Saturday, January 11, 2014

Honouring Bear

Our family has had to say goodbye to three pets in the span of a year-and-a half, so when Roberta contacted me about scheduling a photo session with her dying dog, Bear, I knew exactly how she was feeling.  Roberta wasn't sure if Bear would make it into the following week, so I re-arranged my schedule and planned to visit them on a Monday morning.

I first met Bear on his front porch.  He was laying in, what Roberta called, 'The Superman pose.'  I immediately felt a connection with him.  I opened my mind and heart to him and sensed that he was content, but very, very tired.  I also sensed that he wasn't exactly thrilled to have me or my camera interrupt his time with Roberta!  He was tolerant though, and I thanked him repeatedly for being such a gentleman.

The first word that popped into my head when I saw Roberta was, 'Angel.'  She had a pure, sweet look of love on her face, and her every gesture spoke of the tenderness she felt toward Bear.  After spending some time together on the porch, we went inside to document some of the everyday moments that Bear and Roberta shared.

 I learned that Bear and I had a favourite snack in common: apple slices with cheese!

Next, Roberta showed me the ramp that she'd built for Bear so that he didn't have to negotiate any stairs when he wanted to go outside.  Bear wasn't willing to join me at the bottom of the ramp until he was convinced that Roberta was going to follow.

 Throughout our session,  the conversation Roberta and I shared moved back and forth between the trivial and the intense.  There were many quiet moments when I could tell that Roberta was thinking about having to say goodbye to Bear, and we simply existed together in those moments.  It was lovely.  We don't often think of death and dying in terms of beauty, but witnessing pure love between two beings at any point in their relationship is a beautiful thing.

We had some time together in the back yard enjoying the winter sunshine and Bear was visited by a neighbourly dog who romped around him for awhile.  Before long, our session was over.  I had a hard time leaving Bear and Roberta that morning, but I felt nothing but gratitude as I drove away from their home.

Bear's health deteriorated quickly after our photo session and Roberta said good-bye to him before Christmas.  I was so grateful that Roberta contacted me when she did, and we were able to capture these images before Bear died.

Roberta had been inspired to contact me after seeing the work of an American pet photographer who specializes in pets nearing the end of their lives, and I have become inspired to include 'Honour Sessions,' as one of my offerings.  I chose the word 'honour' for two reasons: I felt honoured to be present during this important time in the relationship of Bear and Roberta, and having professional photographs of Bear is a beautiful way for Roberta to honour his memory.

So, thank-you Roberta and Bear, for sharing your love with me; it was a session I will not soon forget.

Rest in Peace, Beautiful Boy.