This didn't just come out of the blue. We were talking about pets, and I told her we had seven dogs at the moment, but that over the course of our lives, we've had many more (not to forget about the cats and horses we have shared our life with as well).
"How could we do it?" she asked.
My answer: "How could we not."
MEET OUR DOG BETH
Beth came into our lives in 2005. She was the cutest puppy of all time. (We pet parents always say that.) A little pocket-settery girl (she had something else thrown in the gene mix), she would never weigh more than 38 pounds.
Beth was a happy-go-lucky pup that got along with everything. She loved sleeping on pillows and soft, comfy dog beds. When she came, her dog friends were Ike (a chocolate lab), Ollie (a golden retriever), and Daisy (a border collie/setter mix). Daisy raised Beth, and Ike adored her. Beth was Ike's favorite playmate, but Ollie was Ike's best friend.
I didn't have the camera systems I have now, and cell phones weren't great picture-takers (they have since improved tenfold). But, that didn't stop me from documenting Bethy's life. Bethy lived through FIVE different cameras (two point and shoots, one Fuji and the two Nikons I now own).
A girl could get tired of that.
SOMETIMES TECHNOLOGY LETS US DOWN
Yes, I documented her life both digitally, and in film. When cell phones got better at taking photos, I used my cell when my camera wasn't at hand. Recently, when my cell phone DIED UNEXPECTEDLY, I panicked a little to think of all the photos I may have lost. They were not spectacular photos by any means, but they were memories. Thankfully, when my new phone arrived, the cloud backup restored almost every single photo. I think things might have been much worse, if in my semi-panic mode I did not remember that there were a few hundred photos of Bethy in my auxiliary backup/storage units that I keep as part of my photography world now.
A little voice in my head said, "Don't worry...you still have photos, and there are the photos on the wall."
LOVING MEMORY SESSIONS - NOT A PART OF THE ORIGINAL PLAN
When I decided to specialize in pets in my photography life, I did not plan on offering Loving Memory Sessions as part of my work. I know how emotional the time can be, when a pet has been given a "there isn't anything more we can do" prognosis. We have lived through 6 of them, and 3 hospice/palliative care situations. I know and understand every single feeling that comes with that.
One day I received a call from a friend of a friend whose dog was diagnosed with cancer. This elderly couple owned a lovely beagle that maybe had a few more months on this earth, and wanted a portrait of him for their wall. I met with them, and set up an appointment quickly. I didn't have a studio at the time, and the gentleman could not climb stairs, so they entrusted their pup to me to take to the spot in my home, that I had set up as a studio, to take their doggy portrait. I learned all about their pup that day, and how much they shared in his life and celebrated it. While emotional, there was more joy than sadness in the work.
That's the day I vowed to add Loving Memory Sessions to my services.
Some sessions are harder than others. Some are more emotional. But always, in the end, the portraits I can give back bring a great deal of happiness to each pet owner who chooses to have them done. I am thankful for the ability to offer this service.
LIFE-ISMS ARE TRUE-ISMS
Life IS short. This isn't just a phrase we hear people say. It's TRUE. Our pets' lives are even shorter, unfortunately. I have met a number of pet moms and dads who place a value on a lasting memory of their special furry friend in the form of a professional portrait. I am humbled to be entrusted with that task.
When we love our pets as much as we do; when they are not just pets, but family; when we celebrate their lives and the joy they bring to us every day, we need a beautiful piece of artwork to honor them.
Bethy lived to be almost 17 years old. She lived through most of the ups, downs, good, bad, happy and sad times of our life. She died of old age. We made the final decision for her when, one day, she walked out into our yard full of sun after three days of not eating, and just decided that a final lay in the grass was where she wanted to be. Her doggy friends sat around her as if they knew it was her time.
And in her loving memory, a final healthy girl portrait, depicting exactly who Bethy was, will join others on our wall.
CLICK INTO THE CIRCLE
I am part of a weekly blogging group of professional pet photographers located all over the planet. To see what others have blogged about this week on the topic of "in memory," start here with Nancy, of Nancy Kieffer Photography in Central New York, as she shares the importance of capturing your bond with your pet through photographs, to create beautiful memories to keep after they leave your side. Then find the link at the end of each blog to click to the next photographer.
Have a great weekend with your pets!