I’m in this blogging group and the prompt for this week was “Love Looks Like…” I did think about the prompt for a while. I could have done something about people and their pets. I could have written about showing love to shelter animals. Ultimately, I decided on one of my biggest passions with my photography business: end of life pet photography. I know it’s not necessarily the first thing you might think of when you think about love, but let me explain…
I feel like losing a loved one (pets included) is often a wake up call for a lot of us. It’s a reminder that life is fleeting and that we should cherish our loved ones at every turn. It’s easy to lose sight of this in the day-to-day. However, when we realize a pet of ours is nearing the end, whether from old age or a terminal diagnosis, it often spurs us into action. I love seeing examples of pet bucket lists and people truly taking advantage of every last moment they have with a creature they’ve likely spent more time with than anyone else.
Obviously, as a photographer I believe that you should be getting images of your loved ones at every turn. However, I am also an advocate of including images of your pet at the end of their life. I feel like knowing the end is near creates such a different dynamic in your relationship. Documenting that and sharing that experience is important.
Below, I’d like to highlight a couple of recent end of life photography sessions I’ve done.
Sammie’s mom reached out to me in late November, just after Sammie had been diagnosed with cancer. It had progressed enough where she knew the prognosis wasn’t good and they were looking to give Sammie some great final days. They also wanted to make sure they had some nice quality photographs with her to remember her by.
The thing I love about dogs is that they live in the moment and Sammie did exactly that during our session. Her parents told me that she can have some stranger danger, and she showed a little of that with me. Ultimately, though, I won her over with my calm energy and plenty of t-r-e-a-t-s. By then end of the session, she was being a total ham and showcasing her silly side, which her parents adored.
And the thing I love about end of life pet photography sessions is that it doesn’t take much convincing to get the humans to jump into some images. Not only did it help Sammie to feel more comfortable being in a totally new space with lights flashing everywhere, but we also were able to capture the connection and love that they all had for one another.
Sadly, Sammie passed away a couple of weeks after our session. She certainly left a hole in her family’s heart, but I am honored I was able to help them capture her essence.
I have known Lucie and Becca for years. Becca has been involved in animal rescue for many years (via Mercy’s Door Pet Rescue) and I’m fairly certain that’s how I first met her. However, I’ve also photographed Lucie and some of the rescues from Mercy’s Door a number of times as well.
Becca fully admitted she hadn’t planned on bringing Lucie in for the Valentine’s mini sessions this year since they just did them last year, but a recent bone cancer diagnosis prompted her to reconsider it.
Lucie has been in Becca’s life for many years. She accompanies her to work and has taught Becca so much about patience, resilience, and training. She has certainly not been an easy dog, but I always argue that the ones who challenge us are the ones that we’ll miss the most.
As of this post, Lucie is still with us, though Becca realizes that their time together is short. Lucie just turned 11 years old a couple of days ago and they celebrated by having a big party at work. Having worked in the animal welfare field for so long, I have no doubt Becca will be listening to Lucie to tell her when it’s time to say goodbye. But for now, she’s got a lot of living to do!
Thanks for hanging with me on this post. I know the topic is not necessarily the feel-good post you were likely hoping for, but I hope it inspired you to celebrate your relationship with your beloved companions. If you are not in the Northeast Ohio area, check out the Tilly Project to find an end of life pet photographer near you. And, of course, if you’d like to get on my books for your own session, you can contact me to set something up. Due to the urgency of these types of sessions, I always make time in my schedule for them.