I take pictures. A LOT of pictures. Probably more than the average human being takes, even with the convenience of modern technology. I take pictures of anything and everything – flowers and plants, wildlife and pets, old buildings and barns… Funny tho, I very seldom photograph humans!
One of my favorite ways to spend a sunny day is hanging out in our backyard with our dogs and chickens, camera in hand. They are my absolute favorite models, and I’m fond of saying that practicing on them helps me keep my skills sharp. So consequently, I have tons of pictures of our pets – TONS!! I display some of them in frames around our home, and keep many more in albums so that I can swap them into frames from time to time. I’ve always felt that pet photos are as important as family portraits – after all, pets are family, right??
Well, we lost a member of our family last week. Peanut, our mini dachshund, who came to us 10 years ago from a friend, when she was about to lose her battle with cancer. It meant the world to her to know that Peanut would be loved and cared for the way she had planned to do herself – and Peanut soon came to mean the world to my husband and me.
When he first arrived, it didn’t take us long to find out that Peanut was a very quirky little guy, who insisted on keeping everything in our household running smoothly on a very strict schedule. He took it upon himself to tell us when it was time to get up, when it was time to eat, and when it was time to go to bed. He was my co-pilot on most of my weekly runs to the bank and feed store (and he visibly pouted if he couldn’t go), and he visited our local hardware store, garden center and jewelry store with me quite often. He was my husband’s best buddy, who “helped” him to do guy-things around the house and in the garage by day, and who “helped” him relax and watch TV by evening (we actually recently bought my husband’s new recliner with Peanut in mind). He was a very sweet and sensitive “old soul” type, and he was a world class snuggler – but Peanut also knew no fear at all, and could be a real ankle-biter when he felt it was necessary. He had the heart of a lion in his little 9 pound body, and he took his responsibilities around here VERY seriously… Our other (much bigger) dogs were well aware of this, as were some humans – and they all respected Peanut’s space when it was obvious that he wasn’t in the mood for any foolishness. Clearly, Peanut was “Top Dog” in our house, although we never used the word “dog” when we spoke to him – he really was more of a four-legged person… 😉
Peanut was 12 1/2 years old, and died suddenly of an unknown illness. We’re thinking it was probably cancer, but we don’t know that for sure. It was 4 AM when it happened, and it was a pretty traumatic experience for my husband and me, as we were not expecting it at all. He left us pretty quickly, and we’re just very lucky that we had a few minutes to tearfully say our goodbye’s.
While processing the whole ordeal in the hours that followed, I tried my best to find solace in photos. But, in going back through my archives, I found that Peanut wasn’t in many of my images, and the few that he WAS in were really not the best. This discovery just compounded my sadness – I was already heartbroken beyond words, but now I was just physically ill. I could feel my stomach turn a little more with each and every click of my mouse. How could I have shared my life with this little guy for an entire DECADE, and not have a whole slew of *really* good pictures of him?? To say that I was devastated doesn’t even scratch the surface.
It took a while, but eventually, I reasoned that because I am what some might call a “natural light photographer”, I take most of my pictures outdoors (truth be told, its because I haven’t mastered the use of a flash yet). And since Peanut really wasn’t a particularly “outdoorsy” kind of pup, he wasn’t with me and the rest of our crew on those sunny afternoons when we were hanging out in the back yard doing pictures. Peanut much preferred to soak up the sunshine from the comfort of his own little bed by the back door – during which time, I really hated to disturb him, because he didn’t like being disturbed… Besides, regardless of where he was (or how far away *I* was), he didn’t really relish having a camera pointed in his general direction. So most of my indoor images featuring Peanut were either too dark and noisy, or he simply tucked his face down into his bed to avoid my lens. Outside, he either squinted at me and turned away, or he was in so much of a hurry to get back inside that he was just a blur in my viewfinder.
HOWEVER, about two weeks prior to Peanut’s death, my husband and I were sitting on the front porch, having our coffee and enjoying the scenery – there were hummingbirds at the feeder, other birds and squirrels were in the trees, and the horses were grazing in the field across the street. So I went inside to get my camera – and Peanut just *happened* to come back out with me. This was an extra special treat for him, as we generally don’t allow our dogs to go out front because of the traffic on our road – but it was a Sunday morning and there was little traffic, and Peanut wasn’t in the habit of straying off, so I thought “why not?”
As it turned out, it would be the last time I’d take any photos of Peanut. They’re not much to look at, as they weren’t planned. They’re not fancy, they don’t have colorful backgrounds, and Peanut hadn’t even had a very recent bath – but I will cherish these images forever, because they’re all I have….
The moral of this story is, MAKE SURE YOU TAKE THE TIME TO TAKE *GOOD* PICTURES OF YOUR PETS!!!
Candid or posed, indoors or out, alone, or with family members, or with friends – or all of the above – just INCLUDE THEM IN PHOTOS!! And be sure to have someone else take pictures of YOU and your pet together, too! Not just for posterity either – I can’t TELL you how many times I’ve seen lost pet posts on FB with the words “this is the only picture I have”, only to find that I can barely identify the pet in the attached photo. I wince at the thought of someone trying to find their beloved friend, or a scared pet trying to get home, based on an image like that!
So, I don’t care how inconvenient or difficult it might be, or how long you’ve been “meaning” to do it, don’t put it off any longer – just get out there and DO IT!! Strive to get good shots that show their personalities – if you aren’t able to do this yourself, have someone else do it for you, or hire a professional if you have to. And do it OFTEN – because just as with humans, pets grow and change over the years, and they can leave us at any time.
However you choose to get pictures of your pets, I guarantee that one day, you’ll be very glad you have them. I mean, sure, pets live on in our hearts long after they’re gone, but it’s not the same has having photos to hold, display, and look back on. Digital images and paper prints preserve memories and can bring joy for years to come – and they can be a huge comfort in times of grief…
Take my word for it. I speak from experience.
Rest in peace, Peanie – we miss you, little buddy… Til we meet again…