FUREVER is a documentary film about post-mortal pet preservation (the many processes by which a deceased pet is professionally conserved), and the dimensions of grief people experience over the loss of a pet.
Over half of the US population considers pets to be family members (60 percent of pet owners give holidays gifts to their pets), while 70 percent of childless couples have pets. Human birth rates are plummeting to the lowest levels seen in years and many people are choosing to have pets instead of children. With the popularity of doggie daycare, organic pet food, and even religious rites for pets (such as the “bark mitzvah”), not to mention expensive pet medical procedures, spending on pets is expected to reach a record-breaking $47.7 billion this year. As people find themselves devastated by their pet’s death, they increasingly turn to pet preservation to ease their grief. Many dismiss or judge pet preservationists for being “unbalanced,” yet the assorted rituals in place for deceased human loved ones, while precious to those who practice them, often seem odd or unusual to outsiders. Rather than pathetic or morbid, people who choose pet preservation embody America’s muddled attitudes toward death and dying, touching on our collective fear of aging, and how that fear is shaped by the shifting influences of religion, family, and money. How “real” is grief for a dead pet? Who decides what kind of grief is acceptable, or appropriate? Have we lost a sense of ritual, and does that leave us unmoored in the wake of death? In a country where anything can be bought, where youth is prized while age is loathed, why surrender to death at all?
The curious practice of post-mortal pet preservation, when more deeply probed, raises compelling points about attachment, family, religion, ritual, grief and death. Furever explores these concepts by examining numerous methods of pet preservation. The film will contextualize these practices, pointing to the preservation of dead pets, and the assorted rituals in place for mourning their deaths, throughout history. It will offer an investigation into the sociology behind pet anthropomorphism, as well as a captivating study, both psychological and physiological, of the close bonds that form between humans and animals. Furever also exposes the viewer to the changing landscape of both the veterinary and funerary industries as they relate to sociological evolution. Bereavement scholars, psychologists, veterinarians, historians and animal behaviorists help shape these ideas. Death is a delicate, bewildering aspect of the human condition and a difficult concept to grasp—there are too many unknowns—and, as a result, it’s something that rarely enters the public discourse. Presenting the tales of people and their pets as the main avenue of inquiry into this human condition allows the dialogue to become less stigmatized, but it’s still deeply revealing. The concepts investigated in Furever will disarm anyone who might want to dismiss the subjects as mere oddball caricatures. Ultimately, FUREVER is a study of attachment, letting go, and the reality of how we all grieve and mourn, for both humans and non-humans alike.