FAMILY PORTRAITS | HELPING CHILDREN COPE WITH THE LOSS OF A PET | NEW JERSEY PET PHOTOGRAPHER
Parenthood does not come with a user manual. It does, however come with moments of enlightenment that change you forever.
As parents, we do the best we can. I know I do. I don’t always make the right choices, or say the right things, but I learn as I go. Being a photographer teaches me a lot about how to think like a child. I find out what they like, how they experience or relate to their world, what their imagination craves …and then I will know how best to speak to them. This week, being a photographer served me well.
About seven years ago, we adopted a companion dog for my husband’s widowed Mom. Cosmo, a gorgeous tall Weimarana was at least five when we adopted him, or so they told us. It turned out; he was much older than that.
We never expected Cosmo to live long enough to see our young children grow. He became their friend, their protector and a surrogate dog since we could not have one at home. A trip to Nanny’s house was more about “Can I give Cosmo his bone” than the many goodies Nanny spoiled them with.
This past week, after much aging and illness, Cosmo had to be put to rest. I didn’t know what to tell the kids, especially my oldest daughter, age 6. I became the photographer and stepped into her little mind. It was my proudest parenting moment so far. I’d like to share it with you, because I think it was a wonderful way to help my daughter cope with the loss of a pet.
The conversation went like this:
HER: CAN I GO SEE COSMO TOMORROW? I MISS HIM.
ME: Honey, I think we should talk about Cosmo.
HER (Looking concerned): Is he OK?
ME: Well, you know how Cosmo is very old and he had those bumps *(tumors) on him?
HER (Eyes welling up and eyes with sheer panic): Yes!!??…
ME: Well, Cosmo went to sleep and —
HER (Interrupting): Whew! I thought you were going to say he died.
ME: Well, I was not finished honey! He went into a beautiful sleep and had a dream. A dream that he was chasing a ball.
HER: Dogs dream?
ME: Oh yes! It was amazing, and you know what? He chased the ball so far, straight into the gates of heaven.
HER: He ran to heaven? (Smile emerges)
ME: Yes, and when he got there, he saw your Poppa Tony walking five dogs on a leash.
HER: Five dogs!? Why?
ME: He’s a dog walker up there. To all of Daddy’s dogs from when he was a child.
HER: WOW, that’s amazing Mom. But wait – Cosmo hates other dogs.
ME: Oh no! Not in heaven honey! Everyone gets along in heaven. Even dogs. Poppa Tony put him on a golden leash and he joined all the dogs and walked off into heaven.
HER: Wow, that’s so nice Mom. He sounds happy. Can you find me a picture of him so I can remember him forever?
I so wish now that I had a picture of her with Cosmo. I had never taken the time to notice we needed it, until he was gone. Pets are a fleeting but integral part of our children’s lives. If you have a pet, consider a treasured portrait with them. It will help your child heal long after the pet is gone.
My daughter is all about using her imagination in all that she does. Knowing that, my elegant but ridiculous story helped her cope. The imagination is never, ever wrong and it will guide you. Think like a child at least once a day and you might create something beautiful. That’s how art is made.
To contact us at the studio, call 732.964.3773.