund, harris county, heart of texas, horrors, houston, investigative reporting, journalism, media, move, news, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, public education, toll, video, vince ryan, watchdog
Was Blackie snubbed?
And, if so, was it because because of his large and menacing appearance — a case of Doberman discrimination?
Director Martin Scorsese — pronounced “score-SAYS-he” — is contending that the canine star of his movie, “Hugo,” Blackie the Doberman, was rudely overlooked in the nominations for the First Annual Golden Collar Awards.
But, according to Hollywood insiders (and one wonders, are there any Hollywood outsiders?), he’s doing it for laughs, and probably even more for publicity.
Blackie plays a train station officer’s attack dog, and most of his time on screen is spent scaring and chasing the child stars of the Oscar-nominated film.
Uggie, the Jack Russell, received two nominations — for his roles in “The Artist” and “Water for Elephants” — but Blackie got no respect.
In a guest column for the Los Angeles Times Scorcese writes:
“OK, let’s lay all our cards on the table. Jack Russell terriers are small and cute. Dobermans are enormous and — handsome. More tellingly, Uggie plays a nice little mascot who does tricks and saves his master’s life in one of the films, while Blackie gives an uncompromising performance as a ferocious guard dog who terrorizes children. I’m sure you can see what I’m driving at.”
He urges readers to start a write-in campaign for Blackie, via comments on the Dog News Daily Facebook page.
Dog News Daily editor Alan Siskind says if Blackie receives 500 write-ins by Monday, February 6th, the Golden Collar nominating committee will add him as the sixth nominee in the Best Dog in a Theatrical Film category.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 30th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: awards, blackie, director, dobermans, entertainment, golden collar, golden collar awards, hollywood, hugo, jack russells, martin scorsese, movies, the artist, uggie, water for elephants
Among the honors the documentary “100,000” has received is an Emmy award. Director Juan Agustin Marquez is shown here accepting it, and asking Puerto Ricans to take a pledge.
“We set out to change the world with this film, starting with our island, Puerto Rico,” he said.
“100,000 represents the specific number of dogs who live in the streets of our island nation. But the .. title of the film is more complex than that. What I truly wanted was to reach 100,000 people, humans, with the message of the film. I wanted 100,000 people to sign a pledge at the endof the film to learn about humane treatment for animals, especially dogs — to pledge that they will take care of their pets for as long as they live.
“We have a long way to reach our goal, but I will not rest until I get my 100,000 people to pledge to Puerto Rico’s dogs.”
Here is the pledge.
“100,000,” unfortunately, isn’t available for purchase, and it has yet to appear on American television.
But there is a way to see it, with English subtitles. The director says on the documentary’s website that he will provide a private link to watch it to those who email him. The email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 6th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 100000, abandoned, abused, animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, award, beach, beaches, director, documentary, dogs, education, emmy, juan agustin marquez, movie, neglected, pets, pledge, puerto rico, responsibility, stray dogs, strays, street dogs, view, watch
This week, we’ll be bringing you clips from the Emmy-winning documentary “100,000,” an investigation into dog overpopulation in Puerto Rico.
It’s a stunning look at what has led to the problem, the staggering heights it has reached, and what’s being done about it. (In three words, not nearly enough.)
The movie’s title, “100,000” refers to estimates of the number of strays roaming the streets and beaches of Puerto Rico. (Some others suspect the actual number may be twice as high.)
The video above is a trailer for the documentary, but in each of the next three days we’ll bring you substantial clips from it, including a look at a villager who tries to help street dogs; an organization (our friends at Island Dog) that patrols the beaches, frequently used as a dumping ground for unwanted dogs; and at how the handful of shelters on the island rely heavily on euthanasia.
Directed by Juan Agustin Marquez, the documentary has been broadcast in over 17 countries and has won numerous honors at film festivals.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 2nd, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 100000, abandoned, abuse, animals, award, beaches, clips, cruelty to animals, director, documentary, dogs, emmy, epidemic, euthanasia, island dog, juan agustin marquez, movie, neglect, neuter, overpopulation, pets, puerto rico, rescues, shelters, spay, stray dogs, strays, street, street dogs, trailer, unwanted, winning
Moose, the bull mastiff who was mistakenly put up for adoption after biting a child at the Kendall County animal control shelter in Illinois, was euthanized yesterday morning.
Moose bit a 6-year-old boy at the county animal shelter in Yorkville on July 3, and the head of Kendall County animal control told officials the dog was euthanized after that incident.
Last week, though, it was revealed that the shelter accidentally euthanized the wrong bull mastiff, and that Moose was adopted by a couple in nearby LaSalle County. When officials found out Friday that Moose was still alive, the animal control administrator was put on leave, and officials asked the family to return the dog.
Moose was returned and euthanized yesterday, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Moose, who had bitten two people before biting the boy, had bitten another person since he was adopted — a neighbor of the couple that adopted him.
After initially telling officials and reporters the dog had been euthanized, the director of animal control, Christine Johnson, admitted Friday at a special meeting of the Kendall County Board’s animal control committee that he had not been.
Johnson was placed on administrative leave after the meeting, and her future employment is scheduled to be discussed today.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopted, animal control, animal shelter, animals, bit, bite, bitten, bull mastiff, christine johnson, director, dogs, euthanasia, euthanized, illinois, kendall county, mastiff, mistake, moose, pets, put down, shelter, shelters