Our pets are our life. We grow with them, make memories and share everything with them. Losing them is the equivalent of losing a beloved family member. Our pets are there to comfort us during the worst times and rejoice during the best times. However, when it’s time for them to go, it can be devastating for us. Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer Ross Taylor documented the intimate last moments of a beloved pet’s life and their owner’s painful farewell. The powerful series, Last Moments, documents the final goodbyes to the four legged friends who changed their owners’ lives forever.
Ross Taylor, a Denver-based freelance photographer and filmmaker, 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.”
Taylor, an assistant professor at the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder, visited pet owners in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, after they called the at-home pet euthanasia veterinarian service Lap of Love.
“A cornerstone idea of my work is this — I want people going through traumatic experiences to know they’re not alone. And that the pain of such experiences should not be taken lightly.” – Ross Taylor
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.” (Ross Taylor)
“She’s always been my companion. Coco was there for me when he was on deployment,” said Rebecca Cassity, as she fights back tears. Her husband, Drew (at right) was in the military and also struggled in the final moments. During the procedure Dr. McVety reassures her with a hug and consoling words: “This is better treatment than any one of us would get.” (Ross Taylor)
“Leigh Zahn fights back tears as she lays with her dog, Spencer, in her lap a final time, just moments after Spencer passed.” (Ross Taylor)
“I always felt safe with him,” said Juliet Rubio as she laid 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.” As he started to die she cried over him saying over and over, “I love you, I love you. Soon, you’re going to be free again.” (Ross Taylor)
“I tried to do more, I tried to do all I can. But they said there’s nothing more I can do,” Kiara Manrique said while weeping at the loss of her dog. At left is her sister, Kimberly, and veterinarian Nil Wilkins (unseen) who later reached out to comfort her. (Ross Taylor)
Wendy Lehr met Dr. Erica Unz with tears in her eyes. As they settled into the living room, thunder boomed outside. A heavy rain pattered against the roof. Mimosa, center, didn’t move and Wendy Lehr notices it. “She’s normally scared of it.” After awhile, Erica Unz asked if they’re ready. “I don’t know if we’ll ever be ready, but I guess it’s time,” she said before starting to openly sob. It was one of the hardest cases I’ve witnessed and brought me to tears immediately. I felt so sad for them. (Ross Taylor)
Vanessa Gangadyal consoles her son, Ian, 8, while her husband Michael Gangadyal pets their dog, Ally, shortly before it’s passing. At right is Erica Unz, a veterinarian with a deep compassion, who comforts the family in the difficult moment. (Ross Taylor)
Marquita Leibe paced back and forth shortly before bending down to be near her dog, Daisy, minutes before she is put to sleep. At right is her husband, Donald. Shortly after, he stepped outside to compose himself, overwhelmed with grief. (Ross Taylor)
“I don’t feel so good right now,” said Jennifer Hoch (right), as she kisses Shadow, her cat, goodbye. Shadow was dying of cancer, and Hoch was clearly in a bit of shock. I felt so much sadness for her, as well as her friend, Ruby Nelms (left). Nelms said, “I wouldn’t let her go through this alone.” As Shadow died, some of Hoch’s final words to her were, “You’re my angel.” (Ross Taylor)
“When I was sick, she knew something was wrong,” said Bob Lutz about their dog, Heidi, who looked up at them moments before she was euthanized due to recent substantial declines in health. His wife, Cindy, added: “she helped take away our pain.” At right, watching, is their other dog, Winnie. (Ross Taylor)
These powerful photos remind us how precious time is that we spend with our beloved pets. If these images were capable of moving you, then please visit Ross Taylor’s website and Instagram to see more. All images were taken by Ross Taylor and used with permission.