Celebrating Your Pet’s Life with Photos | Seattle Pet Photographer

I recently had the great privilege of photographing a good friend’s family and her dog that was dying of a fatal heart cancer. We knew that Phoenix, who she had since he was a puppy, had only a few weeks left to live, even though outwardly he seemed pretty vibrant and energetic when I saw him for our photos. We didn’t have a long time to do photos that day, and we knew we wanted to get a good family picture, and undoubtedly some photos of Phoenix with their (now) 3 year-old. She hadn’t quite grasped that Phoenix would be ‘leaving’ soon…

There was still craziness getting the two dogs to sit side by side (although so much better than my dog ever could), and we talked a lot. I love hearing about how an animal came to be in someone’s life; everything about an animal is about the present, it’s not about the past or the future. Phoenix wasn’t worried about what was happening to him. He kept us right there with him. After the session, Phoenix was with them another 18 days, and so when I look at these images I know that I’m looking at a family and a beautiful animal and friend at a precious moment in time, and I’m so glad I was there. Time is so fleeting. It’s a bittersweet thing to take final photos like this but there’s great joy here. It’s celebrating the connection, the family, and how important that life is. Phoenix was important.

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So there may be a few people out there who don’t understand the bonds that some of us have with our pets, our companion animals. I like to think they may just not have found the right animal buddy yet. Some might make you feel silly for making such a fuss over your pet and don’t understand the grief you can feel at the loss of a beloved animal friend. I believe life is precious, and most definitely the life of an animal that has loved you unconditionally and always been by your side. And we all know that our animal friends never live as long as we wish they could…it can be really hard to say goodbye.

kamoorephotography Katie cat photo

I know what it’s like to lose a pet (well, several), one that’s been in my life through thick and thin, not judging, always comforting. Words can’t always easily express that bond. Our companions leave us way too early and more often than not, we don’t capture the unique bond we have with our dog or cat on camera. Sure, maybe there are a bunch of not-too-awesome cell phone pictures, but maybe not some professional images. I even wish I had better and more pictures of several pets I have lost in my past, especially with me in them too.

So why do I want photograph your pets in their last days? And why should it be me?

Phoenix puppy

Phoenix as a puppy

I don’t want other people to let days with their pets slip by, especially the last ones. Too many people lose their pets and tell me they wish they had got professional photos done with them. They tell me they wish I had taken the photos; I wish I had too. I know we can’t always anticipate an animals’ passing, but we do know when they are living on borrowed time, when they’re old, getting grey whiskers around their noses, and when they’re ill. We don’t always want to face it either. Having worked in veterinary clinics (and in rescue work) I have helped treat and been around many frail, old and sick animals that need extra special care. I want you to know this because I do understand the delicate nature of photographing a sick or aged kitty or pup; I also know what you go through getting closer to their passing, and eventually, saying goodbye. I’ve also been there for many people as they’ve said their final farewells with their precious companions in their arms. You can put your trust in me when it comes to recording and honoring an important and sensitive time.

kamoorephotography Jack cat photo

My father’s cat, Jack, before he passed away

Some people are hesitant to get ‘last’ photos taken, since their pets may not look as they always have, not looking as healthy or as young as they once did. I think that all their life stages deserve to be remembered and I still hope to capture the spirit of that animal in the most honest and beautiful way. The feeling of regret over not getting images taken is not something I want other loving pet guardians to feel anymore!

I believe that our animals’ spirits stay with us when their bodies are gone, and this is something that comforts me. Their souls are so innocent, pure and loving, and we are so lucky we can have that in our lives. So many animals are never given the chance to be loved and then honored in this way, with a portrait and some images of their life, just to show how meaningful they were to someone. I hope I get to meet your beloved friend and companion, and that I can be entrusted with commemorating any of their days. Let’s celebrate the life that they have lived! The life they lived was important.

You can leave me any comments on this subject on this page, but you can also contact me with any questions about booking such a session over on this page here.

The problem with living is that pets don’t last long enough and people last too long.” ~ Anonymous

Louie

Louie (passed away at the grand old age of 20)

RIP Phoenix 10/19/2003 – 11/24/2015

**An expanded update of this post was published on the Katzenworld blog can be found by clicking HERE!

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Photographing the Golden Years | Seattle Pet Photography

Here is the dapper old pug known as Max that I photographed recently. I am really hoping to have the chance for more opportunities to photograph older animals; ones that are in their ‘golden years’. The soul in those brown eyes, the many folds in his skin, the grey whiskers, it’s all fascinating to look at; such character!
To capture memories of humans’ beloved animal friends is such an honor for me. I have heard from a number of people who said they wish they had done a photo session with their dog or cat before they passed on. Please do let me know if you would like to talk about setting up a ‘Golden Years’ or Borrowed Time session with your animal friend, I’d love to hear from you.
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Copyright K.A.Moore Photography. All Rights Reserved.

