It's no wonder the pet industry continues to make billions of dollars each year. Owners pampering their pets in increasingly ridiculous ways—dogs wearing designer outfits and cats wearing pricey hats and capes on the internet—drive this industry, anthropomorphizing their furry loved ones in increasingly elaborate ways. A quick Google search will net a plethora of web sites devoted to animal clothing and miscellaneous gadgets intended to make a pet's life and, more importantly, their owner's life, easier.
But what happens after you've bonded with your beloved dog or cat—or any other furry critter for that matter—for years and they pass away? Studies show that the mourning of a pet can be far more difficult to deal with than the passing of a loved one of the human variety, due in large part to the stigma that is attached to grieving the death of an animal. Pets have come to be more than mere companions as more and more people opt not to have children; in fact, many people view their pets as their children.
Amy Finkel's documentary Furever looks at the many ways animal lovers, or "pet parents" (as they are referred to in the documentary), have been perpetuating the memories of their pets. Ranging from animal cemeteries and cremation urns to things like taxidermy, freeze-drying, mummification and DNA cloning, there are a number of ways people are choosing to spend their money to memorialize and preserve the memory of their pet. Some methods are heart-felt, while others come off as somewhat more perplexing and, at times, disturbing.
Finkel's film examines these various methods without passing judgment on the more obtuse concepts. The real crux of the film comes from some of the scientists interviewed about the love people feel for their pets, exploring the brain chemistry involved in the human-animal bond. For example, oxytocin is elevated when a woman breastfeeds her newborn baby and it has been documented to dramatically increase when a pet parent is engaging with their furry friend, lowering the heart rate and reducing stress.
With the documentary genre being flooded by films exposing worldwide social issues and injustices, Furever is a breath of fresh air. It's a quirky, informative and highly entertaining work that documents a world that many likely never gave a second thought about, challenging our perceptions of mortality in both our pets and ourselves. (Gaia Indie Films)