Olesya Lykovi cries out in anguish, just after the death of her dog, Sam. Lykovi’s husband, Vitalii, tries to comfort her. Moments before, she looked at vet Dani McVety, right, and asked, “Is he gone?” McVety nodded and said, “He has his wings now.” Sam was dying of cancer. (Ross Taylor) “It’s tough saying goodbye,” said Carrie Peterson after she dropped sunflowers over the grave in honor of her dog, Asia, who was 13. She, along with her brother, Rob, buried Asia on her farm in Odessa, Fla. Asia’s last moments included a roam around the farm, occasionally barking along the property, signaling she was still guarding it one last time. (Ross Taylor)
There are moments in life so devastating, they can leave us broken and our lives permanently changed. These include the death of a family member, a breakup, a serious injury or job loss. As photographer Ross Taylor documents, the loss of a pet can absolutely be one of those moments, as well. “When someone tells me they’re struggling with the death of a pet, my heart aches for them,” Taylor said.
Taylor became interested in the topic when a good friend was going through the agony of deciding to euthanize her dog. “I was profoundly moved by witnessing her struggle and her love for her dog,” he said. Taylor, an assistant professor in the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder and a freelance visual journalist, said he realized these moments are rarely documented. The series of photographs, taken over the course of a year in 2017-2018, were made with the cooperation of pet owners in the Tampa Bay area of Florida who were served by veterinarians from Lap of Love, an at-home pet euthanasia veterinarian service founded by Dani McVety. Taylor has also been working in conjunction with Caring Pathways, an organization based out of Denver. “I’ve been struck by the care and compassion that Dr. McVety, and so many other vets, have shown during such a difficult process. They have my respect.”
Much of Taylor’s overall body of work explores intersections of intimacy and the effects of trauma. His work in a trauma hospital in Afghanistan in 2011 was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
“A cornerstone idea of my work is this — I want people going through traumatic experiences to know they’re not alone,” Taylor said. “And that the pain of such experiences should not be taken lightly.”
“I’ve loved you for so long,” said Juliet Rubio, weeping, shortly before her dog, Dingo, was euthanized. Dingo was more than 12 years old and was struggling with multiple health issues. Afterward, Rubio, left, and vet Erica Unz carried Dingo (wrapped in a blanket) out of her home in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Ross Taylor) Drew Cassity, right, puts his arm around his wife, Rebecca, after their dog, Coco, was euthanized. “Coco was there for me when he was on deployment,” said Rebecca of her husband, who had served in the military. “She’s always been my companion.” Coco was dying of cancer. (Ross Taylor) “I always felt safe with him,” said Juliet Rubio as she lay by her dog, Dingo, who is 12. “I hate this; I hate this,” she said over and over again before the passing of Dingo. “He’s given me so much comfort.” (Ross Taylor) “What am I going to do? What am I going to do?” David Thompson cries over and over shortly before his dog, Spartan, was euthanized on their houseboat located in Port Hudson, Fla. “You’re the best friend I could ever have; you’re my first mate,” he said. At right is Thompson’s wife, Marie. (Ross Taylor) Kiara Manrique cries just moments after her dog, Sparky, passes away. “I tried to do more, I tried to do all I can. But they said there’s nothing more I could do,” she said while weeping over her loss. At left is her sister, Kimberly. At right are her other dogs, Bella (at top of couch) and Wendy. (Ross Taylor) Leigh Zahn fights back tears as she lies with her dog, Spencer, in her lap a final time, just moments after Spencer passed. Soon after, she left the room, as it was too much for her to take. “She’s going to take it harder, maybe harder than the loss of her parents,” said her husband, Bob. “She loved him so much.” (Ross Taylor)
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.
More on In Sight:
Ravaged by drugs and alcohol, these women reminded the photographer of his own mother
What the United States looked like in the 1960s to an Italian photographer
A photographer reveals how the ordinary can be surprisingly beautiful