How do we cope with pet loss?

Tomorrow is going to be a tough day. I'm doing a presentation for a woman who won my photography session via one of the Doc's Clock fundraisers. Carey, who runs Doc's Clock (one of my favorite local dog-friendly bars), puts on a silent auction and fundraiser the first Saturday of every month, with proceeds going to a new animal rescue group each time. It's a really fun event, you can bring your dog while you drink, and meet the faces behind some great local organizations. When we first spoke, I knew that this was going to be an emotional session. Bellami, a 10 yr old black lab, had been battling various health issues for a few years, and her mom knew that she did not have much time left. Because of this, I rearranged my busy schedule just to make sure we could photograph while Bellami was on one of her 'up days.' Though she tired easily, Bellami was truly full of life, and surrounded by love, throughout our session. She was sweet, mature, and very emotive. I almost felt like she knew why we were photographing that day- like she was calm and demure and focused on my camera because she wanted to give her mom the perfect portrait, which would survive long after she had passed. We all knew it was imminent, and we quietly celebrated her spirit and honored her company. When I got the call that she had passed on (a few weeks later), I felt that familiar ache in my chest combined with relief that we had photographed when we did, and honor to have been part of her last days.

Dear Bellami- I hope there are lots of soft dog beds and down blankets and tons of warm sunlight where ever you are. Thank you for opening up to me. These photographs are going to make your mom smile for years and years to come.

In the past few months I've seen a number of clients' dogs pass on. It's terribly sad, but as dog owners we all know that this is just part of living with a canine companion. They give us their all, and then their time comes. The best thing we can do is show them the emotional and physical support that they have shown us over the years, and celebrate them and their connection to us. I always offer Dr. Betty Carmack's wonderful Pet Loss Support Group Sessions at the SFSPCA. You can find out more here: SFSPCA Pet Loss Support.