One of the winners of my silent auction winners contacted me over the summer, asking details about how the session works. I suddenly stopped hearing from her but then she emailed again and said her Corgi was not doing well and could we schedule her session. And so we did.
When I arrived, I found 15-and-a-half-year old Danny's last day would be Sunday. It was Monday. He didn't walk well, poor boy. He couldn't hear. He could barely keep his eyes open. He looked like life had finally wrung him dry. I felt at once sad his last day would be Sunday and just as sad that he had to wait all the way until Sunday.
After I culled the session, I thought, I can't charge these people. They have a $100 print credit but there is no way I can take their money. So I gave them every semi-decent image I had. 38 images. It wasn't my best shoot, not by a long shot.
But I got emails from both the wife and a couple of days later from the husband that brought me to tears and as cliche as it sounds, that was more payment than I had a right to receive.
She titled her email, A Heartfelt Thanks and then said, "I just finished looking through all the photos you sent me of Danny. Words cannot express how much I appreciate your kindness. Those photos are so precious and I have been sobbing viewing each photo.
Thank you for the kind offer to make a couple of prints. I will take a bit more time to look over again when i am a bit more composed and get in touch with you. I just needed at this moment to send you a quick note to let you know how much these photos mean to me and that you were able to capture such beautiful images of him."
And he wrote, "When we started our discussion about you making a donation to the xxxx Silent Auction event, I never would have imagined we would end up in this situation (I won your silent auction donation).
Having said this, I am deeply touched by your artistic skills and your profound generosity in helping my family to memorialize Danny's life. This is a very difficult time for me, because Danny and I have been inseparable for the past 13+ years.
Next week, after my head clears a bit, I will reach out to you by phone to personally thank you. Diana, from one photographer to another.....simply ....thanks."
He is an amateur photographer and I told his wife I admired a particular photo he had taken in Africa and it turned out it was taken in Kenya, where I am going next April.
But see, it matters. Our animals deserve to be honored when they have given their every waking breath to us.
It got me to thinking of things I've seen on the web about owners fulfilling every wish on their terminal dog's bucket list. I'd like to do that for terminal dogs. I've actually photographed quite a few dogs who had substantially more days behind them than in front of them. Usually, they are in pretty poor health.
Look, I'm not out to make a commercial enterprise out of photographing pets with a terminal diagnosis, but let me help you honor them in their final days or weeks. Let's fulfill their bucket list and do it through photos. Let's give them their last, best day. Not their last day... just their last best day. Full of as much fun as they can have. Beach, steak, head hanging out the window on a cool ride. Let's do that for them and then you'll always have that memory. I can't bear for you not to have it.