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

“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

I’m taking Deb’s workshop Breaking The Mold this week. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to think about the art of photography from a new perspective. It is a very introspective course — much like a Master Class, where the answers aren’t given, but discovered. I’ll share much more about Breaking The Mold and why I am enjoying it later (for all of you photography folks who may be considering it). Meanwhile, here are a few of my own.

After dinner:


There are kindred spirits in this world.
Maybe you are blessed to have some of your own.
For me, they have come in many forms, but Deb and her family are among the dearest.
There are ties that bind–this military life and this photography journey.
And she was there at the start.

She photographed my firstborn son. I was her second client.
And she captured my baby belly and the homecoming of my husband as he met our three-month-old daughter for the first time.
This time, it was my turn to reciprocate.
Saying goodbye to her own husband until they meet again in Japan.
The comings, and goings, celebrations and heart-wrenching goodbyes.
We have seen it all.
And we are still so very blessed.

Enjoy your families mamas, if you are fortunate enough to have a whole one.
These separations are hard.
So hard.

But in the end I am grateful for this nomadic, chaotic life.
And for friendships that are made as we travel.
And for those that endure despite distance and life.
They are the truest kind.

Fair winds and following seas my dearest friends.
Until we meet again.

Lifeography Trinity Family Photographer 3
Lifeography Trinity Family Photographer 2
Lifeography Trinity Family Photographer

  • Peta - just beautiful Stephanie! So snuggly and sweet, this whole post is like one big cuddle xReplyCancel

    • Stephanie - Thank you so much Peta! It kinda felt like one big snuggle 😉 It was freezing, so all the kiddos were happy to actually be close. We think it was a blessing in disguise!ReplyCancel

  • kristi - beautiful, Stephanie…….just so filled with emotion and love….ReplyCancel

    • Stephanie - Kristi – your words are always so kind! Thank you – they do have such an amazing connection.ReplyCancel

  • rowe - beautiful images of a gorgeous family! those coloured ones on the beach are my favourite…ReplyCancel

“In twenty years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.” — Mary Schmich

Hey Mamas. I know how much you love photos. I know because they are the first things you proudly share with strangers. They adorn the walls of your precious home and sacred spaces. They are among the first items you would try to save if all of your possessions were being lost. They are what you post most often on social media. They tell your story of your family. They showcase the most beautiful parts of our messy, yet wondrous identity as mothers. I know because *you* have told me.

So, are you in the pictures? If not, get in. Do it for you — but even more, do it for them. Because these aren’t pretty studio pictures that simply show what you look like as you fake a smile and wait for a flash. They are portraits that will capture the essence of your relationship. They will showcase your mama love. And love is always beautiful.

In 20 years, they won’t care if you had lost the baby weight. If your hair was done or if it was a bad time. They will simply look back with gratitude and happy hearts because they will know they were adored and see you were beauty-full. Commission a portrait with your babies or grown kids, or your own mother. There will never be a perfect time or a better day.

On Saturday, May 3, Lifeography is offering limited edition Mommy & Me Sessions for mothers and their children in Trinity, Florida. Call or email to reserve a session to capture your relationship. It’s a perfect Mother’s Day gift – for yourself, a spouse or grandparent.

My friend and fellow photographer Deb Schwedhelm offers a beautiful perspective on The Perfect Time to have photos taken. It’s worth a read, but you may need a tissue.

Mommy And Me Mini Sessions Florida