Welcome to our “Dogumentary!” Once there was a Giant is the story of Jax, a lovable pit bull mix with a big heart. We rescued Jax three years ago and he has changed our lives with remarkable capacity for love.
Jax loves everybody, especially other dogs. His best days on earth are spent at the dog park running and playing keep-away and tug of war.
We don’t know exactly when Jax got cancer, but in early 2018 he started shaking and having pain fits. A biopsy showed us that he had a malignant tumor behind his left eye.
These things are inoperable in dogs, and we were told he only had a few months.
My girlfriend Dawn did some research and got him on some Chinese Medicine: herbs, no-carbs, and CBD to reduce the inflammation. For six months, his symptoms went away.
Now the tumor is bulging out under his skin between his eyes. It’s time to make the movie while we still can.
When I was 12 years old, I was reading all the science fiction I could get my hands on: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and even Stanislaw Lem. And then I found this book by Keith Laumer called “Once there was a Giant.” It was so magical that it made me want to be a writer.
In the story, an astronaut crashes on an ice planet and finds himself facing certain death. Then a 12-foot local being saves him even though they share no common language. Not to spoil things for you, but the Giant dies in the process of saving the man in a selfless way that shook me to my very core. What compassion for others!
To me, that is the story of Jax.
The book ends with this line, something so well done that I found myself re-reading this story over and over to see how Keith Laumer got there.
“It’s a big, impersonal Universe, and little men crave the thing that will give them stature against the loom of stars.
But in the world where once there was a giant, the rest of us are forever pygmies.”
– Keith Laumer from his short story “Once There Was A Giant.”
Today I am a very successful tech journalist covering the High Performance Computing Industry, but none of that might have happened without that one book.
Though Keith Laumer died in 1993, his estate has granted me permission to use his words as the opening of my film. I am so grateful!
There are thousands of dogs out there that need families. They will bring great joy and unconditional love to your life.
The filming of Once There Was a Giant has been an incredible journey for me as a writer. It started as a memorial film to an amazing dog that was going to pass away far before his time. But through dozens of interviews with Portland Dog Owners, I found myself discovering a deeper truth.
I asked most them two simple questions:
- Can you tell me about the Dog that changed your life?
- We have 10X a dog’s lifespan. Why do you think we dog owners (I do it too) go through such heart wrenching loss only to pick up and get another dog?
On the second question, not one dog owner could put their reason into words. It was like they never considered the question at all in their entire lives.
In this film, you’ll hear me say:
I think the reason these pets keep coming into our lives is to remind us of who we truly are.
In the end, what greater gift could there ever be?
I just received this amazing gift from my friends Michele Clamp and James Cuff. Michele created this watercolor portrait of Jax based on his original mug shot from the Multnomah County Animal Shelter.
In the course of making this film, people from all over the world have reached out to me with offers of help. I am so grateful to have so many wonderful people in my life!
On September 24, 2018, Jax passed away quietly at home with his humans by his side. We finished shooting the film just two days prior, and if you watch the movie trailer, you’ll see his last scene:
Jax and I are in front of Muu-Muus World Cafe in Portland. We get up to leave, and I kneel down to pet Jax because I know his head is really hurting. The pain meds just aren’t working any more. For the very first time since we got him, Jax high-fives me out of nowhere without me prompting him. You can see I’m surprised in the scene as I high-five him back.
You hear me say this as we walk off:
“Jax’s immune system continues to fight the demons that will surely vanquish him.
Call me foolish, but I’m betting on the Giant!”
That is the end of the movie. Roll the credits and queue up the Bruce Springsteen song, If I should fall behind.
A Peaceful End
We are lucky to have this pet euthanasia service here in Portland, and the amazing vet that came to our home spent a long time giving Jax love and affection before he went to sleep.
They say leaving this world is easy. Saying goodbye is hard.
Justin, Todd, and Tanya and I buried Jax up on Mount Hood in the town of Welches. My good friend Gunnar is making a brass grave marker that will last forever, but in the meantime, we made an old-fashioned cross from sticks and twine.
For some reason, my car had this Black Lives Matters foam core sign in the back. When I was shooting the photo of the cross, it was not showing up very well, so I put the sign there for some contrast. Somehow, I think it needs to stay.
I wrote this poem this morning. We hope to shoot the reading up at the Rose Garden at Washington Park.
The Hunte Dog
They call me the Hunte Dog, the
Dog in the Village that
His name escapes you, this
Red Hat walker, black boots and
Big Blue Dog daily doses
like a comet’s tail crossing the sky
But when the Giant Falls, Goliath to
his heart And David’s Sling will
render me lost
the Hunte Dog that
I am pleased to announce that our Dog Movie raised over $700 for the Multnomah County Animal Shelter. We want to thank all of our sponsors, who donated terrific prizes for our raffle.
One big surprise we had at the world premier of the Dog Movie was a sneak peek trailer of my next film, “Every Town has a Jimbo.”
Jimbo Beckman is a fixture of Northwest Portland. He walks the earth every day, and no one is really sure where he goes.
But Jimbo knows everybody. Like Jax in Once There Was a Giant, Jimbo is the Hunte Dog, the dog in the village that everybody knows.
Thirty-some years ago, Jimbo was a professor at Evergreen College in Washington. One day, he was driving his VW Bug to a favorite fishing spot when he lost control and rolled the vehicle. He suffered a traumatic head injury.
It took Jimbo over a year to re-learn to walk and talk. Today, he tells the same stories, over and over. It’s like he can’t create new memories. And this forever now that he lives in, there is Walking, Friends, and Whiskey. Every day.
At Jimbo’s request, this film will benefit the Audubon Society. Look news about the film at http://everytownhasajimbo.com in the coming months.
In this video, Jay Levitre from Multnomah County Animal Services thanks Richard Brueckner for his efforts to raise money for Rescue Dogs.