Heartbreaking photos of pet owners saying final goodbye to their dying pets

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The incredibly strong bond between pets and their human companions teach us that emotional interspecies connections are a vital and rewarding part of life. While we all wish our pets could be immortal, we know our time with them in this life is limited. Knowing this, we appreciate each day all the more. Although we know in the back of our minds that the time will come, saying goodbye is one of the hardest things we’ll ever do in our lives.

Note: The pictures in this story may be too disturbing for some viewers. It present photographs of animals that have passed away.

Now one photojournalist is sharing the stories of the final moments between pets and their families, as a respectful way to honor the undeniable bonds between humans and their animal companions. Ross Taylor’s new series, Last Moments, confronts the deep emotional anguish faced by families as they make the decision to euthanize dying pets in the comfort of their homes.

With in-home pet euthanasia, a professional comes to the privacy of your home so that pets and owners don’t need to go to a stressful veterinary office. Families can then choose how to memorialize and hold a funeral for their pet in a meaningful way.

BuzzFeed’s Gabriel H. Sanchez wrote:

“The focus of Last Moments, in part, is to help those going through this process to know they’re not alone, and that their grief should not be overlooked, nor minimized by others.”

“It’s real, and it’s painful.”

After completing the series, the photojournalist of more than 20 years says it changed the way he reacts when someone he knows loses their pet. It also changed the way he sees the veterinarians who provide comfort to families and allow pet’s suffering to end.

“Producing this body of work has been one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had. It’s fundamentally shifted how I react when someone tells me they lost a pet, or that a pet is dying. My heart is more open toward those going through this process, and I have a profoundly deep respect for veterinarians who do this daily. They’re impressive people.”

Taylor says the families allowed him to take the pictures as a way to share their meaningful stories. He profusely thanks them as well as the caring veterinarians who worked with him for the project.

“They have my respect. I think, in the end, the reason they allowed my presence has a lot to do with the fact that we all have a story to tell, and theirs is worth sharing,” he said.

The assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder says he hopes that by sharing this work, people will learn empathy and respect the strong bonds between pets and their human families.

“I hope people will never say to someone after losing a pet, ‘Oh it’s just a dog,’ or, ‘It’s just a cat. You can get another.'”

“It’s crucial to recognize, and respect, the pain that comes along with this. I hope, in the end, it builds more empathy toward one another.”

Below are some of Taylor’s photographs from his Instagram account:

“We were once here.”

It’s the phrase I think about whenever I see this image after Asia passed away. Dr. Dani McVety tenderly made a paw print for Carrie and Rob Peterson shortly after Asia died.”

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We were once here. • It’s the phrase I think about whenever I see this image after Asia passed away. Dr. Dani McVety tenderly made a paw print for Carrie and Rob Peterson shortly after Asia died. • We were once here. • I think about this often, not just towards animals, but to all that we hold and love dear. • Today will be my last day posting on the project, "Last Moments". Thanks for everyone who has reached out along the way, it's meant a lot to me. • “Last Moments,” is a photo essay that explores the intimacy of the human-animal bond – specifically, the last moments before, and after, the passing of a pet at home with their owner. It is a somber, and intense, testimony to the bond and the pain that comes when it is broken. • This series looks at the intense connection shared between people and their pets. The decision to have at-home pet euthanasia is part of an emerging trend (to have end of life care in the home, instead of in a clinic). Nationally, scores of pet owners go through this painful experience each year. It’s important to note the immense care and compassion that the veterinarian community demonstrates towards the families going through this. • It's also important for people going through this to know they're not alone in their grief, and importantly, that their grief is not to be taken lightly. #love #pets #lastmoments •

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“I love you so much, I love you so much.”

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As Dr. Erica Unz began the final injection into Mimosa, Wendy laid down onto the floor beside her dog. She started crying and repeated over and over again, “I love you so much, I love you so much.” In the background is her husband, Rich. Not long after, she looked up to Unz to see if her dog had passed. She told her yes. At this moment, Wendy started to cry out loud. Unz moved quickly to comfort her with a hug. • Today will be my last day posting on the project, "Last Moments". Thanks for everyone who has reached out along the way, it's meant a lot to me. • “Last Moments,” is a photo essay that explores the intimacy of the human-animal bond – specifically, the last moments before, and after, the passing of a pet at home with their owner. It is a somber, and intense, testimony to the bond and the pain that comes when it is broken. • This series looks at the intense connection shared between people and their pets. The decision to have at-home pet euthanasia is part of an emerging trend (to have end of life care in the home, instead of in a clinic). Nationally, scores of pet owners go through this painful experience each year. It’s important to note the immense care and compassion that the veterinarian community demonstrates towards the families going through this. • It's also important for people going through this to know they're not alone in their grief, and importantly, that their grief is not to be taken lightly. #love #pets #lastmoments •

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“One of her final words to her was, ‘You’re my angel.'”

