Simon the SPCA rescue and the dog that came before him – Raleigh pet photographer

Jan 15, 2014

I was supposed to photograph Ashley and Eric in the fall of 2012.  They emailed to set up a shoot with their beloved senior pup Daisy. She had always had health issues, but nothing was imminent. So we marked the first available date on the calendar.  Unfortunately Daisy took a quick and unexpected turn downhill and crossed the rainbow bridge just days before our photo session.  I was devastated.  Senior and sick pets are a big passion of mine and my heart just broke especially for Ashley and Eric.  Just in December two clients unexpectedly had to say good-bye to two of their dogs that I had photographed just weeks before.  Both were very thankful to have taken the time to have their family photographed.  Time is so precious and we never know how much time we have left.  I asked Ashley to share her story.  It wasn’t easy, but I think you all can understand her love for this little pup named Daisy and why she and Eric were eager to set up their photo shoot with their new rescue pup Simon.  First, here is Ashley’s story.  Then enjoy the images of a new love as they celebrate this next chapter, forever touched by the years a dog named Daisy loved them and they her.

Daisy’s story – Ashley Hardin

Our dog Daisy was a sweet and quirky soul. She was a beagle mix known to suck blankets like a pacifier and steal dirty socks from the laundry. What breed she was mixed with will remain a mystery – even after inconclusive DNA testing. Whatever she was, she was one of a kind and irreplaceable. She was our fur baby.

We had a 12-year history, which started the moment my dad and I picked her out of a litter in the mountains of West Virginia. We made the winding drive from Pittsburgh, PA and were told that we could have one of the tri-color sleepyheads curled up on the rug. Dad’s friend threw a handful of air-popped popcorn to the snoring mass, and one spunky little chow hound scrambled over her brothers and sisters to win the popcorn puffs – and ultimately my heart. She curled up in my periwinkle pea-coat all the way home, and we were bonded ever since.



My dad passed away from cancer just before I was to begin my freshman year of college. Daisy went to live with the woman who would one day be my mother-in-law. Once Eric and I were both finished with undergrad and married in June 2008, Daisy made the move with us to Raleigh, NC so that Eric could pursue his Ph.D. in Physics at NC State. It was a new chapter for all three of us.

Our sweet Daisy developed epilepsy at a young age, which was very treatable and managed with daily doses of phenobarbital and lots of kisses on her striped head. Despite her diagnosis, she was an active and happy-go-lucky dog who loved long hikes at Umstead State Park and sharing my pillow each night. Chaos and loud noises seemed to be environmental triggers for her seizures, so Eric and I developed a special awareness for such things. Fireworks, chatty children, new places and faces, the bustle of holidays – all of these little things impacted her. When she would slip into one of her scary spells, we could only hold, pet, and reassure her until she came through it. We became protective of her and through the years I really owned the “crazy” in “crazy dog mom”.

The decline in her health was sudden and stressful – and actually not directly related to her epilepsy, though in the end keeping her epilepsy in check while also controlling her pain took a toll on her. In her final days, Eric and I took shifts sleeping on the floor with her because she could no longer jump to her spot in bed. Our friends at Hemlock Bluffs Animal Hospital provided her – and us – with compassionate care through everything.  Eric and I like to think that we gave her the peaceful life she needed and that we made the right decisions for her until the end.

When we lost Daisy last November, I knew that I needed time to heal, but also knew that I needed to take the love and energy I had for her and share it with another dog in need.

I knew I could not rush it, but I found comfort visiting the dogs at Wake County SPCA. I would visit often and ask the volunteers what dogs needed the most attention. Then, I would spend time with them one-on-one petting them and playing. It was like free therapy for me – and I’m sure for them too. On President’s Day, I had the day off of work and found myself back at the SPCA for the same kind of therapy.  It turned out to be a life-changing visit.

In one fateful moment, I walked through a doorway and my eyes met Simon’s (formerly called “Mickey” in the shelter). In his holding area, he was laying down next to his roommate on his belly in a sphinx-like pose. I was so struck by how big and handsome he was and immediately wanted to meet him. Simon and I got to visit in our own little room and we were instantly taken with each other. He leaned right into me for hugs and kisses and cuddles – and I was a goner. He was so focused on me – more so than any of the dogs I previously met. I felt bonded to him in a way that I can’t explain.

I would have put in an adoption application right then, but I went home to discuss my feelings with Eric that night. I cried on the drive home because I hated the thought of that dog having to sleep another night in the shelter – and especially hated the thought of someone else adopting him first. That night, Eric agreed to meet the sphinx-like creature, and we had Simon at home the very next day.

Simon brings so much joy into our lives. He is his own quirky self – with an unhealthy obsession for tennis balls and belly rubs, and a strange ability to give hugs by wrapping his long limbs around my neck. He is the most affectionate dog I have ever met. In these first nine months together, he has taught us how to love a new dog and has shown us how loyal a rescued dog can be. Through obedience classes, we bolstered our bond, and he continues to develop from a good dog to a great dog.

Daisy will always live on in our hearts. She could never be replaced. The relationship we had with her was beautiful. It’s the love we had for her that inspired us to continue sharing our love with another dog that needs us.

I’m sad that we were never able to get a family photo of Eric, Daisy, and I together. In those busy grad school years, we never thought to capture our little family on film before it was too late. Today, I’m thankful that Eric, Simon, and I can stand together to document a new chapter of our family’s life – with new memories and hopes for the future.

I am obsessed with these goregeous sunset drenched photos!  It’s as if Daisy was shining down on us that day!