I'm not ashamed to admit that often times, when working with older dogs, I can't help but getting a little teary eyed at one point or another during our project. From the moment my clients walk into my studio, their senior dog slowly trotting along side, I know I have been handed a responsability that is not to be taken for granted. These older dogs, sometimes sick, sometimes in the throws of a cancer treatment, sometimes with benign lumps, a history of biting the mailman, or quickly clouding eyes- they deserve a special kind of attention from their owners. And from me. And, on top of that, their owners have chosen me as the artist to celebrate and understand their companion. It makes for a very inspired and emotional collaboration. A few months ago a friend of mine commissioned me to photograph her beloved Old English Sheepdog. She's had OE's for years, and Bella (her favorite), was at the end of a terribly drawn out battle with cancer. She couldn't walk on her own, and had almost no control over her physical movements. But her mental functions were still sharp, and you could see this incredibly deep personality and comprehension in her eyes. We carried her to her favorite spot in the shade, gave her some doggie-ice cream, and just photographed for as long as Bella could withstand.
Photographing a dog like Bella is not about getting them to connect with me. Her main concern that day was not gettng to know me, it was simply withstanding her constant state of pain and being comforted by her owners. My job that day was to observe, to create a visual depiction of the invisable bond between Bella and the humans around her, and help shower her with as much attention and love as possible. And that's what we did. Looking through these images is difficult, because I know how hard her end-of-life experience was. But being able to create a memorial to her, in collaboration with my clients, is an honor that I take very seriously. Here is one of the prints we selected from our presentation, which will be enlarged to a mural size, and installed in my client's living room: