Kenai, my Siberian Husky we've had since I was 11, died at the end of March.
First of all, that whole week was incredibly intense for the "Volcano Girl" crew. We were "picture locking." This means, we had to edit our film and reach a stopping point. We would not be allowed to jump back into the cut/edit and fix any story issues or shot issues that may come up after the lock. Our lock was 6pm April 2nd - a Saturday - and that would be it!
I had been in the editing basement all week where we don't receive cell reception - it's quite annoying. I apparently missed a call Wednesday night from my mom, but she didn't leave a voicemail, so I never saw it.
Kenai, our dog, went outside to go to the bathroom - like she always did - but this time, she never came back. She had diabetes and was fully blind, so my parents thought she had lost her way. It was actually quite cute watching her maneuver the world as a blind dog. We felt like her "seeing-eye people."
My parents were out all night looking for her with no luck. We have a huge hill in our backyard that leads up to a forest. We see at least 5 deer a day and sometimes a muskrat if we're lucky. Needless to say, it was tough searching the woods at night, so my parents waited until the next morning. Keep in mind that she had diabetes and she was missing her insulin shots.
My dad took the day off and searched for her. Nothing. My mom called me to ask for help posting "Lost Dog" pages on Craigslist, etc. and calling shelters in the area. I helped as much as I could but I was in the editing basement yet again with no cell signal. I would run upstairs every so often to call a shelter or return my mom's call.
Then I got the email from my mom. "Call me" was in the subject line. My poor editors watched me run, mid-sentence, out of the editing room and upstairs. I ran to a corner of our courtyard and called home. They found Kenai's body down the hill. It was horrible.
All I can think was that she knew she was going to die and walked away. I hear Huskies do that.
I cried. I searched for a place to be alone and, wow, that was hard to find! I ended up against a building - not even sure where - and cried.
Crying while Editing
That was Thursday, and we were still editing for picture lock on Saturday. We brought in various audiences to watch Volcano Girl. I just sat in silence and tried my hardest to smile when they looked at me. Thank goodness my editors and producers were good "question askers" and talkers. I couldn't say anything. I waved goodbye and once the door shut to the editing room I started crying again. My editors and producers were so great - I'm sure they felt a little weird - but they were wonderful!
I pulled it together for Friday & Saturday and literally had to make myself forget for those 2 days. I couldn't allow myself to really think about Kenai because I knew I would just cry. I had to stay focused or I would ruin this opportunity.
Picture lock came and went.
Finally, a few days after, I had a free night. I sat on the couch and cried. I just stared at the photo above of my Kenai and cried. I'd get on the phone with my mom and cry.
Picture Lock Stress
It felt almost comical to say "my dog died" just as I was about to picture lock. It didn't feel real, like it was out of a sitcom. I remembered Joan Darling, my mentor and inspiration as a director, tell me the story of how she wants her actors to laugh. "Let them laugh!" She directed the "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of Mary Tyler Moore where a clown dies and everyone thinks it's funny but Mary. She finally gets the joke at the funeral and can't stop laughing.
All I could think was "Really? I'm under all of this stress and THEN my dog dies? REALLY?!"
I thought I should share this story because it's an amazing example of no matter how stressed you may feel as a filmmaker, there are still situations so much bigger than us, bigger than film.
I am doing something I love, and I think of my puppy when I need a good smile. She never criticized my movies 🙂