A Family That Steals Dogs

In the disorienting wake of loss, an artist begins to question his identity and beliefs. Strange experiences – windows that open themselves, phantom dogs on the highway, and all of the brief dog-lives that chaptered an upbringing in rural Arkansas – frame this exploration of grief, mental illness, and family connection.

AIRED: December 03, 2021 | 0:07:39

[ambient music]

- [male voice]: 1, 2, 3, 4


>> [narrator]: Okay, here's what happened.

I go home to Arkansas for a funeral

Some of these people I haven't seen in years.

And I'm there with my brother and sister who are twins.

We're at the graveside,

and off in the cemetery back in the corner, kind of by these houses,

is a dog. (2, 3)

Just walking around the cemetery, minding its own business.

My brother and sister see the dog, and -

my brother walks out to the dog and picks it up, while my sister goes and starts her car.

My brother (2, 3)

hands it to my sister through the driver's side window

and she just dri- she just drives away.

(2) she leaves

(3, 4) the funeral.

They just stole a dog out of the cemetery.

So that - that's the first part. The second part is -

is that we had a lot of dogs growing up,

and I don't know where any of those dogs came from.

So the question now is did they steal all of those dogs?

[clicking sounds]

[mysterious ambient music]


This is the sound of rain in Georgia.

And this is a cliché you'll be familiar with:

A grieving artist in a cabin in the woods.

I recorded rain for several weeks.

There's a window here that opens itself.

Every night I'm having these nightmares about this window.

About it like breaking or freezing. 2, 3, 4

And every night I wake up from these nightmares

and the window's open again.

And I swear I am closing the window every night, and -

it's uh - it's opening itself.

I was worried about germs immediately - that the wood had soaked up all of the illnesses

of all of the artists who had ever stayed there before.

By the end of the first week, I could feel ribs

that hadn't been there before.

- [male voice]: 1, 2, 3, 4. 1, 2, 3-

3, 4. 1, 2, 3, 4.

- [narrator] I was sure about mold, mildew, something I was breathing.

At night I saw it growing on my bed: weird, fungal blooms growing through my body

out of my arms out of my back

my skin bubbled my stomach was a mess.

- [male voice]: 1, 2, 3, 4.

- [narrator]: I tried to burn my insides clean

with cheap whiskey - new life from old life.

The window was real.

When I read about this place they mentioned "Ley Lines",

grids under the earth, cr eative energy.

There was no creative energy in my cabin.

At best, I was hoping there was a ghost opening my window.

And this is why I'm doing the Voiceover myself. I want to speak plainly to you, to say:

I thought it was him. Or maybe some of our old dogs.


In the 1980's, my brother taught me to ride a bike

by holding onto my neck while I learned to balance.

Like a good younger brother, I idolized him.

He fought against everything, and nothing in particular.

He crashed motorcycles, caught on fire, had decades-old glass still in his skin.

He wrote excellent short stories. Redneck odysseys of permanent afternoon

and a nihilism unique to Arkansan poverty.

- [male voice]: 1, 2, 3, 4.

- [narrator]: I won't tell you what the stories were about.

I'm conflicted enough, making this film.

He brought home the most dogs.

As far as I can figure, he was responsible for abducting nine dogs and a cat.

I think he was giving them second chances while hoping for one himself.

As an adult, I started to distance myself from him

and our family. I worked hard at minimizing my southern drawl,

twisting and warping myself into something alien- something different.

I was ashamed.

There was nothing in me that was in them. My brother fought everything.

I ran away. I hid.

My brother died of a bad heart, alone in his house with his final dog.

for days the dog ate from the trashcan and waited for him to wake up.

I'm like that dog now. Waiting for him to show up in my window.

Driving home from the cabin, I began what would be a three-day hangover.

I don't remember packing or turning in my key.

I do remember the drive home.

From the highway, I saw a dog on the side of the road.

I pulled over, breathing deeply.

Now, I was myself.

I was.

[mysterious ambient music]


[crickets chirping]