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“I don’t feel so good right now,” said Jennifer Hoch, at right, as before she kisses Shadow, her cat, goodbye. Shadow was dying of cancer, and Jennifer was clearly in a bit of shock. I felt so much sadness for her, as well as her friend, Ruby Nelms (at left). Nelms said,“I wouldn’t let her go through this alone.” As Shadow passes away, Jennifer kept repeating, “It’s ok baby, it’s ok.” One of her final words to her was, “You’re my angel. • Today will be my last day posting on the project, "Last Moments". Thanks for everyone who has reached out along the way, it's meant a lot to me. • “Last Moments,” is a photo essay that explores the intimacy of the human-animal bond – specifically, the last moments before, and after, the passing of a pet at home with their owner. It is a somber, and intense, testimony to the bond and the pain that comes when it is broken. • This series looks at the intense connection shared between people and their pets. The decision to have at-home pet euthanasia is part of an emerging trend (to have end of life care in the home, instead of in a clinic). Nationally, scores of pet owners go through this painful experience each year. It’s important to note the immense care and compassion that the veterinarian community demonstrates towards the families going through this. • It's also important for people going through this to know they're not alone in their grief, and importantly, that their grief is not to be taken lightly. #love #pets #lastmoments •

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Vanessa Gangadyal consoles her son, Ian, 8 while her husband Michael Gangadyal pets their dog, Ally, shortly it’s passing. At right is Erica Unz, a veterinarian with a deep compassion, who comforts the family in the difficult moment. • “Last Moments,” is a photo essay that explores the intimacy of the human-animal bond – specifically, the last moments before, and after, the passing of a pet at home with their owner. It is a somber, and intense, testimony to the bond and the pain that comes when it is broken. • This series looks at the intense connection shared between people and their pets. The decision to have at-home pet euthanasia is part of an emerging trend (to have end of life care in the home, instead of in a clinic). Nationally, scores of pet owners go through this painful experience each year. It’s important to note the immense care and compassion that the veterinarian community demonstrates towards the families going through this. • It's also important for people going through this to know they're not alone in their grief, and importantly, that their grief is not to be taken lightly. #love #pets #lastmoments •

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This is a long post, so bear with me, but I want the pending images to have proper context. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been working on a photographic project and feature-length film that explores the last moments people share with their pets before and after an at-home pet euthanasia. · I recognize this topic carries a lot of emotional weight. I have an immense amount of respect for those who are going through this. It’s one of the most intense moments I’ve ever witnessed. The human animal-bond is one that shouldn’t be overlooked – when someone says they’re going through the loss of a pet, I now more fervently understand just how devastating that can be. Those who are going through this, I can attest that at-home pet euthanasia can be a much more peaceful passing. If you’re going through this now, feel free to reach out for support. · I reached out to a number of organizations while exploring this topic and one – Lap of Love, responded immediately. I can’t thank Paula Ford enough for responding to that email. Her kindness opened the connection with the founder, Dr.Dani McVety. I’m also profoundly thankful to Dani for her trust while documenting these sacred spaces. She is one of the most impressive people I have ever met. · I also want to thank all the veterinarians, and the rest of the staff at Lap of Love. This thanks also includes the folks at Caring Pathways in Denver. All of them are amazing people, and have my deep respect. · I appreciate Thomas Simonetti and the folks over at Washington Post Visuals for taking the care and time to publish the images as well. Thomas, thank you so much. Thank you once again to the Washington Post for publishing this. I'm exceedingly grateful: https://wapo.st/2F4xfiu Over the next week or so I’ll be posting images from the project. Image caption: Olesya Lykovi cries out in anguish, moments after the death of her dog, Sam. Moments before, she looked at Dr. Dani McVety, at right and asked, “Is he gone?” Dani nodded and said, “He has his wings now.” #love #pets #lastmoments

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Ross Taylor is working on a feature-length film about the series and the powerful images he captured.

“It’s important for people going through this to know they’re not alone in their grief, and importantly, that their grief is not to be taken lightly,” he wrote.

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“It’s tough saying goodbye,” said Carrie Peterson after she dropped sunflowers over the grave of her dog, Asia. The smell of freshly turned earth is what I remember, and how peaceful Asia looked within it. This is the final post of the “Last Moments” series here on Instagram. I’ll be working to complete a feature-length film on the topic this year, thanks largely with help from @lukerafferty. • There are not enough words which can convey how much this project has impacted me. Life can be profoundly difficult, and for many, our pets are a respite from the challenges of life. I can not possibly thank Dr. Dani McVety, the veterinarians and staff at Lap of Love and the folks over at Caring Pathways enough for trusting me. • Importantly, I also thank all of the families who have let me into their lives. This couldn’t be done without them. Thank you all so much. • “Last Moments,” is a photo essay that explores the intimacy of the human-animal bond – specifically, the last moments before, and after, the passing of a pet at home with their owner. It is a somber, and intense, testimony to the bond and the pain that comes when it is broken. • This series looks at the intense connection shared between people and their pets. The decision to have at-home pet euthanasia is part of an emerging trend (to have end of life care in the home, instead of in a clinic). Nationally, scores of pet owners go through this painful experience each year. It’s important to note the immense care and compassion that the veterinarian community demonstrates towards the families going through this. • It's also important for people going through this to know they're not alone in their grief, and importantly, that their grief is not to be taken lightly. #love #pets #lastmoments •

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Featured image: Dog via Pixabay