I often get requests to do different types of photography sessions …. everything from family sessions, to graduations, weddings, and commercial contracts. On occasion I will agree to those types of gigs because I’m really happy any time I have a camera in my hand. One of the best things about the craft of photography is that you can never, ever achieve perfection. Every click of the shutter is a learning experience and a bit of variety is good for my inquisitive mind.
So what is it that calls me to photograph pets above all else? While all animals are ridiculously cute, they make me smile, and dog slobber is always an approved wardrobe accessory, several of my most recent sessions have involved senior dogs and the people who love them.
Spending nearly 30 years …WOW, I’m feeling old! … in the animal sheltering field, my daily life was mostly comprised of broken relationships between animals and their people. To be sure, animal shelters provide many vital life-saving programs to the community. Shelters may count (temporarily) lost or misplaced pets among its residents. Shelters also educate the community about proper pet care. Some offer low-cost veterinary services, pet food pantries for low income residents, and nearly all offer second-chance adoption opportunities …but many animals enter the sheltering system simply because the bond between pet and owner is broken or failed to thrive at its inception.
My recent portrait sessions with senior dogs and the people who cherish them might be just what I needed at this point in my life. I’ve hung out with sweet Ella, a gorgeous 11 year-old husky shepherd mix. There was also Lizzie, an 8 year-old border collie, and her dog brother, Winston, a 10 year-old sheltie who has advanced renal (kidney) disease.
During one recent session, I was fortunate to spend time with Arlee, a 10-ish year-old shelter-adopted Brittany spaniel, her best pal, Rocky, and their dog mom, Steph. When we have a senior session, we always go at their pace. There’s no rushing or hurrying, and we take breaks as needed. In this case, we made extra accommodations for Rocky, a petite little Chihuahua fellow.
Rocky has been with his owner since he was 4 weeks of age. Traveling from Washington state with his human as a youngster, he’s been in Norfolk for the remainder of his 16 years. He’s withered, he’s hunched over, and he clearly loves his human mom more than anything in the world. The bond between them was so incredibly special. Their love for one another reminded me of what caring for a pet over their entire life looks like. It’s the most beautiful “picture” in the world.
Being immersed in broken relationships nearly every day of your existence can easily color your view that this is the way the world works. I’m grateful that my forage into full-time photography has been accompanied by a renewed and refreshing view that there are many more families devoted to their furry friends than the sadness of the relationships that never had the chance to blossom. For the love of all old dogs, and cats, and every other beloved pet out there, and the humans that adore them…thank you for your lifelong devotion to one other, even when the twilight years can come with added expenses, special accommodations, and a bittersweet daily existence. It does this gal’s heart a lot of good, and it’s just what I needed too.