This is where is all began for me. Photography. I had the time, but I was running out of it. My beloved, my dog, my Sigmund was getting older. I guess I didn't realize how old he was getting as in the end it truly went too quickly. But this is where is began for me, in the end.
Sigmund was my best friend. A replacement for a boyfriend that went off to college. Sigmund followed me to college, then to North Carolina, and then to Chicago. He was there to meet my husband Brian back in College Station, Texas. They bonded over peeing in the backyard together, but then fought over me for the next few years. It wasn't until Chicago that we all truly came together. Sigmund walked with us on Starbucks runs, Sigmund came along for food order pick-ups. As he started to get older and his hind end failed him a bit, we took apart the bed and we all slept on the mattress, on the floor. Sigmund still jumped up on it, not quite understanding he didn't need to anymore.
Brian and I got engaged. We talked of having a small pretend marriage ceremony in our condo courtyard so that Sigmund could be a part of it. But the winter was coming. The days got colder. Sigmund got older and then he got sick. He wasn't getting better and then he wasn't eating. A trip to his local vet sent us to the specialist clinic when a flawed test showed some internal bleeding. We packed his bed in the back of the Volkswagen Golf and headed to north to the specialist. They wouldn't let us stay with him during the tests and said it would be a while. Having not eaten a bite all day, we went off in search for dinner convincing ourselves he was okay. He wasn't.
The doctor started out with the good news, the other vet had made a mistake. Sigmund had cancer. His liver had grown the size off almost his entire abdomen. With blood transfusions, poking, and prodding we could buy him a small amount of time. There would be suffering and I had seen him suffer. I was there where he fell down the stairs because he was too weak to make all five of them. I was there when he cowered behind me during the cold gust of wind because it was too cold for him. I was there when all the playing he could do with the neighbor puppy was to stand there and stare.
Suddenly, it was all there before me. I couldn't let him hurt anymore. I couldn't let him struggle anymore. On his bed the three of us held each other as the doctor administered the drugs. And all too quickly it was over. Embraced in my affection, suddenly he was gone. The last breath of air released from his lungs as his spirit moved on.
I don't remember how long we stayed there. It may have been minutes, it may have been forever. I just remember the crying, the loss, the aged bottle of Balgownie we had been saving for a special occasion. All night we cried until sleep finally overtook us. When the sun came in the next morning, instantly the pain of the night before flooded back in, more crying, more tears.
I was taking photography classes at the Chicago Photography Center. I had an assignment due that week. I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to go to class. I didn't want to cry or feel. But I did it. I did it of my fiancé. We embraced the cold day and made our first walk alone down to the park where we would take Sigmund. With his empty collar and tattered leash in hand we went there to remember him.
Those were some of the first photos I took and still some of the most powerful. I've since been told and critiqued of their flaws, but they mean so much to me. The pain, the sadness, the emptiness, it's all something I want to remember. It means I once held on to something important and dear. It means I had a great loss. I want to remember that. As much as I didn't want to hurt, I wanted to remember it with every ounce of my being. It means he was never truly or completely lost. This is photography.
This is where is started for me. Capturing raw emotion, coupled it in the right setting, the right light, and the effect it has on me is profound. Capturing a moment, an era, and helping someone remember. This is why I am a photographer.