Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

Love Endures

by Kris Phillips

Little girl with dogBeing a pet photographer often means so much more than just pretty photos. It often means spending time with a family in their pets last days. It means being a part of the most difficult time in a pet parent’s life. Capturing the joy as well as the sadness. Yet, few times in my career have I met a family handed more unfairness. While still coming to terms with a difficult diagnosis for their senior dog Tegan, they found out their 6 year old boxer, George, was battling an aggressive cancer and would be accompanying his older housemate across the rainbow bridge.

We photographed in their back yard where the dogs were most comfortable, under threatening skies. As this beautiful family mustered some 11th hour smiles and some last minute cuddles that no one wanted to let go of, the sky itself wept into a downpour just as we wrapped up.

From George: “I had a tough childhood, but then someone came and rescued me; that’s when my life truly began. Once I got settled into my new home, I gave as much love and support as I could for as long as my body was able to, which wasn’t long enough for any of us. My family says I am the one who rescued them; all I know is that we were destined to be family. I watch over them now from my star in the sky, and I can’t wait for the day when I get to cover them with my giant kisses and whack them with my baseball bat of a tail again someday.”

Tegan’s story if she were to tell it: “my mom loved me so much that she got me my very own dog to take care of, and to love. For many years it was just the three of us tackling adventures, making new friends, and supporting each other; then I got to spend time with a new little girl whom I loved from the moment she was born. I lived to be 15 years old, and am now back to chasing balls up in the sky, waiting for my humans to play catch with me again someday.”

Ryley tells it: ” I love my whole family, but I’m part chihuahua and my mom is MY human! Whatever she does, I want to come too. As long as I keep getting extra pets and snuggles, my life is awesome, and I’m content, but it sure is quiet and strange here without my furry friends. I keep looking for them and I miss them so much.”

“Ryley has never been much of an adventurer, but when he first came to us at 8 weeks old, he weighed a half a pound and used to get so cold that I carried him around in the pocket of my fleece jacket to help keep him warm. It took us a few tries to find a name that worked for our little “Ry-Guy;” we spent about 10 days looking through lists of names before we found Ryley. Ryley is the quiet one. We love how he follows us around everywhere we go, and how he loves to ride in our laps on car rides. He is now an only-pup for the first time in his long life, and we love giving him extra spoils and love! ”

George was the families first rescue, and he came with the name that seemed to suit him so perfectly that they couldn’t bring themselves to change it. Famously coined “George the Gentle Giant,”  ‘G3’ was perfectly named by his loving foster family. George was also the families first big dog, and “we learned very quickly about the art of counter surfing. One day we pulled out about 10 pounds of meat from the freezer for various cooking projects; we left him accidentally unattended for an hour and he ate every frozen morsel of that meat, plus an unopened package of tortillas! He was sick for a few days after that little experiment, and we learned to leave meat out of his reach after that. George was our gentle family protector, and he taught us so much about love, patience, acceptance, and family. He used to go for runs with dad, snuggle with mom, let Brinley dress him up, and he had the loudest snore ever. He passed away the day after these photos, and we have gaping holes in our hearts left by our fur-babies. ”

“I have always gravitated toward Gaelic names and fell in love with “Tegan” the first time I heard it. When we first got her outside, we tried it out and she responded immediately, so we knew it was right” said Laura. Talking about more joyful times “At the tender age of 9 weeks old, Tegan (“Houdini”) had already learned how to unlatch both locks on her kennel! She surprised us with this little nugget of information one day after a Costco run when she got into an unopened multipack of toilet paper and shredded the entire package. She looked so cute, this perfect little white ball with brown ears sitting in the middle of all that TP snow! Tegan was a cuddle bug, an excellent listener, and the smartest dog I have ever had. She was a beautiful caretaker for her Ryley, and always looked after our daughter like one of her own, too. She also died the day after these pictures, and is so deeply missed.”

No matter the difficult circumstance, the love radiating from this beautiful family is sure to carry them through all of life’s storms.

Family Legacy photo“This photo shoot meant the world to us, and was such an important opportunity for our family to come together once more to help say our goodbyes. We had been working up the courage to help Tegan transition, but George’s cancer diagnosis came just days before we had to let him go. The morning after these pictures were taken, we made arrangements for our two sick pups to walk together across the Rainbow Bridge. Our hearts are broken with this double loss; words simply cannot express our gratitude for Furever Friends and Kris’ willingness to meet with us on our very short time line to accommodate. Our lives are richer because of our dogs’ presence in them! The only thing I would have done differently is to have done more family pictures including our three dogs when we still had the opportunity; this situation came up out of left field and completely took us by surprise. ” – Laura

This family, and every pet parent to find their time cut short, is the reason I do what I do. If you’d like more information about planning a Legacy session for your dog please don’t hesitate to reach out. Or check out Your Dogs Legacy



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