2021 has been a journey through grief.
This year was one long journey of saying goodbye. I wasn’t ready for it, and I’m not over it. But, sitting here with only two days left of 2021, I can say that because of my journey through grief, I’ve found myself closer to where I’m supposed to be.
I’m going to tell you about this beautiful thing I created called the Soul Dog Journey Project, but first I need to tell you about how I found my way to it.
It started with a conversation my husband and I had at the beginning of the year. We were lying on our bed talking about our two dogs who were no longer with us, and I got really sad. The grief overcame me, and through tears, I said, “it’s so dumb that they died.” What my husband said next is something that would help bring shape to the journey ahead of me. I shared this story with my community on January 26th, and you can read it below.
Grief is a part of living.
The day after I shared this story, my family suffered an unimaginable tragedy when my 16 year old nephew died of suicide.
In the days, weeks, and months following the death of my nephew, I thought a lot about the timing of when I posted the story about that conversation with my husband. Sharing it had been an exercise in vulnerability, which for me, is a form of strength. I believe that because I was in a state of awareness around grief, I was able to move through the next few months without completely losing my shit.
I didn’t post about my nephew’s death until a couple of months later. It was too hard to find words, but mostly because I needed to move through the immediate aftermath of it.
Grief leads us to light.
During all of this, I was coming to terms with the fact that my girl, Kerouac, was approaching the end of her journey here on Earth. Between the months of February and August, she declined rapidly. We could no longer leave her alone, which meant making the decision to limit what we did outside of our home.
I chose to limit my availability for photo sessions so that I could spend as much time with Kerouac as possible. It wasn’t easy because I love my work, but it was everything that we both needed.
Saying goodbye to my Soul Dog.
At the beginning of August, we made an appointment for a senior checkup for Kerouac, and something in me knew what was coming. The night before our appointment, I cried. I told James that I knew it might be time soon, but I wasn’t sure that I was ready to say goodbye. I wanted her to stay forever.
The next day, our vet let us know that if we were ready, it was a good time to make the plan to let her go. At some point in the previous month, she had either had a stroke or a brain tumor had developed. Although she was at times her silly, sassy, and snuggly self, Kerouac was no longer living comfortably. She was almost 16 years old and was ready to go.
We spent the next two weeks soaking up every moment together. I shared this journey openly with my community because I believed it could help them to see what we were experiencing. I’ve built my work and my life around the idea that our stories are important, and worth telling. During those last two weeks together, I captured as much as I could, so that I would have pieces of my Soul Dog to hold onto forever.
These pieces brought inspiration and hope to those in my community who have experienced the grief and joy that loving another being brings. Sharing this journey has done the same for me.
It is because of my own experiences of love (and grief and joy), and the feedback I recieved from my community after sharing these experiences, that I found my way to the Soul Dog Journey Project.
The Soul Dog Journey Project is the beautiful thing to come from my broken heart.
I’ve always believed that the work I do as a pet photographer is so much bigger than photography. It’s about deep connection, not only with the animals in our lives, but with ourselves. I created the Soul Dog Journey Project to help others acknowledge and celebrate those connections while actively experiencing them.
The Soul Dog Journey Project is a course that consists of 52 weekly prompts to help you capture your Soul Dog Journey. Each week, you’ll receive inspiration for taking photos and video of the dog you love, and encouragement to write out another piece of your story.
It’s my hope for you to get to experience with your dog what Kerouac and I had while we captured our journey. This year was hard, but if I get to close it out with bringing this piece of Kerouac’s legacy to life, then I know that everything is going to be okay.
JOIN the Soul Dog Journey Project via the button below.
Want to talk about a photo session with your dog? Let’s connect.