 

kamoorephotography Louie cat photo

End-of-life Photos of a Special Cat | Seattle Cat Photography

I took some photos of my mum’s cat Louie on my recent trip back home to England; a beautiful white cat – even with him being ear-less, he still was handsome (lost his ears to skin cancer some years ago). Yet I knew these would be the last photos I would take of him. After twenty years, his body was ready to shut down, and I could see that in his every move and his tired but still-magical eyes. I would watch him slowly make his way up and down the stairs, with much effort thanks to arthritis. He couldn’t see properly anymore; high blood pressure had made his retinas detach and caused blindness. And he couldn’t hear anymore either. Sometimes he would sit basking in the sun, looking happy as most cats do when doing just that, but he usually seemed restless, not knowing how to be comfortable.

A loved companion animal has a gift in terms of a loving human caretaker knowing when it is time to end the suffering by choosing euthanasia. Most animals know death and illness far more cruel, or have never even felt loved before. But it’s the hardest decision to make, even when you know it’s what is best; to end the suffering and give that animal peace, after giving so much of themselves to you. Twenty years is a long time, so much can happen in two decades. There’s so much love and attachment that happens in that time; they become part (and so often, become the spirit) of your home. It’s very hard to let go…

I’m glad I was able to get some end-of-life photos of Louie, particularly to give my mum and stepdad. Photos don’t replace memories, but they are a way for us to freeze time and hold those special moments close. So as much as I love taking photos of all sorts of things that embody life – new babies, children, parties, of animals looking for a new life (and family) of their own – I actually hope I can capture more special and precious memories like these, of companion animals before they pass on.

You fought hard to stay alive, my friend.
In the end, though, you couldn’t conquer death.
But neither did death conquer you.
Death cures all diseases, mends all broken bones,
Breaks all chains.
And made you free at last.” ~ Anon

Rest in Peace, little Louie. xo ~ K

Louie, May 2013 Copyright K.A.Moore Photography. All Rights Reserved

Louie, May 2013
Copyright K.A.Moore Photography. All Rights Reserved

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Rest in peace, TyraBear | Seattle Cat Photography

Being around animals at a no-kill animal rescue can be just as hard as one that euthanizes them. Some animals may find themselves at the rescue for weeks, even months to years. They are re-socialized, some after terrible histories of neglect and abuse, and treated for illness, given dental work, fostered in people’s homes, and treated with the care that many animals never ever have the chance for. The struggles of many of these animals touch every volunteer that works with them, feeds them and loves them, and they make it so that when one passes on, the loss is almost as if they were our own companion animal.

One such sweet kitty at Animal Talk was TyraBear,

TyraBear, when I met her at the rescue, Fall 2011

TyraBear, when I met her at the rescue, Fall 2011

who struggled for a long time to gain her health and gain a home, but she was never given up on. I’m posting the email sent to me, written by my friend and the rescue’s Head of the Board, Rebecca, to share Tyra’s story. RIP little TyraBear. I hope you rest well now.

“TyraBear touched my heart and the heart of everyone who got the chance to know her.  At the rescue this was very difficult.  Her shy nature and anxiety in stressful situations did not allow her to stand out and get noticed by many of the volunteers and potential adopters. But she had a lovely and gentle spirit.  Carol Cummings (foster kitty mom) described her perfectly by saying that few kitties have touched her like Tyra. This was also true for Paul and I.  Rollo (her ‘brother’ and friend) also adored her the eleven years they were together. Tyra remained loving and calm up until the end.

Tyra’s struggle to maintain stability and quality health has been challenging over the past year.  She came into foster care one year ago weighing only 4.5 pounds (down from 11 pounds) and sick with depression and chronic upper respiratory symptoms.  Rollo also was thin and ill, but recovered VERY well with supportive therapy and food trials. We were not able to discover what ailed Tyra and caused her lack of appetite which was her main problem.  The only issue we knew of was dental related but our vet did not feel her dental issues were the source of her decline and lack of appetite so did not wish to do dental extractions. Thus, in addition to much monitoring, testing, supportive therapy (steroids, antibiotics, appetite stimulants, fluids…), and TLC, little more could be done.  We were hopeful she would improve for good and become adoptable.  She had many good months, but she continually improved only to crash again and repeat, repeat, repeat. It was difficult to watch her suffer on the declines but a joy to watch her flourish too. I loved her like my own and was very devoted.  Carol and Lance were also devoted foster parents for Tyra during the last couple months.  Lance played her live music and Carol brushed her every day which she loved.

