LIFEOGRAPHY | Richmond Virginia Mechanicsville Maternity, Newborn, Baby, Child & Family Photographer » Lifestyle Portrait Photographer

Losing Harley

“The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common.
Our Lord God has made his greatest gift the commonest.”
-Martin Luther

Pet loss

“I’m coming over Grandma,” I said. “I’ll be there soon to take some photos.”

“I’m having a photoshoot?” she asked.

“Yeah, you and Harley.”

When I arrived she was still in her pajamas. I said no one would care. Mostly, I was grateful there was still time.

Two weeks ago my 80-year-old grandmother cradled her cream-colored poodle Harley in her lap. He has been her constant companion for 11 years. Since the month my grandfather, her husband of half a century passed. I am not a dog person, but I am a people person. And if someone loves their pets, I do too. We love the things those dearest to us do. And this dog is everything to her.

He was unusually quiet and nuzzled her chin. His breathing, labored. Ten days earlier she learned his emaciated frame was riddled with cancer and his passing was imminent.

The news was hard. Surreal.

Hard for all of us, as we watched this amazing woman who lives alone grieve for what would come too soon. The loss of her beloved pet, her companion and friend.

She is most afraid of the quiet in her home. Of the silence that will pierce the air and make being alone, lonely.

There has been so much loss in her long life. Heartbreak too.

When you are 80, you’ve let go of most of the things that don’t matter in life. And the things you cling to — well they are love and life. They are sacred. And important.

She left a message asking me to call today. She needed to talk. And that is unusual. She is guarded and confident and not often vulnerable.

But today my cousin had come to her, to do what she could not. To have Harley laid to rest, and then brought home to be buried.

She is burying part of her heart in that tiny grave today and it is difficult to watch her endure it. It is almost impossible.

But I am grateful for God and grace and time that heals, because in times like this, that is all there is. It is the only thing and it is everything.


My grandmother Jan is not online much. And she will probably never read this. But if you’d like to leave a kind word for her, I will print them out and pass them on. She likes letters. Those kind of things are still important to her.

  • Sara Beth - I thought I was not a dog person either until a little black poodle stole my heart! Praying for you, Jan–for good memories and time that heals!ReplyCancel

  • Martha Schuster - Sweet Jan,
    How lucky your baby Harley was to have you. I firmly believe that Heaven could not be Heaven without ALL of our loved ones to surround us in that pearly splendor. Harley will be among them waiting. May your heart not be as heavy, and know that he loved you as much as you loved him. Many thoughts and prayers sent your way.ReplyCancel

  • Clair - How precious and heartbreaking at the same time. That’s wonderful that you had the foresight to make the time to take these dear photos. God bless Jan and Harley. <3ReplyCancel

  • Val Spring - All I can think of is what a lucky lucky dog Harley was to have someone love him and care for him as much as you Grandma did. And she’s lucky to have such a wonderful granddaughter like you, Stephanie. You have a very beautiful grandma. tell her that 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Rena Phillips - I know how much Harley meant to you Jan and how much you meant to him, and my heart breaks for your loss. You became everything to each other, constant companions and life was so much brighter for you with Harley. I watched your love for him grow from the beginning and listened about all the funny antics he would perform while you were at work just to show that he could. I so wish you did not have to go through this. I love you my dear sister and I wish I could ease this pain for you, but know I can’t, all we can do is trust that God will give you the strength and energy to go on and remember all the good Harley gave to your life. All of my love RenaReplyCancel

  • Nona Akins - Jan, just know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I think and talk about you often. We have been friends for 45 years and I cherish every one. Will call you soon. Love you NonaReplyCancel

  • Lauren - Aunt Jan, I am so very sorry to hear about Harley! I do know how hard it is to lose a pet, there are no words to express the feeling. I do remember when you got him and he was such a cute puppy! I love these pictures, they allowed us to see inside the deepest emotion between you and Harley. Sending my love to you!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - Dear Jan, I am sorry to hear of Harley’s passing. What beautiful images Stephanie has taken and shared. They show such love. May you find comfort in wonderful memories. Sending my thoughts and prayers from Australia. -Rachel Devine (a friend of your granddaughter)ReplyCancel

  • kristi - these are the most poignant dog human photos I think I have ever seen. I love your grandmother for not feeling the need to fuss or muss and change out of her pajamas, and for just embracing the beautiful moments of joyful connection with her Harley. I am so sad for her loss, because I am a dog person, and understand only too well how intertwined we become with these amazing creatures and the way they wrap themselves around our hearts and souls. bless you for capturing these for her. what a profound remembrance they will be for not only her, but for your children, as they illustrate what an obviously secure, amazing and loving human being she most undoubtedly is.ReplyCancel

  • amy boring - Dear Grandma Jan,

    It’s the hardest thing. Our sweet furry friends oh how they steal our hearts, comfort our souls, and adore us like no other. It hurts just thinking about losing them. What a sweet adorable little pooch. I am so sorry for your loss.

    peace and love,

    Amy BoringReplyCancel

  • Suzanne Spigner - Aunt Jan, You were so much alike, the perfect pair. That little mischievous boy gave you the time of your life….and he was rewarded with your love 🙂 Thinking of you and loving you always, SuzanneReplyCancel

  • Nancy Edwards - Dear Jan, I can’t put my feelings for your loss in words. Just remember all the good times you and Harley had. He was a great companion for you and is now riding a motorcycle in heaven. Love you,ReplyCancel

  • Debbie Shelton - Aunt Jan, I was so sorry to hear that you had lost Harley. I know you loved each other and he will be part of you always. I still remember those that I’ve lost and think of them often. Dogs come into our lives, love us unconditionally, leave paws prints on our hearts, and we are forever changed. I pray your grieving and reflection eventually bring you solace. I love you. DebbieReplyCancel

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