This morning I watched the rough cut of my new short film Waiting for Goodbye with tears spilling into my coffee. Being that it explores the feelings of a young woman as she spends her last morning with her beloved dog, I suppose my reaction was a good sign. We were looking to capture a heart wrenching emotional journey of grief and loss, so crying my face off meant we did our job well.
But that wasn’t the whole story.
When my filmmaking partner Curt Apdhuan first spoke to me early last year about writing the script for WFG, I immediately fell in love with the idea of the film being created as a tribute to his dearly departed Maltese Priscilla. And it was also a nice way to create a memento of Beau, his sixteen year old Shih Tzu (and our leading man) who is starting to feel his years quite a bit.
So, I got to work on it right away and after several go-rounds we had a final draft by spring. My heart ached for Curt’s loss, but I was silently grateful that my two dogs – Ranger and Devo – were only 3 1/2 and 6 1/2 years old, respectively. Surely, I would have many more years before I had to even think about memorializing them.
I never dreamed that before the end of 2015, I would be saying goodbye to both of my sweet boys in all too rapid succession. Ranger in August. Devo two days before Christmas. Both had forms of cancer that were inexplicable in such otherwise healthy and youthful dogs.
I have a friend who often says, “Never ask the ‘why’ question.” But when grief goes to work on your psyche, that’s a pretty tall order. Where had we failed them? Feeding the wrong food? Missing symptoms we should have seen? Toxic pesticides on the dog park grass? The possibilities were (and still are) endless and maddening.
But even as I try to stop torturing myself with the aforementioned “why’s,” there is one that remains. And it’s not so much painful as it is simply confounding.
Why did I end up living my own script?
I’m not sure I’ll ever have an answer for that one. But what I do have is this: an even greater desire than before to share WFG with as many people as I can. My hope is that this film can provide comfort. To reassure people that they aren’t alone in their pain of losing their beloved animal companion, and console them as they try to make sense of something that seems so senseless.
Ranger (“Bear”) Hughes 2012-2015 Devo (“Peanut”) Hughes 2009-2015