Grab a tissue because this photographer who takes bittersweet photos of pets at the end of their lives has shared some of the heart wrenching snaps.
Lauren Smith Kennedy, 28, who lives in Portland, Maine, will meet up with the owners to take poignant final photos with their pets, who are having to be put down, usually due to illness.
The snapper, who takes the photos for free, said she gets hundreds of messages every week asking for help and offers to be flown all over the world.
Lauren Smith Kennedy, 28, who lives in Portland, Maine, will meet up with the owners to take poignant final photos with their pets, who are having to be put down, usually due to illness. Oscar, a 12-year-old blind chihuahua, gets a special nose rub from his owner Hannah who says he is her ‘best friend, my first love, my little stink’
Sadie and her devoted owner Christina play around in the leaves as they share a special kiss in an autumnal photoshoot. Sadie, who has passed away since this moment, came to Christina when she was just a pup. She said: ‘I’m blessed to have known Sadie since the day she was born. I decided she needed me and it took a long time for me to realise that I had it backwards – I was the one who needed her’
Smith-Kennedy said she is always overcome by the lengths owners go to for their pets – especially 11-year-old Baxter, a white Swiss Shepard, who needs a special wagon to move around due to a degenerative disease. Lauren said one of the many things she took away from meeting Baxter was when during this shoot she kept hearing his owner Nina repeat as she held his head close to her chest, ‘thank you, Baxter’
Although Smith-Kennedy thinks every shoot she does is special, there are some that stay with her more than others.
She said: ‘One that really stands out was with a dog named Baxter, who had a degenerative disease.
‘We did the shoot, and his owner had got a wagon to move him around, and that really stood out to me.
‘It seemed like a symbol of how far an owner will go to help their animal and how dedicated they are.’
Although Baxter the dog gets very tired, he is no pain and his health is monitored closely by his veterinarian. His family often use the wagon to take him outside to feel the warmth of the sun and smell the fresh air. They also take him to hydrotherapy, acupuncture and vet visits to ensure his quality of life
Oscar’s owner Hannah told Lauren that he has lost his sight within the last two years and even though he walks slower than he used to and he sleeps more, he still gives unconditional love and strength
Lauren said there were many wonderful things about 18-year-old Staffy the cat, one of which was to see how fancy she is and enjoys the finer things in life like drinking water from martini glasses, being brushed and having her ears rubbed
Although Lauren does a lot of photos outside, this one of Cheddar with his family was taken at her home just a few hours before she crossed the rainbow bridge. Cheddar’s owner Carolyn told Lauren: ‘The vet came to our house and it all happened pretty quickly and peacefully right in my arms’
Baxter’s owners Nina and Robert enjoying some precious time together cuddling and kissing
Capturing such emotional moments have proved difficult for the animal-lover, who admits she often breaks down while looking back at the photos.
She said: ‘It’s the profound heartbreak you feel knowing the life you have shared with that animal and anyone who has had a pet can relate to that.’
‘When I’m there, I’m doing my job and if I let my own feelings become a distraction it would take away from giving the family the gift of remembrance.’
‘But when I’m driving home and when I sit and look at the pictures, that’s when my emotions catch up on me.’
Best of friends: Owner Tiffany kisses her 13-year-old pit bull Duchess as the two snuggle up together for their photoshoot
Duchess is happy to return the favour and give her owner a smooch on the lips in poignant final photographs that Tiffany will be able to treasure
Smith-Kennedy’s main job is raising money and overseeing social media for Saco River Wildlife Center in Limington, Maine, which includes taking photos of injured animals while they are treated at the base.
It was after losing her own precious cat Tilly in a freak accident that she decided to start doing end of life photography.
She said: ‘A friend of a friend had to put their dog down, and they reached out to me actually asking about getting an urn for him.
Owner Denyse cradles her cat Staffy in her hands for the heartbreaking photoshoot. Lauren Smith-Kennedy takes photos of all types of pets including cats and rats
Beautiful dog Indy, a 6-year-old Australian Shepard/Border Collie mix, has passed away since his photoshoot but his owners told Lauren that they made sure he got to do lots of things like paddling with his owner, Jake, eating lots of cheese, resting his head in his family’s hand, and protecting his small squeaky toy lion whom he cared for as if it were a puppy
‘I helped them out with that, and said if they were interested I would be happy to do a free photoshoot with them.
‘So I did the shoot and obviously with their permission I shared it on social media, and it just went from there.’
Smith-Kennedy goes to great lengths to capture the essence of the relationship between the pets and their owners.
She said: ‘I usually prompt people rather than asking them to do poses.
Poignant pet portrait: Indy was diagnosed with lymphoma and although he had aggressive chemo and put up a tough fight, his family decided to enjoy their time together making him as comfortable as possible and having as many adventures as they can
Smith-Kennedy said: ‘It really is a truly heartbreaking time for any family on their own journey of grief’ pictured: Staffy the cat being groomed by her owner Denyse
The photographer says she contains her own emotions during a shoot but can be in tears when looking back at the images. Pictured: owners Nina and Robert with Baxter
‘So I’ll say something like, why don’t you sit down and give your pet some love, instead of saying to cuddle or pat them or whatever.
‘That way they can do whatever that feels like to them.’
Since she began, Lauren has launched the Tilly Project, named after her beloved cat, which is a network of photographers all over the world who can offer free end of life pet photography.
She said: ‘I started the Tilly Project to help connect people with photographers local to them who would do these shoots as well.
‘I was getting people offering to fly me across the country to do a shoot, and I wasn’t able to do that.
‘It’s so amazing to have been able to start something like this.’
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