I actually ended the year taking my final exam to obtain a certification that I feel will help me support my clients who are facing aging or ill pets. So I start the new year with a new certification, but first the backstory that led me to this.
I obtained Midnight on a whim. A coworker indicated her dog had puppies and they were purebred labs. My ears perked up as I always wanted a black lab. There was something about them that always seemed so regal and yet I knew that black dogs tended to be skipped over by people. Some think black dogs may be more aggressive as others think it may be related to they just don’t photograph well. Whatever the reason, I fell in love with one of the black dogs in the litter while my sister fell in love with a chocolate one and we each brought them home.
While I fell in love with “Storm” (as he was initially called), the transition was not an easy one. Being a first-time breeder, my coworker sent the dogs home way to soon. My guy was way too little and he missed mom. He cried for five nights straight. Between the lack of sleep from his crying and the puppy nipping and chewing EVERYTHING, I was afraid I made a mistake. When my mom mentioned that the name I chose was a self-fulfilling prophesy, I thought about it and renamed him Midnight. Whether it was the name change, the private trainer I obtained, or the fact that he was actually getting to be the right size to be away from his mom, he had a drastic turn around in the second week. Now I am not saying he was perfect! We still had lots of training to take place, but I felt a weight lift and could suddenly see that I could actually take care of him and handle the training.
When I wasn’t working , Midnight was with me, In fact we seemed to walk or play fetch constantly. We would be out for an hour every morning and sometimes 2 after work. My sister lived at the top of one hill and I lived on the top of another. There was a park right in the valley between both hills, so we would meet down in the park where the brothers could run, play, swim and fetch. We had wonderful fun together. Midnight was smart. He could get himself out of a dog seatbelt like Houdini and then he would start to chew Beaus’s seatbelt to try to get him out. When he couldn’t get enough running we upped our game and started taking agility classes for which he had great promise.
He was everything to me!
Then I got the news.
He had lymphoma and only had a few months to live. I found out just before his 4th birthday! He was too young.
Finding a new purpose
After the initial devastation, I comforted myself that I had tons of pictures of him. It was one of my favorite things to do. But as I looked through the pictures, I am seeing tons of pictures of him or him and Beau, but where were this pictures of Midnight and me? I only had a couple posed pictures and a snapshot my sister took. How could I possibly have not had more? It seemed impossible I only had that many, and I longed for more. Not only did I long for more, I longed for ones that showed that I was actually a part of Midnights life. I wanted ones to show how much we bonded with each other and showed us doing the things we loved to do.
That loss is what brought me to pet photography. I was previously primarily a landscape photographer. I suddenly knew other people would have this same problem. How many pet parents have images of just their pet. Unless they have selfies, they probably have very few. Selfies also do not often show the bond, the connection, because you are busy trying to get your pet to look at the camera. They don’t show you doing the things you love to do.
Since that time I have been focused on creating images for people and their pets. I want to enable everyone to have the images they will want most whether they know it now or not. Often times I will get people requesting photos of their pet, but when I mention having the pet-parent in the photo they say, “Oh No!” I don’t need me in the picture, just my pet. I know they eventually will want them though. My goal is to convince everyone to be in the pictures, because I know from experience that longing to be be surrounded by the images of you and your pets journey together.
Most times, clients booking me for human and pet sessions are the ones with the sudden realization that they may not have many more moments with their pet. Maybe they are spending more at the vet because of new chronic conditions that are coming up, or they have suddenly received that devastating diagnosis that tells them their pets time is near.
Certification to boost client support
I try to be supportive of my clients suddenly facing the imminent loss of their pet. I however, felt the need to be better prepared for the questions and emotions that come in to play when you are facing life without your pet. That is when I learned that fellow pet photographer Angela Schneider was certified as a grief coach and was founding One last network. One last network endeavors to address societies tendency to minimize pet loss via it’s podcast which helps normalize the grief process and provides education for pet photographers to appropriately support their clients through their anticipatory grief/grief of their pet.
I am happy to announce that I have completed my Pet loss Grief Specialist Certification. I am confidant this new certification and continued studies will help support my clients by allowing them the space to listen and share stories of their pet. In offering clients a place in which their grief is accepted and in story sharing, they can feel the connection with their pet even after they are gone.
Through continued education provided in One last network, we will continue to learn more about grief support as Angela continues to learn and share with us. We will also learn through the guests that are invited to the weekly podcasts. Our community of photographers can contact each other through our community portal and can support each other as we come across new or difficult situations. This means we have a whole community of photographers that are willing to help each other support our clients grief if we find the need.
If you feel the time is ticking on the time left with your pet, I would love to capture your journey together.
It’s an International circle!
Join the fun! This group of International Professional Pet Photographers bring you information on our weekly topics. While we focus on one broad subject, we may each have a different spin on it or provide you with additional information from our world of pet photography. Follow the next link to view how the next amazing photographer tackles this weeks challenge. Follow each link at the end of each blog until you return to me. Then you have successfully completed our blog circle. Enjoy!
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Luna has had the unfortunate experience of needing a home again. Her loving dad had obtained her from second Chance years ago, but unfortunately he has passed on, leaving her a bit sad and confused. She is around 7 years old, house broken, and knows basic commands. She is very loving and loves being a couch potato and getting all the attention. She would prefer to be the solo fur baby.
Please contact Friends of Second Chance.
Friends of Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter
6660 E. Seneca Turnpike
Jamesville, NY 13078
Capture your journey with your pet. Nancy Kieffer is a pet and nature photographer serving Central New York, the Adirondacks and Beyond. Capture how you share your life with your pet! It may be a vacation adventure or curled up on the couch. Travel assignments welcomed.