Love hurts. Don’t get me wrong. I do think it’s magical and wonderful and makes life worth living for. But to experience the greatness of love, you have to be willing to experience the loss of love and the pain that loss brings with it. This is something we as humans have a much harder time dealing with than our pets. Thankfully. I find so much joy in photographing older and sick pets. Time and time again, parents of aging pets tell me how their pet remained stoic during an illness, almost hiding signs of pain. Or how they had been having some really rough days and weren’t sure if their pet would be up for a photo session, but when I arrived with the camera, there were few signs the pet was sick at all and they surprise all of us by breaking into zooming and showing off for the camera. Our pets know how much we love them and I think they like to protect us.
Stacey first contacted me in 2015 when Clyde was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. His vet was able to find a solution to keep him happy and healthy so we waited until the next fall for our session. The light was some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I jumped around, made all kinds of noises and silly moves to try to get a “happy” look from Clyde, but he was so serious. Serious, but sweet sweet sweet! At the session Stacey said her parents weren’t so sure of Clyde when she first adopted him, but soon would start calling and texting her to ask when she was bringing Clyde over. He was a charmer!
Clyde became sick again earlier this summer and crossed the rainbow bridge. Stacey emailed to let me know and share in her grief. I’ve had several clients lose their pets in the past year and they have all been such heavy losses. I asked Stacey if she would like to share her story and I am so grateful she did. It is a beautiful story that I know many of you will relate to. May all of our pets be as fiercely and selfishly loved as Clyde.
Stacey and Clyde’s story:
Clyde was my first dog and our story didn’t quite start out how I initially anticipated. I went to a local shelter (Animal Protection Society of Durham) on December 19th, 2012 to visit a completely different dog. I walked up to that particular dog’s kennel to see he had been pulled by a rescue. Not knowing at the time how rescues worked (and that I probably could have contacted them and adopted through them), I literally turned 180 degrees and saw Clyde. He was quiet and looked timid, scared, and sweet in his kennel. I visited with him for 40 minutes and was hooked and I told him repeatedly that I’d try to come back for him. I got in my car to head home but ended up sitting there for over an hour, wondering “should I get him? should I not? I don’t know what I’m doing. How will I know how to be a dog mom? What should I do?” I took a leap of faith and walked back inside and sealed the deal and made him mine. And as they say, the rest is history!
As it turns out, his sweet vet dubbed him “the world’s greatest” lemon and that he was, but he was MY lemon. He was sick almost 4 of the 4.5 years I had him but he always pulled through. He always beat the odds. But the summer of 2017, an unexplained attack on his kidneys overtook him. Saturday, June 17th as I hugged him goodnight, he gave me a look I’ll never forget. A look of “enough is enough, Mom….I’m not going to beat this.” That look will always haunt me yet validate that he had fought long enough and that it was time to let him go. And that’s what I did six days later.
In our four and a half years together, he heard the words “Mommy loves you so much, Clyde” at least 10 million times. On June 23, 2017 I laid on the floor with him as he was slipping away from me and rubbed his soft head and I whispered those words to him over and over and over again so that they’d be the last thing he heard. I got those exact words out one last time and then heard him exhale his final breath. I lost him at only five and a half(ish) years old.
Clyde loved “camp” (doggy daycare), car rides, all his humans, playing rough with other dogs, walks, car rides, watching squirrels, sunbathing, string cheese, bacon, Puppuccinos from Starbucks, and invading your personal space.
He hated his crate, thunder, the vacuum, the attic stairs, baths (water in general), turtles, and not being with his people.
Before adopting him, I never understood how people formed such deep bonds with their dogs. I never imagined I’d come to love a dog as much as I loved my sweet boy, Clyde. I never imagined how much he’d change my heart and change my life.
His life served a great purpose. He was so fiercely loved. And it’ll never be the same without him.
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of you chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” –Jamie Anderson