Trigger Warning: Pet’s end of life, grief, coping, death, rainbow bridge, loss of a pet.
Hi there! Thanks for checking out ARSAR Photography. I am honored that you are considering me to be your pet photographer to capture your pets in action.
Today, I want to talk a little bit about something heavy. Title in mind, it shouldn’t surprise you that we’re talking about End-of-Life sessions. I’m here to tell you about my experience with them, and to show you why you should come to see me before you have no other options. I will share photos with you below. Be warned, they are hard to look at.
As you have seen from the rest of my website, various Google Reviews, or going through our consultation phone call, we at ARSAR Photography are here to capture your pet’s unique essence. Whether that is in your home, on top of a mountain, or soaking up the sun in a kiddie pool – we are here for all for it.
I want to share a very personal story. Meet Charlie. Charlie is our Resident Goober, Grandpa, and tomato lover.
Remember mid-March of 2020? How could we not? This photo is from a few weeks after the world shut down for the looming COVID-19 Pandemic. We were hanging out in our backyard around 7 pm, taking in the fresh spring air.
Something you should know about Charlie: he HATES having his photo taken, so, naturally, he was very smug at the moment. Seven PM, in spring, means there is almost no light outside, meaning, the chances of me catching a sharp image of a black dog in the dark are SO SLIM. Of course, he’s gonna be smiling.
These are the moments of Charlie I have captured and cherished. You can see them sprinkled all over my website. I say moments because that is what he has allowed me to have – fleeting moments where my camera has to be just right because they will never be there again. We will never be able to have a traditional session because that is not him.
Summer of 2022
This has been a hard summer to be your cheery, happy-go-lucky, Omaha pet photographer. Over the past year, we have been in constant communication with our vet to determine the line for when it was Charlie’s turn to cross the rainbow bridge. It quickly became clear that growing up and living through our families having to put down family dogs IS NOT the same as having to make the decision to put your beloved pal to rest.
Brian and I were overcome with a visceral sense of sadness that nothing could soothe. In my efforts to memorialize his last few days on this planet, I chased to do what I do best – take photos. My gut kept telling me the one thing I never wanted to hear – this is Charlie’s End of Life session.
If you know me, my family, and our relationship with Charlie, I should warn you, the following photos are hard to take in when you know who you’re looking at.
For those that can’t handle the long version and would prefer a summary, check out the photos below. A year can make all the difference. It will be an honor to be your family’s pet photographer. All you have to do is fill out a contact form now before your pal’s shining light goes out.
Leading up to the shoot, I went through my usual process of thinking through our setup, making sure I met all of my values as a pet photographer of Safety, Comfort and Fun (except, this time, the last one really didn’t apply) – Where would the lights go? How can we make this work so that Charlie is safe and comfortable? How will I get the best angles? Are my triggers properly synced? Gosh, it’s dark, but I suppose the flash will do the heavy lifting. Should the overhead lights be on or dimmed for best comfort and lighting?
Then the heavy questions came – How close is too close to be respectful of the moment and situation? Should we be pushing Charlie this much when he’s already so tired and struggling? How long should we shoot for? What can I do to make this moment count, because it is in fact, the last time this will happen? How far is too pushing too far for the perfect shot? What IS a perfect shot in this scenario?
Our messy basement
I found myself in a trap of perfectionism and anguish that I had never experienced. We waited until late at night to ensure Charlie was at his calmest and most agreeable. I shifted his bed and draped a backdrop over it to add some elegance to the situation and proceeded to set up my new lights from Rockbrook Camera.
At the beginning of our session, we were able to get some pretty cute, and out-of-the-ordinary photos of Charlie being silly. For context, as he aged, he grew more anxious and we noticed that he had reverted back to puppyhood. He began wanting to play and wrestle – except he had now lost all control of his strength and restraint, meaning that, despite him being playful, sometimes we ended up with small bruises or scratches from his paws and teeth. In case you didn’t know, Charlie is a 90-pound, gentle giant of a lab-boxer mix.
None of the following photos are edited. Welcome to our messy basement.
All highs lead to lows, and soon enough, we were back to our new version of normal. Sleepy, disconnected, and quiet. This is when things got really hard and emotions began to bubble up.
As Charlie began unwinding, he gave his dad a gentle kiss on the forehead as he frequently does. It wasn’t until he really began laying down that our hearts shattered into a million pieces. He didn’t have the energy to continue for more than a few minutes at a time.
It hit home. Hard. Charlie’s time was almost here. As a pet photographer, I watched and tried to find the best angles, the best ways for light to hit. At the moment, nothing seemed right. Nothing seemed to do the moment justice. As a dog mom and wife, my heart shattered with every click of the shutter – I’ve never felt more grateful to have an object in my hands to hide behind.
Charlie finally laid down, Brian asked me to turn everything off, and we walked away, feeling sour, in pain, stressed, and sadder than when we began because this was just one more step towards the inevitable. I’m grateful we took some time to capture these tough moments – I think the photos are very sweet in their own way, but I know they don’t represent Charlie to his fullest.
A year ago
Below, I share some photos from a backyard session a year ago. These show Charlie and Brian’s relationship during a time when energy was plentiful, hips weren’t taken over by arthritis, and anxiety was something only Charlie’s humans had to deal with.
Take a look at the vast difference a year can make.
Reflecting on the process
All of this to say, I didn’t feel like I did or could do Charlie justice on that last indoor shoot. Nothing seemed right, nothing seemed to align with what we knew was Charlie’s personality. An End of Life session is hard on everyone – It is hard on you because you know this is probably one of the last moments with your pal that you will get to memorialize. This type of session is hard on your dog – remember, they are tired and dealing with ailments that come with age. And lastly, don’t forget me, as your pet photographer – I have to take it all in and create something that will be worth looking back on.
I encourage you to take a good look at your furry friend right now. First, give them a tight squeeze and sit back. See the sparkle in their eyes? Did they snuggle in and ask for another? Is their tail wagging? Are they giving you an attitude for not petting them more? Now is the time to fill out a contact form and schedule your photo session. That light isn’t there forever, so let’s capture it while it’s shining bright and begging for attention.
We are happy to report that Charlie’s last day on this side of the rainbow was bright, fun, and full of his favorite foods – including some garden fresh tomatoes in his final hour. No cameras were present. Charlie left us at 4:30 pm on August 11th, in the company of dad, mom, and his favorite vet, Dr. Katie Olson. He took his last breath and gave us a famous sass tooth (and toot) on the way out. Our hearts will grow with this grief, but we know that he’s out there, chasing all the rabbits and squirrels threatening to take a bite out of his tomato patch.
See you later, buddy. Thank you for letting me be a part of your pack!
In loving memory of Charlie.