Errol Morris's first documentary, Gates of Heaven, is on the surface a 1978 film about two Californian pet cemeteries. One, a dream come true for a little while, must close after a legal battle. The second, the "inheritor" of the first, thrives to this day, but the humans founding it seem to have faded as dreams do.
I'll send you to Roger Ebert's review of this film, for he's seen it 30 times and can tell you about it better than I can. He says that people puzzle long and hard over it after viewing -- is it serious? Was Errol making fun of those people or did he feel sorry for them?
Personally, I think anyone who lived in the California of the 70's (I did as a kid) knows the answer. That WAS California then: not just a state, but a state of mind. It's an unparallelled look at ordinary folks grieving and remembering their pets, and the unusual people who made it their calling to give those pets a resting place. At one point, Morris scans a variety of grave markers, and that's where I got today's title: one says simply, "I knew love; I knew this dog."
``When I turn my back,'' says Floyd McClure, the first cemetery's driving force, ``I don't know you, not truly. But I can turn my back on my little dog, and I know that he's not going to jump on me or bite me; but human beings can't be that way.''