Denali: More Than Just A Viral Video

This morning I woke up to make coffee, then sat down to check my messages on the computer. I kept seeing this video called ‘Denali’ appear in my feed. Normally I don’t stream videos because of the bandwidth it takes to watch them, however I had a feeling this would be worth the data. It’s about this surfer/photographer, Ben Moon, who (together with a director and cinematographer) made a gorgeous video dedicated to his dog, Denali. (The article on gives a little more perspective and background on the video, as well as why it is is narrated by the point of view of Denali. Check it out HERE.)

I hit play and waited for the video to load. Sure enough, within the first two minutes my eyes were welling up. With tears streaming down my face, I clicked to share this post with you.
It’s more than just a viral video that will make you cry too. It’s more than incredible photography and cinematography. It’s more than a love story between a man and his dog.
This is a video that hits home for me with impeccable timing. Take a few moments to watch the video and come back to read why I shared this.

Though Gunner was 12 when we first brought him to the boat, we knew the day would come, eventually, when he would need to say goodbye. Over the last few months it’s become apparent to Peter and I that Gunner’s days are numbered. 

He’s been my sweet boy since the summer of my senior year in high school. He went off to college with me and guarded our home when I went off to work. He’s been on many adventures with me and I never considered even for a second that he was too old or too big to come with us when we made the decision to move onto a sailboat and sail away.

I’m not gonna lie… It’s not easy having a 75 lb Weimaraner on a sailboat, let alone a senior dog who is having trouble with his hips and his bowels. He can still hold his bladder well but he’s quickly losing the ability to know when he needs to go #2. We’re keeping him on a tight routine for trips outside to go potty on deck and it’s still mostly manageable but we know the situation isn’t going to get any better. Accidents happen when we’re least prepared, like when we are sleeping, or when we are trying to anchor, or even when guests are coming to visit.

I’ve been struggling how to write about this for awhile now. How do you know when it’s time? How do you know how much pain they are in? HOW DO YOU KNOW?!!?

I’ve never been through this with an old dog before. I’ve never been the one to have to make the decision. I can only pray that Gunner will make it for me and let me know, as Denali did for Ben Moon.

Until then, we show him as much love as we can each and every day.


  1. Jeanne says:

    The timing is never right but it will come and I will cry right along with you and Peter. Pets, dogs, are our best friends and you have devoted your life to Gunner. He is a very happy dog when he is with you. Love to all, Bean

  2. Travis says:

    We are not “living aboard” since our 17 year old deaf and mostly blind dog has difficulty with many of the same things your Gunner is dealing with in old age. We do what we think is best for members of our family. For the last couple of years my wife and I wonder if we should expedite the end … concluding that until there is notiable pain, we won’t. :-(

  3. This is so hard, Jody. I think the biggest thing to remember is to not be selfish with your old boys time. People usually say that they’ll look at you one morning and you’ll know its time. With my childhood dog, it was when she couldn’t get up to say good morning anymore. With Jasmine, she had a tumor on her spleen rupture so it was much more sudden and traumatic. If I would counsel you any way, it would be to let him go with love and dignity, before the ugliness of his body beginning to shut down. He wouldn’t want you and Peter to have to go through that. Always remember that euthanasia is the last gift you can give to Gunner, and one of the hardest to give. We’re thinking of you guys on tenalach.

  4. Mark and Cindy - s/v Cream Puff says:

    Enjoy the time with Gunner. The day will come and you will know. Don’t ask how. You will just know.

  5. Keith says:

    We just went through this with my best friend of 15 years, Liam the Border Collie.
    In my case, he kept coming to me, looking right at me and pushing his head against my leg – all very unusual behavior for him. I truly felt he was saying “Make it stop, dad!”
    Both a relief, because he was telling ME it was time, and a devastatingly painful responsibility to do therrighting for him.
    Which is only to say that if you’re determined to do the right thing for him, I think he’ll let you know when. Just keep your heart open, no matter how much it hurts.
    Blessings, cause I been there… Keith

  6. Melissa says:

    I empathize so strongly. My old man will be 14 in a few months. His Help ’em Up harness has extended his life by making it possible for us to manage a 90lb dog with failing hips in a house overrun with stairs. He spends most of the day lying down, but he’s HAPPY. He eats, he snuggles (on his terms), he still enjoys walkies. Rimadyl manages pain.

