Grappling With Our Biggest Fears: Saying Farewell
If you were to ask me right now what five things I am most afraid of, I guarantee you that watching my dog (Pancake) pass away would be high up on the list. It’s a fear that all of us dog owners are very familiar with, some more than others. It’s an inevitability that comes with the territory- loving a dog means signing yourself up for losing that very same dog. And for some reason, it’s an issue that is never talked about.
Our society as a whole struggles with talking about death, so it’s no surprise that we have a hard time talking about our feelings around companion animals and death. As a photographer who’s job it is to observe the dog/human relationship every single day, it’s very clear to me that the short life cycles of our dogs is part and parcel of the whole experience. Don’t get me wrong- I wish Pancake would live forever. Literally. I’d be incredibly happy if I knew he would live another 50 years by my side. But there is something so powerful and almost frantic about our awareness that dogs don’t live forever. It forces us to confront – if even in the slightest bit- the reality that one day we all will have to bid farewell to our beloved canine companions. And I believe that makes the dog/human bond so much more intense.
The majority of my clients have had many dogs over their lifetimes, so they’ve already experienced the pain of that loss. Yet, although they know that bringing a new dog into their lives will inevitably mean having to say goodbye, they sign themselves up for that loss anyway. And I believe that is because the power of loving our dogs is so much more unforgettable and live-changing and spirit-lifting than the deep sadness of watching them pass on. We humans are self-aware beings, and over the generations and generations that have come since we began living side by side with canines we have loves and lost an immense number of companion animals. Still- we humans are so deeply bonded with the canine race that we are willing to experience sadness and loss over and over and over again if only in return for the privilege of getting to share our lives with this one creature we simply cannot live without.
My dog is old and sick, and so many of my clients’ dogs are also old and sick. Often times clients commission me just weeks or months before their dogs pass away- they know the end is near, they can just feel it. And I’m honored to help them wrap their dog’s final days up in as much love as possible, capturing moments and gazes and everyday heart-warming minutia so that when the day comes that they must say goodbye- it’s the beautiful portraits we’ve made that will truly last forever alongside their memories.
So if you’ve been thinking about booking a fine art dog photography session for a while now, but have been putting it off for a handful of totally valid reasons- I want you to know that I understand. But I also understand what it feels like to be afraid of losing your beloved companion, and I want you to know that my job as an artist is to help you through this really difficult and emotional experience. I’ve felt those feelings, I’ve experienced that loss before, I’ve hugged clients close after hearing about their dogs’ passing. Stopping to honor your dog while there is still time is honestly one of the most powerful things you can do- not only for your dog, but really for yourself. It’s an experience you’ll never forget, and one that will leave you with new, fond memories and beautiful photographs that will keep that dog’s spirit present forever.