I met a dog last week. I’ll never see her again. Her name was Bessie and she was a senior Basset Hound. I’m never going to forget her and my time photographing her. I say was because on Monday she crossed the rainbow bridge.

Over the years, I’ve photographed many senior or ill dogs. The photo sessions can be hard for all of us but I focus on the positive and am always optimistic that I’ll see each dog again. Perhaps if I deliver the order to their home or if they book again or if we cross paths at an event… In my mind it’s never the end. But with Bessie, we knew I was part of her last few days… her last adventure.

She had been diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer last week and to spare her suffering her mom made a selfless decision to sacrifice more time with Bessie for her utmost comfort. (I’ve been there and that is so very hard to do…)

With a limited timeframe to work with, I made room for Bessie on my calendar without a second thought. The same day she was diagnosed, we planned her photo session. We met at a park in Frisco just two days later. Bessie was up for one last outing and we took it easy on her with a shorter session and not much walking. The sun was shining and there was a nice breeze. It was a beautiful day.

Bessie enjoyed the sunshine and explored. She even rested her head in the cutest way while I photographed her laying on a stone wall. She looked comfortable and at peace. She maneuvered through the tall shrubbery like she was on her own treasure hunt. Throughout it all, Bessie kept a constant eye on her Mom and never was far from her. In fact, I think she was happiest when her mom was close enough to touch. And she definitely was happy when mom could rub her ears or kiss her on the top of her head. We had fun. It was the strangest feeling to say goodbye to Bessie and her mom. I honestly didn’t want to stop photographing her as if somehow that would give us all more time with her. Of course it wouldn’t, but ending the session felt so final… because it was. There was no way around it.

After Bessie and her mom left, I wandered around the park with my camera and took the photo above. It seemed to fit with the moment I was in both then and now.

I didn’t know Bessie for very long. I learned so many details about her so fast and soaked them all in as I did all I could to capture her personality through my lens. From her previous life as a puppy mill mama, to her initial rescue ride to freedom in a plane. I learned her middle name was Noelle because she officially became part of the family on Christmas. Through the short time we spent together, I’m never going to forget Bessie.

No matter the breed, I have a soft spot for senior dogs. There’s just something so endearing about the gentle, happy soul of an old dog. I think I get as excited about a senior dog on my schedule, as some photographers get about puppies. Now of course I get excited about puppies too, but senior dogs just melt my heart and give me such a sense of what pure contentment is… I think part of it is they remind me of my old dog, Clyde, whom we lost last January. Some day I will share his story and how he gave me even more passion for pet photography and pushed me to focus on it. Though I can say, as I well up with tears as a type, I’m not ready yet.

I’m sharing about Bessie (and Clyde) as a little reminder of the part we all hate– having to say goodbye. No matter how long it is, we’re never going to have them long enough. When you love your dog as a member of the family, please take photos and preserve your memories! Please make time, preferably while it’s the best of times, and not the final days. While I would love it if you decide I’m the right photographer for you and your dog, it doesn’t have to be me!! You can even take some photos yourself but print them off and enjoy them. Take time to do right. Don’t leave them on a cell phone to be forgotten, or worse yet, lost when your phone quits on you and you don’t have those irreplaceable images backed up. (That is also part of my story of last week…thankfully there is a happy ending to that!)

Bessie’s mom emailed me yesterday and told me how peaceful Bessie’s passing was and how she held her told her it was okay to go, she said it broke her heart… It broke mine too as I read and re-read… and I’ve been a blubbering mess ever since. I’m going to need a little extra strength to edit through Bessie’s session and then present the images to her mom. This is a first for me. But it will be worth it and I already know her family will adore them all.

Thanks Bessie for reminding me why I do what I do. Why it does matter. How images can truly be priceless. I hope you met Clyde up there. I can see him so vividly in my mind…running over to you, tail wagging so fast. I bet he knows the absolute best spots to lay in the sun and is more than happy to share.


Note: I met and photographed Bessie one month ago today, it’s taken me a month to press the publish button. With Bessie’s mom’s blessing and the fresh news of two more dogs I’ve photographed unexpectedly crossing the Rainbow Bridge just in the last week, it felt like it was time to share.