Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sean Kelly

Hot Docs 2013: My Thoughts on Furever

Furever

I am a huge dog lover and my family’s two dogs provide me with a constant source of happiness.  Even though it’s inevitable, I try not to think about the fact that these pets are not going to live forever and will likely die much sooner than any human I’m close to. 

Furever examines they various methods that people use to keep the memory of their alive after they die.  In some cases, this is as simple as keeping a shrine of the pet’s toys, with perhaps a few hair samples and other “leftovers.”  Some people bury their pets in special pet cemeteries or get them cremated and make ornaments (or tattoos) out of the ashes.  Then there are the extreme methods of pet preservation, with people resorting to taxidermy, mummification, and even cloning.

While Furever is a somewhat interesting film, it is definitely not easy to watch if you are a pet lover.  It is definitely true that pets these days are treated much more like extended members of the family.  At the same time, there is a stigma against extended grieving for a dead pet.  There is a scene of a pet funeral at a cemetery, which was particularly upsetting for me to watch.  It’s also upsetting hearing how pet cemeteries are not utilized as much as they used to and many dead pets are thrown into landfills or mass incinerated.

However, the film went from upsetting to outright disturbing once it began to focus on the people who just can’t let go and resort to extreme measures to preserve their pet.  Probably the most unsettling scene in the film comes when a woman is seen showing much more love and affection towards the preserved dead dog on her lap, than the alive dog sitting right next to her!  Not only is showing affection for a dead dog inherently creepy (the uncanny valley comes to mind), but the live dog was obviously confused and constantly sniffing at the other “dog.”

By the time the film got to pet mummification (and owners who also wanted to be mummified), I was just going with the flow.  Probably the most extreme method used to preserve a pet’s memory is resorting to cloning, which costs thousands of dollars and is performed in a lab in South Korea.  The cloning supporter interviewed also had the most ridiculous retort to the “don’t play God” criticism, in which he said that if “God intended us to die, he wouldn’t have given us the brains to do something about it”.  Whatever helps your morals.

The overall question asked by Furever is where do we draw the line when it comes to preserving our pets memories when they die?  Death is fact of life and people should learn to properly let go of their pets, no matter how much they loved them.  The film gives some counter-arguments, using historical evidence of human preservation, however I think that learning to cope with death is one of the most important things you can do as a human being.

Overall, while I personally quite affected by Furever and have no intention of ever seeing it again, I do have to say that it is still a quite interesting look at the extremes people go to preserve their pet’s memories.

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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).