So long, Buddy; say hi to my pack, will you?

I photograph a lot of older dogs, sick dogs; dogs whose photo session is one of the last really awesome experiences they can share with their person. I mean, we’ve cut it close before, but never so close as we did with Buddy. Just the day after he bounced around my studio, acting like a brand new pup and hammin’ for the camera, he passed away, leaving behind a very big hole in Maggie’s heart, and a slew of really sad  new & old friends he’d made during short years as One of the Best Small Dogs Ever.

Knowing that he didn’t have a whole lot of time left, Maggie’s bestie Louise surprised the two of them with a session here at the studio. But when she, Louise & Buddy arrived, you’d never have guessed that he wasn’t in top shape. First, he sniffed everything. EVERYTHING. Because of my job, my house is a candy store of smells. Dogs are allowed everywhere, you see. The couch, the floor, the chairs and cushions. There are toys, chewies, stuff from the yard that the Vatos have snuck in behind my back. It’s doggy heaven. Well, except my dead dogs aren’t here; if they were, that would truly be doggy heaven.

Anyway, the experience of photographing a dog in my space as opposed to his/her space is very different. I’ve talked before about entering a dog’s space and respecting that. But in my space, it’s a whole different dynamic. I usher the dog and people in, and I almost immediately sit on the floor so the dog(s) can sniff me and check me out. I’ll sit there and hold my fingers out, and sometimes it takes quite a while for a dog to feel okay about it all. Sometimes, like with Buddy, it happens immediately. Buddy and I connected on a level that’s between mine and his; even though he came injured I knew instinctively how to hold him. He left me pick him up and give him snorgles, and he looked at me when I wanted him to and he smiled for me too. He was into it. That’s the best way I can say it: He was into it.

You know, before I was a photographer, I had my portrait taken with the OG smalls: Buzz, Gracie & Lola. Our session was with Amanda Jones, and it had tremendous influence on me wanting to be a photographer again. A friend went with me that day (like Louise & Maggs) and I left the shoot feeling like I had just shared a unique and very personal experience with my dogs. And I felt so strongly that they felt it too. It was different; it was special. We were all giddy and aglow for the whole rest of the day and we had an understanding that I’d never felt before. It was just the most divine feeling.

I know, to the “non-dog” people that sounds ridiculous.You either feel it, believe it, or not. I know Maggie does. I know she knows that Buddy did too. They shared an amazing experience in front of my camera, and I was honored to be there, to see it and be part of it and I’ll never forget it. I made three new friends that day, and just because one of them left this world the day after doesn’t diminish my experience. In fact, it makes it even more meaningful.

When Maggs (I don’t know if this is her nickname or if she hates it, but I immediately started calling her that and I’ve never called anyone that) emailed me to tell me about Buddy’s passing, I just sat there in front of my computer, thinking, “wow! And I was just talking to him yesterday.”

Godspeed, little man. I’ll see you on the other side, and in the meantime, give my dogs a kiss for me.

This batch of photos are for Maggie, so that she can look at them and relive the day, that last great day she had with Buddy. I’ve included a bunch of outtakes, because, well, outtakes are part of life too, aren’t they?

(ps: you might want to turn the sound on right about now.)

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  • March 19, 2013 - 12:57 pm

    susan sabo - And thank you again, Teri Rambo, for providing these amazing vocals for my blog. <3ReplyCancel

  • March 19, 2013 - 1:06 pm

    Cynthia Zulla - oh. sitting here smiling through tears. that one of the two of them kissing Buddy. awesome.ReplyCancel

  • March 19, 2013 - 1:22 pm

    Becky Lane - Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful – from beginning to end. Thank you so much for sharing.

    PS: That song is killer.ReplyCancel

  • March 19, 2013 - 1:35 pm

    Karan - yes, i needed a good excuse to cry… this is so beautiful… xReplyCancel

  • March 19, 2013 - 2:40 pm

    greg - Susan, this made me smile and it broke my heart. What a face, what an absolutely wonderful face.ReplyCancel

  • March 19, 2013 - 4:04 pm

    Kim - This is so touching. Say hey to little Jimmy for me Buddy.
    Thanks for sharing this SusanReplyCancel

  • March 19, 2013 - 7:19 pm

    susan sabo - Aw, thanks you guys. I’m sure that Maggie really appreciates you taking the time to read about Buddy. We’ve all been there before, yes? And we’ll likely all be there again.

    The song is “True Love Will Find You in the End,” written and originally performed by Daniel Johnston; covered beautifully by Beck, and here, covered by my amazing and talented friend, Teri Rambo.

    Thanks again for your lovely thought and heartfelt words. <3ReplyCancel

  • March 19, 2013 - 8:33 pm

    maggie - Oh, Susan, thank you so much. I am sobbing at my computer. I got your email earlier, but knew that I couldn’t watch it at work because I would totally lose it. Just seeing the subject line, and the sweet picture of Bud’s tail, made me cry. Words cannot capture how much this means to me. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful: the pictures, the beautiful music…the love. You captured my perfect day, my last day, with Bud. I will be eternally grateful (truly) to you and Louise for making this possible for me. Thank you for your incredible talent, for loving Bud, and for capturing our love for each other so perfectly. This is, paws down, the absolute best gift I’ve ever received. (And, yes, Bud totally got it. I was talking about the photo shoot nonstop after Louise surprised me; he absolutely knew how important it was to me. He stayed with me just long enough to share it with me. And, yes, my favorite nickname is Mags, but of course you would just know that). A million thank you’s. And, thank you to everyone for your loving, beautiful comments. I love experiencing Bud through other people’s perspective. All my love. xoReplyCancel

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