Friday, April 22, 2011

The Healing Power of Photographs

 Last week, our family had to say good-bye to our beloved dog, Harley.  Harley was a part of our family for 15 years, which equates to almost ½ of our daughters’ lives.  Being our second family dog of four, Harley had the distinct honor to have known all the dogs in our lives.  He benefited from learning his good behavior from our first dog, Nigel, and was a wonderful teacher to Jeeves.  When Winston entered the scene, he just rolled his eyes and tolerated having a puppy around the house!
The vet believes cancer was the villain that took Harley’s life.  Without exploratory surgery, he could not be sure, and there was no way Harley could undergo the stresses of that kind of procedure. Confirming the diagnosis would not have changed the inevitable; And so, the decision had to be made to say good-bye.  

I feel fortunate to have spent his last hour on earth by his side.  He seemed happy to have us there, even though I decided to bring the camera.  He never was very cooperative at posing for me.  Conveniently, the vet had a jar of treats which we offered him in abundance before the final good-bye.  He perked up for us as we fed him (believing he was in heaven long before his journey began) and I was able to make some very nice portraits of him to keep forever as a memory.  Upon returning home, I felt the need to look at the many photos we made of Harley through his life.  The photos were comforting and looking at them helped me to begin the healing process.  Sure, I will continue to tear up every time I see the dog food ads featuring a yellow lab puppy; and I know it will take some time to remember to divide table scraps into halves instead of thirds.  Since last week, I have caught myself calling for him after the other two returned inside the house.  Old habits die hard...
 As much as I hated the plentiful white hair on my dark clothing and the barking serenade at 5 AM from the base of the stairs, and tripping over him in the middle of the night, ironically, I find myself wanting these things back again.  Photos are a very powerful aid to help with the grieving process after a painful good-bye.  As I continue to look through photos of his life blended into ours, my heart is healing...Harley was a brave, trusting and loving soul. He brought our family tremendous joy while living his long and happy life.

In this age of cell phones with cameras, I am lucky to have so many more casual photo (and video!) memories of Harley than I would have had relying on my SLR and point and shoot cameras alone.  So don’t be afraid to capture those everyday moments of those you love, the images will become cherished treasures in the future.
June 23 1996-April 16, 2011


  1. He was a great dog. I had almost forgotten what he looked like when he was younger! He's got Nigel to keep him company and Penny to fight with up there. He'll be missed, but he's not suffering anymore. I love you, Wendy.

  2. I had forgotten how little he once was, too! I have learned that while formal portraits and posed pictures are nice, it is the everyday images that make the best memories. Thanks, Whitney. I love you,too!

  3. Wow, Wendy we cried the entire time of reading your blog about Harley. We too know how difficult it is to let them go. Although, your family and Danny and I both know our dogs could have never had better homes. Hopefully Jeeves and Winston realize that Harley wanted to go to Heaven with dignity....that he did. Suffering isn't something that a human or an animal wants to endure. He isn't suffering and that is a priority. He is back to his young self once again, with no pain. Kaveney got us a book when Axle passed and it shows them becoming puppies once again. It sure helped us. We'll get to see them again someday. Hopefully not real soon, but again! Like Kaveney told me to tell Danny, it is a hole in your heart. That is for sure!
    Hugs To All Of You, Danny, Rhonda and Shredder

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, Rhonda...I am sure Axle and Harley are playing together.