"I don’t know if we’ll ever be ready, but I guess it’s time"
October 5, 2019 11:26 PM   Subscribe

Last Moments is a powerful photo series by Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer Ross Taylor, who was invited to document the intimate last moments in a beloved pet’s life when the owner must deal with a painful farewell.
Taylor was inspired to turn his camera on this topic after his good friend went through the agonizing decision to euthanize her ailing dog.

“When someone tells me they’re struggling with the death of a pet, my heart aches for them,” Taylor tells the Washington Post. “I was profoundly moved by witnessing her struggle and her love for her dog.”

Taylor is a freelance visual journalist and an assistant professor in the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder. Between 2017 and 2018, he visited pet owners in the Tampa Bay area of Florida after they called the at-home pet euthanasia veterinarian service Lap of Love.
The full Last Moments series can be seen on Taylor's site.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (32 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man... seeing those photos puts me right back through the ringer of losing the 6 I've lost so far. It's totally upsetting, totally consuming and racked with so much guilt about the "when" of it. The at-home part, which we did for #5 and would have for #6 if we hadn't lost her unexpectedly,out unfairly of turn (she was 9.5)... it eases it just ever so... but, but. I miss my damn dogs and my double damned cats. It's a shitty equation that the world gives us this total love just to yank it away.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:33 PM on October 5, 2019 [9 favorites]

These pictures are heartbreaking and remind me to cherish what I have. I'd never had a dog before our pug Zac, and he's turning six this year. I've honestly never really dealt with death before in my family. I can't imagine a life without Zac around, and I'd never really want to. It hurts when I leave for work in the morning, when I have to leave him on his own, knowing the clock is running out for him in a way that it isn't yet for me. He does get picked up twice a week to go play with other dogs for 4-5 hours but, still, ultimately I know it just isn't enough.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:55 PM on October 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


posted by PhineasGage at 12:17 AM on October 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Didn’t plan on beginning my Sunday morning sobbing but here we are. So much love and heartbreak on display in those photos...

They say the brevity of our pets’ lives is a reminder of the precious nature of life. Maybe. I’ve taken in and loved many rescues, hence I’ve said many goodbyes. These are the toughest partings. They don’t get easier.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:18 AM on October 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

THe last time I had to do this, they asked me several times if I really could deal with being there for the euthanizing injection. I guess they have people cause problems sometimes. I can understand that, but not being there for the very end was not an option to me.
posted by thelonius at 3:38 AM on October 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

posted by sugar and confetti at 4:36 AM on October 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

not being there for the very end was not an option to me.

Yep. We had to have a young kitty put down last year due to FIP, and it was wrenching and awful and incredibly hard and sad. But not being with him would have been worse. Between my partner and I, we now have seven cats and two dogs. (Two residences.) I'll be there for every single one of them, assuming their time comes before mine and they don't pass naturally on their own. We owe them that much, and more.

Geez. I haven't even clicked the link and I'm getting wet-eyed over here. Go hug your fuzzy friends, y'all. They're the best, each and every one.
posted by jzb at 4:55 AM on October 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

I manage a veterinary hospital and regularly counsel people through this decision and its aftermath as part of my job. It's a heavy burden for owners (and most definitely for veterinary staff also, especially since we love your pets too), but it's also a precious gift that we have this option when the time comes. Even when you see it often, you still cry with everyone saying goodbye. The loss of a pet is just as profound as the loss of any other family member, and it's sometimes even more difficult because so many people don't recognize how deeply these losses are felt.

This is a lovely project and a lovely post, and it's something I live in my day to day work life, and in my personal life, so it's very meaningful to me. Thank you for sharing this.
posted by biscotti at 5:20 AM on October 6, 2019 [33 favorites]

I know that this is in my future, having an 11-year-old big dog. She's my best friend, my rock, and my sweetie. I barely remember what life was like without her. In my darker days I just hold her and bawl and think, am I doing enough? Does she have a good life? What am I going to do without her someday?

I know that when her time comes I'll be inconsolable. We've been talking about getting a second dog, for many reasons but mostly so that there's no gap. Luce is still in great shape and still enjoys being with our friends dogs. We wouldn't force an Assistant Branch Manager into her life if she was at the point where she would hate having an energetic younger pup around. But mostly I worry that there will be no comfort for me when she's gone, and I'll go to a really dark place. And I don't know if I can handle that.
posted by Gray Duck at 5:51 AM on October 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

posted by Pendragon at 6:05 AM on October 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

I had to put my dog down a few weeks ago, not the first pet i've lost but the first one i've been there for, and what stuck out to me is how there was nothing poetic or peaceful or beautiful to me. It was just ugly and normal and then he was gone. There were lots of weird, grating details that I don't want to talk about with anyone because I'm holding up surprisingly well and i wanted to crack jokes in the room as it was happening and I'm worried people will think i'm heartless or disrespectful, but I was sobbing my heart out (and i am now again). it just sucks - this really is the best way to go we can give them, but he deserved, like, a parade procession into heaven with people proclaiming from the streets his best dogness and throwing him ham.

