Denali: A New Film About a Man, His Dog, and Saying Goodbye

©2015 Ben Moon collection benmoon.com
Ben Moon and Denali; Photograph courtesy Ben Moon

Update: Meet Ben Moon’s new puppy >>

If you’ve been touched by cancer or you’ve been blessed to have an animal friend in your life, you’ll want to watch Denali. As a juror at the 5Point Film Festival that awarded this film “Best of the Festival,” I can report that it was the one film the jury agreed we all wanted to share with our family and friends. It touches the heart, one way or another.

Watch the film then learn a bit more about photographer/adventurer/survivor Ben Moon, whose story is told in this film, in the interview below.

When did you know you were ready to share such a personal story, about your own fight cancer and your relationship with your best friend?

Toward the end of Denali’s days, I was filming an unrelated project with Skip Armstrong and Page Stephenson, and Skip suggested we focus the piece on the relationship between Denali and me. He had recognized the bond we shared,  and I’m grateful that we captured the footage then as ten days later Denali passed away.

The gravity of the bond we shared through so many trying and formative experiences was evident in the tears that flowed freely for the following month. In experiencing that grief I knew then that it was important to share this story in the hopes it could touch other’s who have experienced deep friendship through hardship. It’s really a love story in the end.

What has surprised you about the response to the film?

I had hoped the story would resonate, and the response thus far has been nothing short of overwhelming. I’ve received so many messages from people sharing their own stories—it’s really heartwarming and feels like all the struggle to making the film come to fruition was truly worthwhile.

What did Denali teach you?

Denali taught me the importance of being there as a friend for someone no matter how tough things are, to listen and pay attention. He reminded me of the importance of being in nature, as he was never that stoked on being in the city but would truly come to life and be so joyful when we were on the beach or hiking into a crag.  At the end when he couldn’t travel or do as much, he taught me patience and so much about pure love.

You made this film with two of your best friends. Did that make it easier for you?

I’m so grateful for both Ben Knight and Skip Armstrong, for their friendship and support, for seeing the potential in the story, and for putting the care and heart into using their talents to make this piece come to life. It was a true collaboration and I feel like our friendship shines through in the final piece. It was an extremely difficult story for me to share, but working with friends who cared about  me made it easier to trust and allowed me to be vulnerable about my story.

Does having survived cancer change your perspective on outdoor adventure and risk?

Surviving cancer made me realize how connected we all are and the importance of true friendship. Afterward, I am much less enamored with achievements in the outdoors and have been focused more on having adventures with those I care about. I definitely contemplate risk, but know that to feel alive I have to push myself outside of my comfort zone often.

Update: Meet Ben Moon’s new puppy >>

Comments

  1. Remo
    Columbus OH
    June 14, 2015, 9:00 am

    Thank you for making this.

  2. Caroline
    Canberra, Australia
    June 25, 2015, 1:33 am

    Absolutely beautiful, very inspiring.

  3. michael roberts
    a good place
    June 28, 2015, 7:35 am

    this piece certainly put things in perspective for me

  4. Nicholas Lutfi
    Miami, FL
    June 28, 2015, 7:38 am

    Where can I buy the DVD for this short film?

  5. Donna
    Danville, KY
    June 28, 2015, 7:42 am

    Beautiful story, beautiful life. So glad you shared your journey with each other.

  6. Giuseppe
    Palermo, Italy
    June 28, 2015, 7:50 am

    Words are quite inappropriate. You can just
    watch, feel and share. Nothing else.

  7. Marj Ogborn
    Charlotte NC
    June 28, 2015, 7:54 am

    Having had to put my cat companion of many years to sleep this past week, I cried all through this wonderful love story.

  8. Morris Lambdin
    Blue Hill, ME
    June 28, 2015, 8:19 am

    Very moving.

  9. Marcia
    Arkansas
    June 28, 2015, 8:23 am

    Beautiful testament to a beloved friend. The photos are wonderful. Thank you for sharing yours and Denali’s story.