Two months ago her decline saw less up’s and she became very thin.  Every medical treatment and medication administration was traumatic for Tyra and she became very fearful and mistrusting with treatment so we gave limited care.  It was emotionally difficult for Dr Obegi, Carol, and I to help her in this way without improvement that lasted. We realized there was little more we could do for her, but felt grateful that we were able to extend her life for a year. She had many happy and cozy moments in foster and deserved every second of it.

I scheduled her euthanasia with sadness last week and the nagging curiosity: could we do more for this sweet girl who sickened so severely in our rescue’s care?  Strangely enough, the day that I scheduled her euthanasia she perked up as she had not done in months!  She ran to me and purred, rolled and rubbed, and acted energetic (for tyra) and comfortable.  We were shocked and decided to delay her appointment.  Lance stated the obvious, the source of our hesitation, by saying that she was a cat who was not thriving but also not dying. She spent the next 5 days at my house acting happy and comfortable. She loved to be pet and brushed.  She purred and licked and adored stretching out on her fav blanket on top of a warm heating pad.  She seemed to be at ease and I feel had a happy and relaxed time during her final rally for life.  However, she still ate very little and remained thin.  Dr O and I did not want her to suffer any longer with supportive care to help her gain weight without knowing the cause and thus no ability to treat it for good.

Yesterday I brought her in to be put to sleep.  I hope Tyra joined a new place and will find a new beginning with joy, comfort, and love.  She was a special girl with a gentle soul.  She will be missed.”

I've posted this before, but I love this photo of Tyra: taken at her foster home a couple of months ago

I’ve posted this before, but I love this photo of Tyra: I took this at her foster home a couple of months ago

Losing my friend Milo: grieving the death of a pet | Seattle Cat Photography

I actually wanted to make a blog post about this a week ago, but because it’s less about my photography and more about something personal, I had to wait…a stressful couple of weeks has just gone by for me.

I lost a very good friend of mine last Monday – I made the decision to have my almost-16 year-old kitty friend Milo, put to sleep; he had a tumor in his mouth, under his tongue. Through the good and the bad, and almost the entire time that I have been living here in the States, he was here though it all. Found by a co-worker, he and his litter-mates had been dumped in the middle of a rural road, likely with someone’s intent for them to be hit by a car; they were still warm and huddled together. Every day my co-worker brought the whole litter of very tiny, several weeks-old kittens into work, and we bottle-fed them every couple of hours. And how could I have done that every day and not taken one home to join my other pair of feline waifs?! Milo was likely the runt of the litter, and never the smartest kitty. But what he lacked in his fluffy black noggin, he made it up with his goofiness, his affection and his constant head-butts, and lying on you as close to your face as possible. He was great friends with my 90-pound wolf-mix dog, and tolerated being dragged around and squeezed by my toddler. He enjoyed it all.

I consider my animal companions to be family, and Milo has now joined 3 other animal family members, wherever that may be.. they were my ‘original four’. And with this loss, and now that they are all gone, I think of all that has happened since I adopted my first crazy Loopi cat. During that span of almost two decades now, my Milo was with me through five moves, graduating college, a divorce, losing those other 3 animal friends, diagnosis of a chronic illness, the terrible darkness of grieving my partner, and then the light in my life coming back on again: having a baby and becoming a mum, and creating a new family. He was there through all of that. Yet the biggest problem with having animal companions in your life is that they are never here as long as you are. They likely will be gone before you. My son also has now experienced the loss of some’one’ in his life, his first lesson about death, even though he doesn’t quite understand it yet.

But these animal friends don’t go without impact. That unconditional love and the way that animals don’t judge you, are great gifts. We don’t usually get that from very many humans. For that reason, I have found it very easy to give back to my animal friends, despite the sometimes-food-pickiness, the hairballs, the poop-scooping, and deciding to lie in the most inopportune places.

At the vet clinic, after a weekend of saying my goodbyes, feeding him nothing but good and smelly wet food, and having him wear a good pain-patch of Fentanyl, I held Milo close through his passing. In my arms, now weighing only a bit over 7 pounds, I held him while he was given the initial sedative, and I felt his body relax, and then waited until the vet came into give the final injection. It happens too fast. And there, all those years of happily trotting around, and then becoming an elderly kitty who just wanted to sleep, he was physically gone. I believe the final gift I could give back to my friend for all that time, was a painless passing in my arms.

Many animals do not ever feel the love of a human companion or any kindness or a painless death, and I think of that when I have experienced my own pets’ losses; many people don’t understand grief over an animal. They’ve enriched my life to no end.

Thanks for taking a moment to hear about losing my silly, happy, goofy, cuddly Milo. Some loss is about love and life and for that I am thankful. I’ll miss you my friend!

xo ~ K

“Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives.” ~ John Galsworthy

Milo collage