GRANT #389:


What Kind Of Yelp Review Would Your Pets Give Their Living Conditions?

Are you among the hundreds of millions of pet owners? Do you have a companion animal? Something other than a human who’s part of the family? Do you ever wonder what’s going on inside their not-human brains?

Alex Lewis and Kaitlyn Schwalje found themselves pondering the existence of a four-inch-long turtle named Snowy, longtime pet of Alex’s aunt and uncle. At the annual family Thanksgiving dinner, Alex and Kaitlyn couldn’t help noticing that Snowy’s was a long and largely unexamined life. Uncle Larry handles most of the mundane necessities of Snowy’s existence, keeping the tank clean, providing a well-rounded diet including bananas, raspberries, carrot shavings, and the occasional earthworm. Sweet, right? But the more co-directors Alex and Kaitlyn thought about it, the more they wondered: Is Snowy happy? Is the creature even capable of experiencing the thing humans call “happiness”? After all, despite the fresh fruit delivery, Snowy has essentially spent nearly a quarter of a century as a prisoner living in solitary confinement.

The same is true for the other creatures Kaitlyn calls “the Junior Varsity squad of house pets, the fish, lizards, guinea pigs, and hermit crabs of our childhoods, the ones too small, short-lived and expressionless to garner much of our human attention.”

Did we mention Alex is a professional behind the camera? His regular job is shooting movies and television shows. Kaitlyn pens stories on themes of science and technology; about everything from tsunamis to the history of city squirrels. Maybe they stared into Snowy’s eyes and saw star power. Maybe they had visions of the amphibian version of “Free Willy.”

Anyway, Kaitlyn and Alex started making a short film featuring Snowy, Uncle Larry, an animal psychic, a veterinarian, the academic head of something called the “coldblooded cognition laboratory” and a few existential questions.

Our Awesome Without Borders grant will help with rental costs on the editing suite and maybe a hard drive or two. We think it’s awesome to think deeply about our relationship with other forms of life.

Check out @snowy_the_turtle on Instagram, and maybe have a chat with your gerbil.