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This Dog Refused to Leave His Owner’s Hospital Bed. Their Journey and Friendship Made Us Cry

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When this dog’s owner was diagnosed with cancer, his canine companion displayed the unconditional love that can only come from man’s best friend. Their story is an emotional adventure that takes in suffering, happiness, pain, joy and, ultimately, loss. Prepare to be moved.
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The stars of this story are Ben Moon and his faithful dog Denali, and it was documented in a short film that has swept across the internet. Interestingly, the movie was narrated from the viewpoint of Denali himself, and the film serves as a tribute to the pooch who so lovingly watched after Moon.
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Moon, an adventure photographer and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon, met Denali in an animal shelter in 1999. Denali, a husky and pit bull mix, was just two months old at the time.
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“As soon as I passed him, he put his paw out, cocked his head and kind of looked at me,” Moon recounted in an interview with Today. “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.”
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For the next 15 years, the two were rarely apart, and they got to travel around the country in a van for Moon’s photography career. Or, as Denali humorously tells it in the film, “We went camping a lot. I’d pretend I was a giant stinky butterfly.”
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In 2004, however, Moon was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. It was advanced stage three, and Moon was in for a long road of treatment. The moment Moon realized the extent of the illness is described memorably in the film: Moon and Denali were in Joshua Tree, and Moon apparently blacked out and began to bleed.
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Moon went to a hospital in Bend, Oregon for cancer surgery, and by some miracle, the nurses allowed Denali to stay in the hospital with Moon during his ten-day stay. Moon told Men’s Journal, “I don’t know if it was just my nurses or what. But Denali would sleep on my bed and my folks and my sister stayed in my camper van outside.”
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Indeed, Denali refused to leave Moon’s side. “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 told Today. “He made sure he wasn’t touching anything that was in pain and not invade my space.”
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Fortunately, just before Moon turned 30 in April 2005, he had his last cancer treatment. He was declared cancer-free soon afterward, and he has remained so for the past 11 years.
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Moon and Denali resumed their travel and adventures together until 2014, when, sadly, it was Denali’s turn to be diagnosed with cancer. Consequently, the dog had four cancerous lumps removed, but Moon told Today that after the surgery Denali suffered respiratory and kidney problems.
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Moon was asked to do a film shortly before Denali passed away, and he felt it appropriate to make it into a tribute to his most loyal companion. Moon told Denali to hold on for just a month longer so he could complete his heartfelt message to his best buddy.
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Moon wanted to do for Denali what the dog had so selflessly done for him and stay by his side. Moon took Denali on one last trip together to some of the old places the pair used to visit. He shot footage of the journey for his farewell tribute.
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With the support of Patagonia and under direction of Ben Knight, the film turned into something quite magical. The decision to narrate the film from the perspective of Denali is really the icing on the cake.
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Certainly, the humorous, gentle and sincere tone fits perfectly with the theme of the film. “It could have gone cheesy or too sappy or too sad, so quickly,” Moon told Today. “But [director Ben Knight] just nailed it.”
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The film shows Denali enjoying one of his favorite beaches in his last days. “He was not doing well, he could barely walk. But you saw him on the beach and he was prancing around like a puppy,” Moon told Men’s Journal.
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Moon is ultimately very happy with the end result of the film, which is titled Denali. “I was hoping it would resonate and connect with people,” said Moon. “When we passed a million views, it was mind-blowing.” The view count has increased even more, standing, to date, at well over 2 million.
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Unfortunately, Denali passed away in 2015, exactly a month after Moon had asked him to stay a little longer. In the film, Denali described his last moments. “My last night was really peaceful. I wasn’t hungry anymore, so I let Ben know it was time, and he let me sleep on his chest all night.”
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But Denali will always live on in Moon’s memory, as well as on his vibrant Instagram feed. Moon wrote a tribute to his best four-legged friend after he passed. “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.”
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It has been over a year since Denali passed, but Moon told Men’s Journal that he had no plans for another dog soon. “Luckily, my girlfriend has an amazing dog that I get to spend time with, so that fills the void a bit,” he said.
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At the end of the film, Denali recounts a quote from writer David Dudley. He says, “There was this really smart scientist guy who thought that people could learn a lot from dogs. He said that when someone you love walks through the door, even if that happens five times a day, you should go totally insane with joy.” It is food for thought, indeed.

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