the pictures with the other dogs in them, have i read that it's good for them to be there and see it happen? my other dog was there for the medical emergency and she usually tries to attention steal whenever we focused on him but by the end she was quiet and downtrodden in the corner. but since we took him to the vet, for all she knows, he just went to live with someone else again, and she's perfectly fine with that, lol. but my heart breaks when i hear about dogs grieving and not knowing where their family member went.
posted by gaybobbie at 7:01 AM on October 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

One of my friends is a Lap of Love veterinarian. She provides euthanasia, and hospice care, and longer term care for pets with terminal illnesses. I really admire her. She really cares about her patients. She was very kind to me when my cat had cancer, virtually providing support and letting me know what I should look for when deciding to let him go (we live in different states but she was always there for texts and DMs). It's an amazing organization with amazing vets.
posted by ceejaytee at 7:12 AM on October 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

This was heartbreaking but it is wonderful to see these creatures loved and cared for right until the end.
posted by rpfields at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

This sounds like a very moving artistic project that I shall never, ever look at.

My cat isn't even elderly yet. Merely middle aged. Any time my thoughts turn morbid about her lifespan, I remind myself what a great life she leads. Peaceful apartment, good things to sniff out the windows, special kidney diet food, treats, at least 20 minutes a day of exfoliating & de-furring scritches in all the places she likes the most, pets and snuggles, toys when she's in attack mode... Hell, after she had some teeth extracted, I began brushing her teeth every evening. A couple of weeks after those teeth were removed, she started snuggling us more. She'd always liked pets and always nuzzled our legs in passing, but had never joined us on the couch and napped next to us. We speculate that those bad teeth had been giving her pain, and now that the pain was gone she was less stand off-ish. She'll never have another toothache as long as I have hands to brush her teeth. She doesn't even mind the brushing too much -- she squirms, and she thinks it's an extremely peculiar way to feed her a treat of poultry-flavored paste, but she's not riled by it.

Anyways, I get the occasional bad thought, but then I think, "you're having a wonderful life and you're not dead yet!" and I either brush her or give her a treat or smooch her while she naps - an action that doesn't even make her move from her position because she trusts my intentions so much.

Smooch your pets, folks.
posted by wires at 9:05 AM on October 6, 2019 [12 favorites]

I've lost count of the feline deathbeds I've attended, and it never gets easier. Not one little bit.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:06 AM on October 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

What an amazing photo series, and the last photo absolutely devastated me. It was, however, very very jarring that whoever wrote the photo captions chose to refer to the dogs with the pronoun 'it' instead of he or she. (All of the humans quoted used he or she, but in the couple of captions where a personal pronoun is used by the writer for a dog, they chose 'it'.) This was an insensitive and tone-deaf choice, and is glaringly noticeable.

Which also made me notice what was missing from the photo essay, which was much sense of the dogs themselves--I know, we're humans and it was a piece about human suffering in this loss, but it just seems respectful of the dogs in a basic way to acknowledge that it's their actual deaths we're experiencing, and that's the primary thing. Even with our pets, our own grief should be secondary to their need. (The people featured obviously got that, it's just something about the focus of the photo essay that to me omits this essential aspect of the story.)

I'm very glad I looked through these photographs with two of our three dogs snuggled up on me in bed this morning. My life would be immensely more poor without our wonderful dogs.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:13 AM on October 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Another FIP loss here, last year when we lost our little kitten Franz. He was four months old. He went from perfectly happy to obviously dying in the space of 24 hours. We got the call from the overnight emergency vet at 1:30 am, who informed us that he was crashing. We rushed there with all possible speed. Letting him go was the only option. I’ve let three of my elderly pets go, which was hard enough. But... four months.

His once-inseparable brother is in my lap right now. Life goes on.
posted by notoriety public at 9:30 AM on October 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Two weeks ago, I lost my dog of 14 years. She was my baby that I got when I decided that my step children were enough human kids to raise. I've been dealing with an elderly mother in care in another state, and haven't had time to process. Just one look at the first picture and I've been howling like a lost child. I thought that I could maybe throw her bed out today, but I guess I'll give it a little more time...
posted by cowcowgrasstree at 10:07 AM on October 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

My heart goes out to the vets that are called on to perform this service. I have never met a vet that didn't grieve alongside the owner, but kept a professional demeanor, as he performed this last kindness.
posted by SPrintF at 11:20 AM on October 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I am not clicking. I still feel traumatized over my last cat’s sudden death, and my new cats, although wonderful, haven’t really helped with the grief. It’s become more.... academic with time, and it doesn’t interfere with my affection towards my current companions, but even skimming the comments in this thread has been tough.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:22 AM on October 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

That was utterly heartbreaking. I've been there too many times and have two elderly brother cats now - we dread losing them after saying goodbye to their mom a few years ago. The anguish in those photos just wrecks me.
posted by leslies at 11:34 AM on October 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


I've lost a few dogs in my time and spend a good 3 to 4 months a year travelling the world looking after other peoples' pets. I'm not ashamed to say the loss of past pets has leveled me harder and for longer than the passing of some friends and family.