  10. Gary
    Tongue,Sutherland,Scotland
    June 28, 2015, 8:27 am

    Absolutely brilliant…..My Best mate is my Dog…totally relate to this…thanks for sharing with us

  11. Don Peterson
    Batavia, Ohio
    June 28, 2015, 8:33 am

    This video really touched my heart. I had a best friend – a friendly, handsome golden retriever named Geordy. Geordy and I shared a similar lifestyle as we traveled by RV mostly in the southwest United States. One morning, while we were camped in the Sierra Mountains near Truckee, California, Geordy suddenly went blind. I gook him to the vet and learned of he had lymphoma. He only lived a couple of months after the diagnosis. I would still take him on hikes, though. He loved to run and would take off as carefree as ever but would crash in to trees and rocks so I hooked him up to a leash and walked him tethered. Geordy loved the water and I took him to some of the places where he liked to swim. He didn’t seem to notice that he couldn’t see. He just jumped in and enjoyed himself. We had been to Joshua Tree and many other places that looked like Ben and Denali had enjoyed.

    On September 25, 2008 I took him to the vet and had him put down. It was the saddest day of my life. He was only eight years old. My best pal. RIP, my friend.

  12. katie
    carrboro, NC
    June 28, 2015, 8:37 am

    I showed this to my 6 yr old son bc I have such love for dogs and I wanted him to be able to see a man with a dog enjoying a relationship that is unlike any other. I imagine Ben would tell us that no girlfriend can hold that same place in his heart that Denali did, no matter how “hot” she is because the dog never has any agenda and is present and dignified always. We loved watching this–beautiful footage and music as well.

  13. Roy Cohen
    Stoughton, MA
    June 28, 2015, 8:41 am

    Very moving and emotional story. My wife and I were moved to tears watching it.

  14. Keith L Lortie
    Cornwall, UK
    June 28, 2015, 8:49 am

    This homage to canine and human is well done. Love, compassion, pathos and sheer heart are in abundance. Thankyou for doing this . . .

  15. Sherwin Andre Hidalgo
    Paramaribo, Suriname.
    June 28, 2015, 9:06 am

    What an awesome story.
    Thanks for sharing this amazing video with us.

  16. Marta Rawlings
    LaGrange, GA
    June 28, 2015, 10:04 am

    As a person that has seldom been without the companionship of a canine, Denali has touched me. The dogs I have shared my life with have helped me through the difficult periods of my life and shared the joys like the birth of my son. My son shares my love of dogs and has been teaching his sons about the love of dogs. We have to love them well because we don’t get to love them for as long as we wish we could.

  17. Erika Barker
    Oregon
    June 28, 2015, 10:16 am

    Thank you for making and sharing this. Through my most trying times, my best friend was always there. It would be wonderful if all could enjoy the bond between a us and our 4 legged friends.

  18. Alan Eicoff
    Bethesda, MD
    June 28, 2015, 10:29 am

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful story! It has been a year and a half (12/16/2013) since I had to part with my best friend Biscotti. She was a Golden/Cocker mix the size of a Cocker that everyone thought was a Golden puppy. She lit up my life every day for almost 13 years the last 2 of which was one cancer surgery after another (7) and radiation treatments (19). I had to keep her from jumping into the car when I would pick her up after her surgeries. She finally let me know that we weren’t going to be able to beat this and that it was time to say goodbye – the worst day of my life!

  19. Alberto Camardiel
    Caracas
    June 28, 2015, 11:27 am

    Great!!!

  20. Wayne O'Malley
    Redditch,England
    June 28, 2015, 11:39 am

    A lovely example of a great reationship between a man and a dog,beautiful !

  21. Alan Jones
    Jackson, GA
    June 28, 2015, 11:58 am

    Thanks Ben for sharing the story of your life with Denali. Just an amazing, touching and beautiful video. And best wishes.

  22. Andrew Roberts
    Harare, Zimbabwe
    June 28, 2015, 2:49 pm

    Beautiful. I had to put my first two dogs down within 2 weeks of each other. Wonderful companions for 14 years, we shared so many ups and downs and had a lot of fun.

  23. Karen Smith
    June 28, 2015, 3:02 pm

    Thank you for such a special film.

  24. Paul Stokes
    Sebastpol, CA
    June 28, 2015, 3:10 pm

    A beautiful heart warming story. It reminded us of all our loving friends sleeping at peace in our pet cemetery in our upper apple orchard who will be waiting for us when we cross the bridge to join them again. Thanks Ben for sharing Denali with us.

  25. Pam Arnold
    Richland, WA
    June 28, 2015, 3:12 pm

    When bleeding hearts cry, there just isn’t any words.
    Blessings to you & Denali until you meet again.
    A deeply heartfelt thank you for sharing this with us all.

