This is a story that I shared a few months back on the Dog Breath Photography Facebook Page. It was such a special moment in my life – one that I hold so close to my heart – that I thought it was important that I have it up here on my blog as well. I hope the sweet, canine subject in this story brings you as much joy, happiness and overwhelming love as she did to me…
The other day, the most wonderful thing happened.
It was Halloween, so I brought costumes up to the MSPCA and spent the day dressing up the adoptables and photographing them for their PetFinder profiles. On the way home from the shelter, I had to stop at PetSmart to get Joshua a bag of food. As I was walking in the door, I noticed a woman making her way towards the checkout with her arms full and fumbling with the dog on the other end of the leash she was holding. On the other end of that leash was the world’s sweetest looking, old and grey Pointer mix. My heart just about melted when I saw her.
Just as they were passing by me, that sweet old pup must have decided she couldn’t hold it any longer and stopped short to have an accident. The woman who was holding the dog looked so frazzled and upset that I offered to help. I told her not to worry about the pee, that I noticed she had her arms full and that I would take care of the cleanup for her, as I knew right where the paper towels were kept. I smiled and said ‘when you gotta go, you gotta go!’. The woman thanked me profusely and stayed with the puddle until I arrived with some paper towels. As I was cleaning up the pee, the woman began to apologize and explain ‘She has been having trouble holding her bladder, and lately there has been blood in it.’ I could hear the profound and solemn sadness in her voice when she said ‘She is my best friend and she is 18 years old.’
At that moment, I looked up at the woman and saw the tears begin to form in her eyes. She continued, ‘I live with my son, and today we decided together that it’s finally time to let her go.’ She went on ‘I am picking her up from being groomed right now because we wanted her last week with us to be special and for her to feel comfortable.’
It was at this point that I began to cry too. Right in the middle of PetSmart. With a stranger that I had only met 60 seconds before. We talked about the way that dog’s touch our lives, and how some come into our world and when they leave – we’re never ever the same. We talked about the purity of the love of a canine, their endless selflessness, their unwavering loyalty and joy. And that’s when I had a thought. I said ‘This is sort of a strange question – but do you have any beautiful photos of Coco? I mean really nice ones that you will remember her by?’ Her eyes closed for a moment, and she said ‘No, I suppose not.’ And that’s when I told her who I am – what I do. I said ‘I am a professional pet photographer, and I just happen to have all of my camera gear loaded up in the back of my car right now because I’m on my way home from a shoot at the shelter. Do you and Coco have 10 minutes to spend with me outside?’
So we went outside together, and just within the confines of the modest little median in the PetSmart parking lot, we made some memories of Coco. When I showed her one of the images on the back of my camera’s LCD, she lost herself to tears. And then, so did I. She hugged me with an intense gratitude that I have never felt before. I gave her my card and told her to expect an email with Coco’s images very soon. I looked down at Coco with a meaningful gaze and ended our interaction with a kiss to her graying snout.
It’s moments like those that make me grateful to have the privilege of doing what I do. If I am able to take the joy in one tiny moment, and freeze it in time so that somebody can keep it by their heart forever – then I consider myself the luckiest girl in the world. I think serendipity played a thoughtful hand in my meeting Coco and her Mom that day, and I am so grateful that I could give her a part of her sweet girl to hold on to forever.
Here is the beautiful Miss Coco, enjoying the breeze on a very special autumn evening, surrounded by all the love in the world…
*Since posting up this story back in October – sweet Coco has left this world behind. But not without first leaving her powerful & unmistakable mark of limitless love, joy and brilliance. I sent her Mom some big, beautiful prints of these images a few weeks later and I can only hope that she will cherish them forever. The world is an infinitely better place for having had you in it, beautiful girl. May Angels Lead You In.