Oregon photographer Ben Moon and his dog Denali were inseparable. The two did everything together and Denali was truly man’s best friend.
Unfortunately, Ben received heartbreaking news one day. Ben learned that Denali had cancer. But that didn’t stop his bond between him and his dog. Denali was by Ben’s side the whole time. Knowing that his days were numbered, Ben took Denali to the beach to film a tribute to him that helped him rally to beat cancer. It shows their friendship from Denali’s view.
The resulting short film was entitled “Denali” and won Best of Festival and People’s Choice awards at Colorado’s 5Point Film Festival. Their touching story took the internet by storm and is still making the rounds. Sadly, Denali passed away in 2014.
“It could have gone cheesy or too sappy or too sad, so quickly,” Moon, a 40-year-old adventure photographer, told TODAY.com. “But [director Ben Knight] just nailed it.”
Ben Meets Denali
Denali was believed to be a mix of a pit bull and husky. He was only 2 months old when Ben met him at an animal shelter in November 1999.
“As soon as I passed him, he put his paw out, cocked his head and kind of looked at me,” Moon said. “He tore a lap around the room, and then laid on my feet, and rolled up on his back, and looked at me. It felt like he chose me.”
Denali and Ben were inseparable for nearly 15 years. Their bond became strengthened when in 2004, Ben was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Thanks to Denali, Moon was comforted and had the strength to beat cancer in April 2005.
“When he was in the hospital bed with me, he’d just sort of step up there so gently, it was kind of mind-blowing,” Moon said. “He made sure he wasn’t touching anything that was in pain and not invade my space.”
But after moon’s remarkable recovery, it was Denali that started to have failing health. Denali had four cancerous lumps removed and he suffered respiratory and kidney problems. As Denali started to grow weaker, Moon was approached to do a film and he knew just what to do. He only asked Denali to stay healthy and happy for just one more month to finish his loving tribute to his best friend.
“That’s when I promised him, ‘Just let me know when it’s your time to go, man; I’m not going to let you suffer,'” Moon recalled. “It felt like this grand reciprocation, because he had been with me while I had gone through cancer.”
It was exactly one month later on January 31st, 2014 that Moon noticed Denali had gotten a bad cough. While playing on the beach the next day he looked into Denali’s eyes and knew it was time to say goodbye to his best friend. Denali passed away on February 2nd. Moon posted a sweet eulogy on Instagram to honor his beloved friend:
“Thank you Denali for giving me the courage to hit the road with a camera, a van, and no plan back in 2001, for never taking your eye off me through a year of cancer treatments, surgeries and countless other challenges,” he wrote. “Thank you for your uncanny ability to walk into a frame at precisely the right moment to elevate an image, for teaching me patience and the joy in the simple quiet moments as I watched you grow older, and most of all, giving selflessly the unconditional love that only a true friend can give. It’s impossible to put into words all that you were and will always be to me—I was always convinced you were more human than dog, and all of the countless lives you touched felt the same.”
Grab a box of tissues and watch the sweet video below!