• Still from Still Life With Animated Dogs

    Still from Still Life With Animated Dogs

The Film

In Still Life with Animated Dogs we meet Roosevelt, Ike, Johnson, and Spinnaker, the canine companions who helped shape Paul Fierlinger’s evolution as an artist and as a man. Vivid animation illustrates the adventures of the endearing dogs who shared their owner’s 40-year journey from despair to wonder.

Living in Stalinist Prague, Czechoslovakia in the 1950s, Fierlinger named his Scottish Terrier Roosevelt. While Fierlinger was loudly belligerent, Roosevelt learned how to stay out of the spotlight. He taught Fierlinger a valuable lesson in civil disobedience: “When it comes to authority, get sneaky and do everything under the table. It never failed [Roosevelt] ‘till the day he died.”

After Roosevelt passed away, Fierlinger heard of an “uncontrollable” dog in need of a new home. In order to take Ike everywhere, Fierlinger created a badge that falsely certified himself as a seeing-eye dog trainer. “Having to take care of a dog made me hold on to the last trace of decency and self-worth left in me,” he said.

Not surprisingly, the artist soon found another loyal companion after he settled in the United States in the late 1960s. Johnson, a charismatic and quirky Boston Terrier, introduced Fierlinger to a part of himself — confident and commanding — he never knew existed.

At the film’s completion, Paul Fierlinger is an award-winning animator living in the Philadelphia suburbs, where he owns a much-loved terrier named Spinnaker, who came to live with him after it was picked up by a woman on her way to a Dog Rescue Society picnic. “Spinnaker registers every nuance of my behavior, especially when it has to do with his own desires or fears,” says the artist. Through his daily walks and on sailing trips, Fierlinger muses about the unspoken bonds between animals and humans and about the divine powers of nature.

The Filmmaker

  1. Paul FierlingerProducer