Copy by Kristy Beck
Photography by Sarah Beth Photography
Sarah has this ability to capture a pug in a way that their humans will cherish them more than you realise. What makes Sarah more special is that she is all about capturing the relationship between human + hound, a bond that will live on for years to come. This beautiful Joy Session features the handsome Zeus and his humans.
From Sarah of Sarah Beth Photography
I first met Zeus when I was photographing “Beer with your Buddy” events, back around 2009-2012. Zeus, his sister Juneau, and their humans were regulars at these dog-friendly pubs and patios, and I always enjoyed seeing their friendly faces. When they contacted me in 2017 for his Joy Session, I couldn’t believe how much time had passed.
This is from Zeus’s mom, Melissa:
Last December, we had to say goodbye to our sweet boy, Zeus. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November and they gave him about 4 months to live. At that point, we were beside ourselves. He was still young in our minds at 11 years old and seemed to be in ideal shape—how could this happen?
Zeus’ health continued to decline over the next two weeks as we waited to meet with oncology, until he no longer wanted to even eat—which, if you know pugs, is an awful indicator in their health and happiness. That’s when I knew it was time to do a Joy Session. We had been in talks with Sarah Beth basically all of our pugs’ lives about how we wanted to do a photo shoot, and this was our wakeup call that we didn’t have much time left.
Originally, we scheduled it for a few weeks out, but as his health deteriorated we made arrangements to do it the next upcoming weekend. It was the best decision we ever made. You see, that weekend ended up being the last good days we had with Zeus. The weather was warm, the sun was shining, and we captured one final excursion outside with us as a family.
The following Monday, he was admitted into the ICU at the University of Minnesota, where we came up with a plan to extend his quality of life. The plan was surgery (adding a stint to help alleviate pressure from the tumor), then radiation. We spent those days at the U loving on him during visitor hours as he recovered and counted down the minutes till we could bring him home.
After his second surgery, a biopsy came back and revealed that the cancer wasn’t prostate but actually TCC: bladder cancer. And, it was spreading so quickly, it already blocked his newly placed stint. Despite this, the doctors still had a positive outlook, so they sent him home with us where we celebrated his homecoming enthusiastically.
Zeus relished in the comforts of home, but after a rough night and we were back at the ER the next morning. That’s when we had to make the tough realization that cancer was going to win this time. We felt helpless in the sense that we lost him so soon, but comfort in the fact that we did everything we possibly could to let him know how much we loved him.
ABOUT JOY SESSIONS BY SARAH BETH PHOTOGRAPHY
So what exactly is a Joy Session?
I created Joy Sessions in 2010, after a particularly touching photo shoot with a woman named Joan, and her service dog named Joy. Everything in Joan’s life revolved around Joy. She’d alert Joan if she was about to have a seizure, help her up if she fell, and bring her items from around the house. The word “Joy” was all over her apartment–in artwork, knick knacks, Christmas decorations–Joan was even wearing a “Joy” sweatshirt at our session.
It was this photo shoot where I truly realized that photographing pets can be so much more than just capturing cute smiles and portraits. The relationships we have with these creatures are deep, and real, and deserve to be celebrated! Joan and Joy showed me my purpose.
More and more people started coming to me to photograph their ill and elderly pets: to capture their relationships, give them something to look forward to, and create lasting memories to ease the pain after they’re gone. This new genre of my business needed a name, and nothing could have been more apropos than “Joy!” Today, Joy Sessions are the majority of what I do; I’m often the first phone call after a diagnosis or health scare, and I make every effort to fit them in whenever they’re needed.
In 2012, as more photographers were offering end-of-life services, I created joysession.com to gather them into a searchable directory. It’s grown to over 500 listings, in 19 countries around the world. After a website revamp in 2017, the directory is now open to include any businesses that serve ill and elderly pets.
The resources section is a great place to learn about treatment options and after care; the blog has practical tips and expert advice; pet owners can share their own stories and experiences, and connect with each other in our grief support group on Facebook.
Losing a beloved pet is one of the hardest things we’ll ever have to go through, and joysession.com is a place to find information, support, and even joy on your pet loss journey. You don’t have to go through this alone.