  26. Paul Stokes
    Sebastopol, CA
    June 28, 2015, 3:14 pm

    A warm heart warming story which brought to mind all our friends resting in peace in our pet cemetery in our upper apple orchard waiting for the day we will cross the special bridge and join them again. Thank you Ben for sharing Denali with us.

  27. Bob Harmon
    Lake Villa IL
    June 28, 2015, 3:58 pm

    There is something special about dogs. Hence the dog lover’s prayer: “Dear Lord, Make me the person my dog already thinks I am.” Thank you for sharing and making my day.

  28. Ed Parnagian
    Dracut, MA
    June 28, 2015, 4:17 pm

    A dog can touch your life in a way that no other being can. I have personally survived a battle with cancer that I was supposed to lose. Much to my dismay, my dearest friend lost her battle with this same monster. After 18 months of fighting, she woke me early one morning and let me know that the time had come to let go. As others have said, it was the worst day of my life. Even though it’s been almost five years and there’s another precious little girl filling each day with her special love, watching this video brought back all the pain of losing my first love. If we’re willing to grow, the creatures can lead us to a deeper, richer way of living. Pain aside, my deepest appreciation to everyone involved with the creation of this video.

  29. George Read
    Borden-Carleton
    June 28, 2015, 4:30 pm

    Beautiful!!! After my bout with cancer, Teaser a rescued Greyhound, became my constant companion, Like me, she loved the beach. Then she got cancer which damaged her mobility, and on her last days, we did the things she loved. I carried her to the beach, with her by my side we watched the waves lapping on sand. She was happy, my eyes with tears…

  30. JO
    Santa Barbara CA
    June 28, 2015, 7:18 pm

    When you love another being selflessly, you approach godliness. And that goes for both of you.

    Denali doubtlessly helped you to survive, and in surviving, you returned his selflessness.

  31. Jack Sappenfield II
    Durham, NC
    June 28, 2015, 10:00 pm

    The bond of a dog and his significant human cannot be compared with any other relationship. They may not be able to speak as we would like, but they really know what we are saying and they give us unconditional love. Denali will wait for you at Rainbow Bridge.

  32. Navi
    Bangalore
    June 28, 2015, 10:38 pm

    Those who say diamonds are the best thing in the world would have never met a dog!

  33. Forest
    Weskey Chapel, Florida
    June 29, 2015, 4:51 am

    I never had a dog but want one now. Unconditional love is truly hard to find, and some canines seem to be the greatest bearers of that love. Thanks for sharing your love with all of us through this video. I do believe it is time to visit a local animal shelter and find some of that love, too. It was a very beautiful film to watch. Thanks.

  34. Camille
    Florida
    June 29, 2015, 5:38 am

    A beautiful story and life for both Ben and Denaili.

  35. Lori
    Elizabeth, Colorado
    June 29, 2015, 8:38 am

    My husband died of cancer. About 3 years before his death, his best friend, Jester, a English Setter rescue died of cancer. About 4 months before my husband’s death his horse, Tuffy, died. My first thought when my husband died was, “Now he is with his two best friends, Jester and Tuffy.” Yes, I was his best human friend, but it isn’t the same.

  36. Suzanne Filbey
    Cohasset, MA
    June 29, 2015, 9:23 am

    Thank you.
    I will never forget the message that you and Denali so beautifully expressed. I can’t wait to see who walks through my door next.

  37. Joan
    Asheville, NC
    June 29, 2015, 9:35 am

    Really nice film and story. I cried. I have a four-legged friend who is slowly dying from cancer. Thanks, Ben, for shaing.

  38. Barb DiPasquale
    Boulder, CO
    June 29, 2015, 10:41 am

    Beautiful and touching through the tears. Thank you for sharing such an intimate experience with your best friend.

  39. Suzanne I
    New Jersey
    June 29, 2015, 2:54 pm

    Beautiful story! Denali was a gift. Glad he found you Ben. I have 4 best friends of the 4 legged variety and each one makes my life better. Thanks for sharing!

  40. jlw
    IL
    June 29, 2015, 4:20 pm

    What good fortune you 2 happened upon each other and it lasted at least one of your lifetimes. No truer friends.

