Heartbreaking short film “Denali” illustrates true friendship

“Denali” isn’t just a short film on Vimeo. It’s a farewell message to one of man’s best friends — Ben Moon’s best friend.

Moon, the photographer and producer of “Denali,” narrates the short film speaking for his dog, Denali. Through his dog’s perspective, Moon shares the pair’s story from his own battle with cancer to Denali’s.

“I’d had an earlier conversation with him that went something like, ‘You’ve stuck by me through some huge transitions in my life, and we’ve been through so much together; I’ll be OK on my own, so if it’s time for you to go — go,’” he said. “Then Skip [Armstrong] (film’s DP) was struck with the idea for this film. So I revised my statement and asked Denali ‘Can you stay another month?’”

Moon and Denali began their journey together in a camper van, chasing adventure and taking photos.

“Being on the road with no real destination, free of responsibilities and going where the wind took us was incredible. For three or four years I rock climbed, surfed and learned how to shoot. Denali loved being outdoors as much as I did,” said Moon. “Those were the best of times.”

Then Moon’s cancer struck.

The outdoorsman suddenly found himself in a fight for his life, and Denali remained close to his side.

“During chemo he’d come into my room and climb up on the bed so gently and aware — he never took his eyes off me the whole time,” Moon reflected. “I was in full survival mode — I didn’t have any energy. Human interaction requires energy, a dog doesn’t ask for anything. They’re just there for you offering support unconditionally.”

Then at 14 years old, Denali was mired in a fight of his own. Together they revisited and filmed Moon’s favorite surf breaks and climbing areas they’d frequented since Denali was a puppy.

“Denali died days after we wrapped,” said Moon. “It was his last gift and a testament to our connection.”

In the end, Denali taught Moon an important lesson. Everyone will at some point experience loss, and it’s in that moment life becomes crystal clear.

“The thing about facing mortality is it truly forces you to be in the moment, and while you’re in the experience, you’re just in it. We have resources we didn’t know we had until we’re faced with adversity,” he said. “When we’re comfortable and safe all the time we can become more fearful. But in doing the things that help you face your fears, you realize there are not that many things to be afraid of …

“And that makes life worth living.”

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