Listen to this post:
When I got into this dog photography business six years ago, I had no idea what I was in for.
I was looking forward to bouncing puppies and full-time happiness.
I had no clue know that almost one-third of my clients would be coming to me for sessions at the end of their dog’s life.
I couldn’t have conceived that it was a thing when I launched my pet photography business in 2017. When I realized the impact my images were having on my clients who wanted a lifetime legacy of their best fur friends, I started to study the grief they felt.
It made me explore my own grief over losing Shep in 2014.
Fast forward to 2023 and I am a certified grief educator and pet loss grief companion.
What does that mean?
If your last adventures with your dog are approaching, you are probably experiencing a range of emotions that can be confusing and overwhelming.
You may be feeling lost and alone in a world that cannot or refuses to understand how much you love your dog and why these days are so goddamn painful.
As a grief educator and pet loss grief companion, I come to you with a soft shoulder and a listening ear. I will give you the space to feel all the feelings and, most importantly, allow you to feel heard.
Because the stories you have, the memories you created with your dog over these your dog over these last many years matter.
They matter to me.
They matter to you.
And, I believe, they are the eventual source of your comfort and healing.
Your memories of the good times, the happy times, the adventures will one day bring a smile to your face, softening the pain and lessening the tears.
It likely isn’t a thought that springs to mind when you’re thinking about booking an end-of-life pet photography session but in this challenging and emotional time, your photographer can be a part of your support network.
She is patient and extends her compassion and empathy not just to your dog but also to you.
She anticipates your need to talk about your dog … or not, because you may just want to be lost in these moments with your dog.
She looks for the authentic, meaningful moments that truly reflect your dog’s personality and your relationship.
She can share resources, such as the support and services you may need to help you make critical decisions.
And she understands that your grief is a unique and personal experience, that no two humans grieve the same way and that you need a safe, judgment-free space to process everything.
What you should ask your pet photographer
Depending on where you’re located, you might have a lot of options for a pet photographer.
If you’re reaching out to more than one, it’s important that you ask questions of each photographer to ensure you work with the right one.
Here are 10 questions which might help you make your end-of-life session as meaningful and comforting as possible (and the answers you should probably be looking for).
1. Can you share examples of your previous end-of-life sessions?
You want to review her portfolio to understand her style, experience and sensitivity in creating important moments, the ones that express the love you have for each other. Ensure her work resonates with the memories you want to have.
2. How do you approach your end-of-life sessions?
Your photographer should handle the session with care and compassion. She may have already asked you if your dog has injuries, surgical wounds, mobility limitations and other impediments. That’s important for her to keep your dog safe and comfortable at every moment.
3. Are you familiar with working in challenging emotional situations?
Your photographer must empathize with your experience and handle it compassionately and professionally. While she may be in your life for brief moments at time, they are opportunities for you to have support and comfort at this stressful time.
4. How do you handle scheduling and flexibility for end-of-life sessions?
This time can be unpredictable for you. If you have received bad news from the vet and the time is nearer than you want it to be, you want to find a photographer whose schedule is flexible and who can accommodate you at the last minute.
5. What can I expect during the session?
Your photographer should communicate to you how long the session will last, what her plan is for that time and any special considerations she will make for the safety and comfort of your dog. Understanding the flow of the session can help you prepare yourself mentally for this time.
6. Do you have any recommendations for preparing our pet for the session?
Your photographer should be prepared to offer tips and recommendations on how to help make the experience as stress free as possible for your dog. This can include suggesting the right time and location or that you bring favorite toys and blankets.
7. Can we request specific shots or poses?
If there are specific moments or poses you’d like to your photographer to look for, now is a good time to talk that through. A professional should be willing to work with you to create a meaningful collection of images.
8. Do you deliver artwork or digitals?
Some photographers will send you a gallery of digital files and you may never see her again. Other photographers guide you through selecting your favorites and creating beautiful artwork for your home.
9. What are your pricing and package options?
Ensure you have a clear understanding of the cost and what is included in the session fee. Consider your budget and choose a photographer whose services align with it. If your favorite photographer is a little out of your budget, ask if she has a payment plan option.
10. What are the next steps after the session?
Knowing the turnaround time for receiving your photographs is important, especially if you’d like to have them as a meaningful keepsake as soon as possible. There is also a chance you may not be emotionally ready to see your images, especially if you have had to say goodbye already. Your photographer should allow you the space and grace to schedule your next meeting at a time when you are most comfortable … even if that’s six months down the road.
All around the circle
Hiring a photographer for an end-of-life session for your dog is a deeply emotional and meaningful decision. Choosing the right professional pet photographer can make a world of difference in how you remember and honor your beloved companion.
Both you and your photographer can work together to ensure that the experience is both comforting and a beautiful tribute to the bond you share with your adventure buddy.
The right photographer will not only create stunning images and artwork but she will also provide crucial emotional support during this difficult time for you.
Her work will serve as a lasting testament to the love and connection you and your dog share.
Sunday, Sept. 10, is National Pet Memorial Day, a time to honor the amazing beasts who are no longer physically with us. They live on in our hearts, our memories and the stories we tell of them.
I’ll be lighting a candle not only for Shep but also for all of the incredible dogs who have sat for my camera before moving on to the next realm … Henrietta, Maddie, Lola, Ruby, Dixie, Remi and more.
The professional pet photographers blog circle is writing about memorials for your pets this week. Start with Houston pet photographer Kelly J. Russo with her ideas for unique pet memorials.
Click the link at the bottom of Kelly’s post to continue through the circle. When you find yourself back here the 10 questions you should ask your end-of-life pet photographer, you know you’re home.
Right where you belong.