    I know his days are growing short. I have to help him more often now. He falls more often. His eyes are cloudy, and his hearing is lousy. But as long as he’s eating and smiling and enjoying his walks, I’ll continue to do whatever I need to for him. Unless I see signs that HE’s done, I’m not going to make that decision for him.

    He’s my heart.

  7. Catherine Hackett says:

    This is such a difficult time. My beloved lab mix Rudder had dysplasia and arthritis. At 12 he needed to be helped up and down steps and he used his hind legs together to form a tripod with his front legs. He’d pant heavily at night but otherwise he never complained. Then one day he snapped at a vet tech and he’d never done anything like that before.
    A friend said that if I found myself asking the question of whether it was time then perhaps I already knew the answer. I hated that thought. I called my vet who knew Rudder so well and was dealing with her own geriatric dog. She said, “It’s not too early, if that’s what you need to hear.” It was, and we helped my darling boy. I still get choked up thinking about him and it’s been ten years and I’m sharing the love of four other dogs.
    May Gunner and you continue with your blessed life together until it’s time.

  8. Mike G says:

    Having gone through this, with our beloved lab, Yukon, I know how difficult it is. For some, perhaps one of lifes most difficult decisions (all pet lovers will understand). Trust that you will know clearly when it’s time, although difficult enjoy your remaining time together.

  9. Teddy says:

    It’s one of the hardest things ever. I’ve had several dogs in my life. When I was a child, my parents had to make the dreadful decision. I’ve only had to make the decision once. My dog, Guinness, was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2011. I took him to specialists who told me that Guinness had about a year to live if we did chemo treatments, and only a few months if we didn’t. They told me that dogs don’t seem to be affected the way humans are when it comes to chemotherapy. Their moods are similar and their appetite remains.

    Guinness was fine for a few months, but December rolled around and other tumor showed up on his leg. We were at my parent’s for Christmas and Guinness wasn’t putting weight on his leg. We came home the day after Christmas and immediately brought him back into the specialists. They said that they could do surgery, remove the tumor, do more chemo, and manage the pain, but that Guinness probably only had 6 months left. The year that they had initially given Guinness had dropped to a total of 8 months.

    So, for the next 6 months (maybe), Guinness would have to have surgery, be in pain some pain no matter how well it was managed, have to have several chemo treatments, and have a tough time walking on his leg for about 4 weeks after surgery. The questions rolling through my head were…will another tumor show up? How long will he be in pain? How much of the last 6 months of his life will he actually be able to enjoy? Would I want to live like that for the last 6 months of my life?

    It was clear to me that Guinness deserved better, and to be in a better place. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make.

    As Mike G. said, it will be clear to you when it is time. Enjoy the time you have with Gunner while you have it!


  10. Barb Comstock says:

    Because we are the human element of the relationship, it is our responsibility that we accept to house, feed, comfort and care for our canine companions. Because we exempt them from a natural way of ending, our responsibility also includes easing their exit from life, which may include euthanasia or simply holding on until the end. As a former veterinary technician, I can tell you euthanasia is the absolute suckiest part of the job… Clients ask when the time is right, but, I’m sorry, every situation is so different, there is no universal answer. I can tell you to let your dog tell you. When they are in pain that you can’t relieve. When incontinence becomes distressing to them. When they lose interest in food, in walking, when they want to hide, when the joy leaves their eyes, you will know. I can say, from my experience, we tend to keep them with us way longer than they wish – they feel our sorrow and hang on way past what nature intends.

  11. Gunner is very lucky to have you loving him and caring for him so well. You’ve given him a great life and continue to enjoy your time with him. That’s a wonderful gift for both of you.

    I’d like to kick back against the “you’ll just know” crowd. Because sometimes you don’t. You have to make a decision and hope it’s the right one. And you may question yourself for years to come.

    It’s the cost of doing something important. It’s the cost of love. And as hard as it is, it’s a price worth paying.

    I wish the very best to you in caring for Gunner and continuing to make the best decisions you can on his behalf.

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