I have a friend whose dog was killed a early this year by an incompetent animal hospital on Dundas West in Toronto (the vet has admitted it in writing). I've known this person for 20 years and have never seen her so incapacitated; beyond inconsolable. It has been many months and she is still in twice-weekly counseling due to it. Just two days ago she told me she has "no place in this world" and that her "life is over". She is positively adrift -- completely unmoored. As David Rabe once wrote, "Grief has put her out of order."

It is one thing to say we don't deserve dogs and another to believe it at our core.
posted by dobbs at 11:35 AM on October 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

This reminds me of the amazing short film Last Minutes with Oden.
posted by pinochiette at 12:29 PM on October 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

We had to put down our 16 year old standard poodle a few months ago...

No way I'll click this link.

First time we've had to do it. It was time, but, miss you Gracie. Our other one seems confused about Gracie not being around, (wasn't there when it happened).
posted by Windopaene at 1:03 PM on October 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Nope, not today. Thanks, I'm sure it's amazing. I just can't go there today.
posted by evilDoug at 1:28 PM on October 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

The passing of every pet destroys me each time, and just a little more each time. So I'll kiss my current dog (a tri collie) on the snoot, and remind her she can't die. Ever.

So--good topic on which to post but not clicking at all.
posted by datawrangler at 2:51 PM on October 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

We are coming up on a year since we had to put down our little girl cat. I still haven't come to terms with our decision, still feel it was too soon, too rushed, wasn't how we would have wanted -- we had to choose between "possibly too soon" and "probably much too late," and even though nobody we've told has ever thought we made the wrong decision, I don't know that I will ever forgive myself for it.

I was so deeply depressed afterward that I "lost" about two months -- I'm still here and still employed, so I know that I kept going to work and eating food and being a person, but I don't have any memories of January or February of 2019.

But I have razor-sharp memories of her illness and death, and of feeling the pure anguish that is in these photos.

not being there for the very end was not an option to me.

Yes, exactly. The most agonizing part actually was not holding her while she passed; it was letting some stranger take her away from me afterward.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:57 PM on October 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

Aside from the work of keeping our pets healthy, veterinarians also deal with the extraordinary stress of shepherding pets through death. This is one contributor to high veterinarian suicide rates. Not One More Vet is a group trying to ease the psychological burdens of veterinary practice (disclosure: I went to grade school with a NOMV board member).
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 7:51 PM on October 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

I still haven't come to terms with our decision, still feel it was too soon, too rushed, wasn't how we would have wanted -- we had to choose between "possibly too soon" and "probably much too late,"

I am so sorry for your loss, and for the pain it is causing you. If it's any consolation, as someone who's dealt with this decision both personally and professionally more times than I care to remember, it is ALWAYS, one thousand percent, better to let them go even a month too soon, than even a day too late. Of my own personal pets, the one I let go on a little too long is the one who haunts me. You made the right choice. I don't know you and I don't know your situation, but I can tell you from close to two decades of working in veterinary medicine that people who love their pets the way you describe loving yours, make the right decision when the time comes.

And yes, Not One More Vet is a much-needed group. People really don't understand how bad it can be.
posted by biscotti at 5:23 AM on October 7, 2019 [11 favorites]

I probably (definitely) (100%) should not have clicked this. I don't know what I was thinking. It's been two years since I lost my old girl and these photos just absolutely tore me up. She had cancer and stopped eating so we realized it was time and called an in-home euthanasia service. The vet who came was just the kindest, most compassionate soul and I will never, ever forget how she helped smooth some of the panicky edges from the shittiest thing I've gone through in a long time.
posted by marshmallow peep at 6:57 AM on October 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

What an amazing photo series, and the last photo absolutely devastated me. It was, however, very very jarring that whoever wrote the photo captions chose to refer to the dogs with the pronoun 'it' instead of he or she. (All of the humans quoted used he or she, but in the couple of captions where a personal pronoun is used by the writer for a dog, they chose 'it'.) This was an insensitive and tone-deaf choice, and is glaringly noticeable.
posted by LooseFilter

This really bothered me, too.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:57 AM on October 7, 2019

biscotti, you are a saint and all who do the work you do are saints and I don't have enough thanks in my heart for any of you.

Another loss to FIP here, two years and nine months ago, and it's still fresh and it still hurts even though she made it the easiest she could for me, my little tiny love, my incredibly loving Gece—I didn't have to decide anything, I didn't get to have agonizing regrets and what-ifs, both the decision and the timing were crystal clear and I had no options, not really. And I was surrounded by friends and a vet team who were crying with me. Hell, the last consult I had, when the internist entered the room to talk to me I thought she had a cold, but no, she was sniffling because Gece was so young and sweet. Hurt like the blazes, hurts like the blazes, and I'm tearing up right now. No way I'm clicking that link.

But lots of way that I'm hugging my current rescue when I get home. Even though LaCat mostly only tolerates being hugged. She's going to have to deal and get extra treats afterwards.
posted by seyirci at 10:40 AM on October 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

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