  41. […] Denali: A New Film About a Man, His Dog, and Saying Goodbye. […]

  42. Andreas Bracke
    Greifswald, Germany
    June 30, 2015, 4:36 pm

    What a wonderful movie. Fantastic Pictures, showing the love! Of course I cried tears (remembering the last days of my beloved Haflinger Pony last year…).
    A fantastic touching movie!

  43. Charlsey De Lorenzo
    Sarasota, Florida
    June 30, 2015, 8:53 pm

    Beautiful and moving story of personal redemption and grief over love of a marvelous dog friend. Sent to me by a daughter who also survived cancer as did I. My dogs have all been loving and wonderful; Hopefully, I will have others…..am on my 6th labrador retriever; she brings a smile to my face every day.

  44. Karren
    Toledo
    June 30, 2015, 11:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with the world. Our family lost Aphrodite in February of this year. She was our friend and companion for 11 years. Your film has helped with our healing process.

  45. Danielle
    Montreal, Canada
    July 4, 2015, 11:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing this tribute to the love of your life. Beautiful footage, but even more beautiful words. I have MS and was single and living alone when I got diagnosed. My cat Mel was always there for me, despite all my anger and sadness and despair. Despite it all we would cuddle up and fall asleep together at night. Why am I telling you all this? Because your short film touched me deeply and it is a reminder that I should cherish every moment that I have with her.

  46. Hatem Kotb
    Alexandria, Egypt
    July 19, 2015, 5:02 pm

    This is very touching.
    Thank you guys for sharing.

  47. Dana
    Fountain, Colorado
    July 20, 2015, 7:00 am

    Lost my Shepherd Heeler after more than twelve years in June. I am ashamed to have ever complained about anything. Thank you, dear friend, Deb

  48. Charlsey De Lorenzo
    Sarasota
    July 22, 2015, 7:01 pm

    Thankyou for allowing me to answer your story…..Hearing about Denali makes me realize what an important role animals play in our lives. I am 79 now and have a rescue lab named “Bindi”, I have survived breast cancer; and other scourges of living. My dog Bindi is a Lab Rescue dog and we have had many other labs; I hve loved them all. I wish you well and a long life with your lovely dog, Denali!

  49. Liz
    No. California
    July 25, 2015, 7:41 pm

    Oh My! It takes a story like that to encapsulate the deep emotions of what a dog can mean to us.

  50. Jana
    Ny
    December 19, 2015, 2:04 am

    Ben, I have read several stories of dogs and the impact they have in our lives, but your story and video has captured my heart and emotions like nothing I have ever seen or heard. You did a beautiful job of portraying what the love between a dog and owner looks like. Having lost three dogs so far, I know very well the deep pain that you go through when you lose your best friend. Right now we have a wonderful golden retriever and I dread the day when I have to say goodbye to him… I am deeply sorry for your loss. With everything you both have been through I can’t imagine how hard losing him must be for you everyday. Your story has inspired me to make the most of the time I have with my dog and to take really good care of him… Thank you so much for sharing with us your story. It made me cry, but reminded me too that often the most memorable rewarding moments are the ones when we invest in someone we care about esp our dogs!

  51. […] to share and inspire others,” notes Moon, whose own story was told in the beloved recent film Denali. Below Moon and Rabbit Island’s creative genius and owner Rob Gorski share how and why […]

  52. […] first multi-pitch 5.14 in Canada in this first film by director/photographer/climber Ben Moon (Denali, Rabbit Island) just now […]

  53. Mike
    Perth Australia
    January 24, 2016, 8:56 pm

    A truly beautiful short film that captures the love that can exist between people and a that wonderful companion and friend to so many people, the dog

  54. Thuy Pham
    Laguna Niguel, CA
    February 10, 2016, 1:08 am

    I love Denali movie. Very touching. Don’t know how many times I have watched it over and over. So sorry for your loss Ben. I lost my chihuahua in 2005 to cancer and I still miss him as of now. My dogs are the love of my life. I also travel w my dogs even though we are not as adventurous as you both were (I wish I could be more adventurous, but sometimes it’s tough w 3 small chihuahuas). Just try to make time well spent w them when I still have them. Again thx very much for making this beautiful movie.

  55. Vicki Graczyk
    Michigan
    February 18, 2016, 8:18 pm

    Incredibly beautiful and moving film. Thank you for sharing this. I find myself watching it over and over again.