Wwhhat, A Dog

My conversation with my brother nearly 15 years ago sounded like a routine by Abbott and Costello.

“I got a dog,” he says. “It’s a beagle.”

“What is its name?” I ask.

“That’s right,” he says.

“What?” I say.

‘Yes, Wwhhat,” he says.

“Wwhhat’s the dog’s name?” I ask.

“That’s right, Wwhhat.” he says.

“Wait a minute, the name of your dog is Wwhhat?” I say.

“Yes, the dog is Wwhhat,” he says.

After 15 years of companionship, my brother had to say goodby Wwhhat. She had lived a long life but developed several health problems in recent years that caused her some pain in her back legs. She still wagged her tail, however, whenever I showed up on a visit to my father’s house, where she now stayed. She was deaf, but I think it was more like selective hearing because whenever I said to her, “Let’s go inside, ” she came right to the door of the house.

What sleeps peacefully in front of the television. When she was younger, she'd keep me awake at night when baying at anything and everything that moved in the dark.
What sleeps peacefully in front of the television. When she was younger, she’d keep me awake at night when baying at anything and everything that moved in the dark.

Wwhhat and I didn’t exactly get off to a great start. When I first met her, she was a young dog, living with my brother.  She slept outdoors at night.  I slept in the guest room, or rather tried to sleep but couldn’t because she was right outside my window baying at anything that moved in the dark.  The next day, she slept peacefully while I stumbled through the day. In time, however, we became good friends and when she eventually came to live with my father a few years ago, I came to think of her as my dog in Kansas, especially after my own dog died. She kept me company during my visits, staying up with me long after my parents had retired, going on short walks when she was still able, lying nearby whenever I was out working in their garden.

I tearfully gave her head one last scratch and watched broken-heartedly as my brother bravely carried her out to the car, her legs dangling because to carry her any other way would have hurt her back. I’d never see her again. I’m sure my feeling of loss was small in comparison to that of my brother’s.

May was my 'studio assistant' and companion for 12 years.  She was the only other 'girl' in our family.
May was my ‘studio assistant’ and companion for 12 years. She was the only other ‘girl’ in our family.

Our pets are more than just companions; they’re members of our family.  My own dog, May, was always included in my own family group portraits; she stayed with me in the studio and accompanied me nearly everywhere. Now I have all those memories and visual records of her.  That’s one reason I always encourage my studio clients to include the family pet it in their own portrait session. Most do.

Some of my clients schedule portrait sessions of the pet themselves as did, Barbara, t0 surprise her husband for Christmas. Tabetha, a sweet, short-haired terrier, came to the studio with Barbara last December. She was a natural in front of the camera.

Tabetha's portrait was a surprise Christmas gift for her master.  Now it's a cherished memory.
Tabetha’s portrait was a surprise Christmas gift for her master. Now it’s a cherished memory.

Her bright little eyes lit up and she cocked her head as Barbara and I talked to her from behind my camera. I grabbed the shot. We did a few more of Tabetha with  Barbara and her daughter, Sarah. Her husband loved them all, Barbara said.

Last month, Barbara contacted me to let me know that Tabetha had died. She thanked me for portraits I had done of her and said:  “I look at her every day, and of course miss her  so terribly much…Thanks again for preserving her in memory.”

It’s words and portraits like these that gives me a warm feeling in my work as a professional photographer. Like Barbara, I too cherish the pictures I have of my dog, May and those of  my brother’s dog, Wwhhat.  As the great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once wrote:   ‘We photographers deal in things that are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth that can make them come back again…”

Tabetha with Barbara and her daughter, Sarah in their portrait together.
Tabetha with Barbara and her daughter, Sarah, in their portrait together.

To read more about What see my brother’s blog post:  http://bit.ly/Z0JXSM.

And click on this link to check out more of my portraits of families with their dogs on my blog’s Portfolio page:  https://cherylcrooksphotography.wordpress.com/portfolio/

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