An Ode to Toby

Losing a dog is losing a loved one. An Ode to Toby reflects my understanding of how death impacts me personally. His brother Cody passed away two years ago and that traumatized me. As far as I could remember he was always a part of my life. For months I was a wreck. The finality of his death was unfathomable. How could he be gone? It pushed me to find answers in places where there were none. Eventually, I enrolled in Philosophy of Death not knowing if it would cure my heartache or leave me with more questions. 

While I’m not absurdly happy, the lens through which I view my life is becoming clearer. I wasn’t able to derive any meaning from Cody’s passing. It was just despair; no hope, no courage. Initially, reasoning provided me with nothing, but that is no longer the case. I have grown, my ability to make this film reflects that. I couldn’t dedicate anything to Cody’s life. I tried to write about him, but it was too painful. That has changed, I am not where I was before.

I studied film at UCF for a year and hated every second of it. The classes were lifeless, and it was my first time away from home, so I spent most of my time partying with my friends. Regardless, my love for film did not waiver. I may not want to study it, but I do admire it. Film has the power to evoke emotion. The cinematography, lighting, sound design, dialogue, and acting can all work together to tell a truly immersive story. It is a visual medium that can swallow you whole if done right. 

In An Ode to Toby, black and white separate past from present. There is a moment where the film goes pure white, signifying the afterlife. Once Cody reappears it is a sign that he’s still alive, just in my mind. Using footage that spans over a decade, this film acts a time capsule that’ll make me cry every time I watch it. Only now, they are tears of joy, not of pain. To reflect the near perfect balance of life and death, the footage is nearly all celebratory. The gloomy atmosphere comes from my piano and words. What you’re seeing is something beautiful and what you’re hearing is something beautifully tragic.

I felt that my emotion could be better captured not through my voice alone but with my piano. I recorded the speech and then I just played what I felt. I didn’t edit it or try it again. It was raw. This is the raw me, letting you into my mind. I tried to put the viewer in a position to where they can figuratively pet my dog. I spoke of how I feel and showed why I feel that way. I will not be with my dog forever, but now I will be able to see him happy forever. My words are reassuring, and my dog is magnificent.

Not only is this an ode to my dogs, but it is dedicated to what I’ve taken away from Philosophy of Death. Very few times have I been so thoroughly influenced by course material to genuinely change my perspective on something. I began with a severe sense of meaninglessness that was cured with what I can only describe as hope. A reason has been provided to me: to learn. To celebrate life instead of mourning death.

Cody’s last day 2018-05-18
Toby’s last day 2020-05-04