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The last adventure: How memories of our dogs can help us heal

“If happiness is the goal – and it should be – then adventures should be a priority.”

Richard Branson

Adventures make life worth living.

We talk a lot about adventures and creating memories of our dogs around here.

Adventures bring new experiences. They allow us to grow and learn by challenging us mentally, physically and emotionally.

When we adventure with our dogs, it allows us to find our deep soul connection, building an unspoken vocabulary and unbreakable trust.

Our adventures, especially with our dogs, can bring joy, peace and a sense of accomplishment that no day of binging on Netflix can create.

pitbull's end of life pet photography session at sunrise on Spokane River
Gwen at sunrise on the Spokane River

Why we create memories of our dogs

But what if your days of adventure with your dog are coming to an end?

What if your adventure buddy has grown into his sugar face, his pace is getting a little slower and hikes have to be shorter and easier?

These can be difficult times for a human to endure. You’re facing the days without your best fur friend and you’re unsure of what that future will look like.

a man and his senior dog sit on the bank of the Priest River near Sandpoint, Idaho
Tim and Tippy on the bank of the Priest River

If that’s you, you are why I became a certified grief coach and a certified pet loss grief companion. You are why I founded One Last Network, a podcast dedicated to pet guardians like you and the support and services you may need as you approach these last adventures.

Every adventure you’ve taken with your faithful companion is a memory.

Every adventure you can take in the days ahead — even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood or a drive to the lakeshore — is a memory.

And I am a firm believer that each one of those memories — no matter how gentle or kickass — will help you heal in the days ahead.

senior dog sits on a tree trunk in the woods near Spokane Valley
Duke, a good old boy

The memories we create on those adventures can:

  1. Immortalize our bond: The quality time we’re spending with our dogs can create a deeper connection and love that we will carry in our hearts forever, long after our dogs leave our physical world.
  2. Give us time and place: When we’re out on adventure, it’s just us, enjoying each other and no one can take that away from us.
  3. Create space for acceptance: Seeing the changes in the ways our dogs move or experience life can help lead us closer to understanding the quality of their life and that it may be coming to an end.
  4. Allow room for closure: Knowing that you did everything you could to make your dog’s life memorable can give you peace of mind.
  5. Build a path to gratitude: Taking your dog on these last adventures can help you appreciate the time you’ve had and the time you have left.
a woman kisses her 15-year-old husky before the dog crossed the Rainbow Bridge
Ice and Marcy

I know when I’m sitting on a rock on a hike with Bella, I never feel closer to her or more in tune with what she needs to live a full and happy life.

She is approaching her ninth birthday and recovering from TPLO surgery. At this stage, there’s no reason for me to believe our adventure days are over. The definition of “adventure” just has to change.

In fact, tomorrow’s episode of One Last Network is all about adventuring with senior dogs and how our preparations and activities have to change as our dogs age. You can find it on Spotify and Apple Podcasts or over on the website.

a couple holds hands over their chocolate Lab during his last dog photography session

All around the circle

It is my honor and privilege to be asked to take last adventures with humans and their senior or ill dogs.

The love and companionship I get to watch unfold in my viewfinder softens the heart of this ink-stained wretch and allows me to see the good in the world.

Because our dogs bring out the best in us.

an old husky lays on the ground during her end of life dog photography session

And if we let them, they teach us more about ourselves than any book or classroom can.

Our worldwide pet photographers blog circle is writing about last adventures this week.

Start with Northern California pet photographer Kylee Doyle of Kylee Doyle Photography sharing how her recent certification as a pet loss grief specialist makes her a better pet photographer.

Click the link at the bottom of Kylee’s post to continue through the circle. When you get back here to creating memories of our dogs, that’s when you know you’re home.

Right where you belong.

If you need a last-minute adventure, don’t hesitate.

And if you need some tips on how to create some memories, check out this One Last Network video:


Dogs. Adventure. Outdoors. These words set Angela's heart afire. Angela Schneider, an award-winning writer and dog photographer, documents the story of you and your dog and the adventures you take together. Your portraits will be a statement piece in your home, art that will make your friends and family beg to hear its story.

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