Those of you that have known me and my work for a while know that I credit Little Bit for setting me on the path as a pet photographer. When she was diagnosed with lymphoma, I realized that we did not have many photos of her, so I set out to document what time we had left with her. She responded about as well as we could have hoped for and she was with us for an additional 20 months after her diagnosis. She was nine years old when she died on August 26, 2006. It is fair to say that Robin, Lyle, and I were devastated.
By that time, I had begun volunteering my services to the Woodford Humane Society (WHS) in Versailles, Kentucky. Earlier that summer, I met Spring (née Samantha). She was a skinny little 13-pound dog when I met her and took her out for our first photo adventure. At that point, I was preparing my application to graduate school, and I needed to create a portfolio of both color and black and white photographs. My concept was to photograph adoptable dogs in a park setting for the B&W photos, then again in my studio for the color prints. Once we were in the studio, she was so comfortable that she quickly fell asleep while I worked. I probably spent two and a half or three hours with her on that May morning before I brought her back to the shelter. She was soon after adopted but it didn’t work out, and she had been returned to WHS by the time that Little Bit passed.
The week after Little Bit died, Robin and I were at an event for WHS in Midway, Kentucky. I can’t say with any certainty if we were set up by our friend Sandy at WHS or not, but one way or another, Spring was at the event. Out of all of the people at the busy event, it seemed that Spring only had eyes for me. Robin and I proceeded to spend the next couple of hours walking her around (and if I’m honest, we mostly had to carry her) to introduce her to people that might be interested in adoption. At that point, Robin and I were adamant that we were not ready to bring another dog into our home because the pain of loss was still too fresh.
A short time later, we were at another WHS event, only this time I was there as the event photographer, so I didn’t have any dogs with me. It was a fairly busy event, and sure enough, Spring was there too. EVERY SINGLE TIME she saw me through the crowd, she’d get up on her back legs and pull on her leash in my direction. It couldn’t have been any clearer that she had chosen me as her new owner, so Robin and I finally agreed to take her home. In the eleven years that followed, Spring learned to love Robin as much as she loved me. With few exceptions, she would be at my or at Robin’s side.
It would be an understatement to say that our first morning together made a strong impression on her because it was clear that she LOVED to be in front of my camera. As much as Little Bit started me on my path as a pet photographer, it’s Spring that helped me refine my craft. Whenever I was ready to experiment, learn a new technique, or just play around, Spring was there as my trusted model. She was a real professional. I believe that I made more than 10,000 photos of Spring in our time together.
Spring became sick on Labor Day weekend, and we brought her to the emergency veterinary hospital for emergency surgery. Because of her underlying medical issues, she took a while to recover, but we were finally able to bring her home on Thursday. She continued to improve once she was home to the point where we were able to remove her nasogastric tube on Saturday. Sunday evening it became clear that she suffered a major complication from the surgery. We spent the night trying to make her as comfortable as we could while we came to grips with the situation, and in the early hours of Monday morning, we said our final goodbyes.
Spring was our youngest at 14 years old, so we’ve long known that our time with our dogs is limited. Still, knowing we have old dogs doesn’t help, and her loss has hit us like a ton of bricks. As I leave you this week, I’d like to remind you to love and cherish the time that you have with those that you love. It’s never long enough.