Bow-wowing out: Photographer shares heartbreaking portaits of owners saying goodbye to their beloved pets as they near the end of their lives
Grab a tissue because this photographer who takes bittersweet photos of pets at the end of their lives has shared some of the heart wrenching snaps.
The snapper, who takes the photos for free, said she gets hundreds of messages every week asking for help and offers to be flown all over the world.
Lauren Smith Kennedy, 28, who lives in Portland, Maine, will meet up with the owners to take poignant final photos with their pets, who are having to be put down, usually due to illness. Oscar, a blind chihuahua, gets a special nose rub from his owner as they make the most of their time together
Sadie and her devoted owner Christina play around in the leaves as they share a special kiss in an autumnal photoshoot
Smith-Kennedy said she is always overcome by the lengths owners go to for their pets – especially Baxter on his special wagon, which his owners bought when he struggled to move around due to a degenerative disease
Although Smith-Kennedy thinks every shoot she does is special, there are some that stay with her more than others.
She said: ‘One that really stands out was with a dog named Baxter, who had a degenerative disease.
‘We did the shoot, and his owner had got a wagon to move him around, and that really stood out to me.
‘It seemed like a symbol of how far an owner will go to help their animal and how dedicated they are.’
Baxter the dog was too tired and poorly, suffering from a degenerative disease, to walk and had to be wheeled around on a wagon for the shoot
Oscar the blind chihuahua with his owner Hannah is given a sweet cuddle as she kisses his head to say goodbye
Staffy the cat got to enjoy a tipple in a fancy martini glass for her shoot with photographer Lauren Smith-Kennedy. Although she does a lot of shoots with dogs, she photographs all sorts of pets
Although Lauren does a lot of photos outside, this one of Cheddar with his family was taken at his home
Baxter with his owners Nina and Robert enjoying some precious time together cuddling and kissing
Capturing such emotional moments have proved difficult for the animal-lover, who admits she often breaks down while looking back at the photos.
She said: ‘It’s the profound heartbreak you feel knowing the life you have shared with that animal and anyone who has had a pet can relate to that.’
‘When I’m there, I’m doing my job and if I let my own feelings become a distraction it would take away from giving the family the gift of remembrance.’
‘But when I’m driving home and when I sit and look at the pictures, that’s when my emotions catch up on me.’
Best of friends: Owner Tiffany kisses her dog Duchess as the two snuggle up together for their photoshoot
Duchess is happy to return the favour and give her owner a smooch on the lips in poignant final photographs that Tiffany will be able to treasure
Smith-Kennedy’s main job is raising money and overseeing social media for Saco River Wildlife Center in Limington, Maine, which includes taking photos of injured animals while they are treated at the base.
It was after losing her own precious cat Tilly in a freak accident that she decided to start doing end of life photography.
She said: ‘A friend of a friend had to put their dog down, and they reached out to me actually asking about getting an urn for him.
Owner Denyse cradles her cat Staffy in her hands for the heartbreaking photoshoot. Lauren Smith-Kennedy takes photos of all types of pets including cats and rats
Beautiful dog Indy gazes into the camera as she is shown some love by her owners during their session with photographer Lauren
‘I helped them out with that, and said if they were interested I would be happy to do a free photoshoot with them.
‘So I did the shoot and obviously with their permission I shared it on social media, and it just went from there.’
Smith-Kennedy goes to great lengths to capture the essence of the relationship between the pets and their owners.
She said: ‘I usually prompt people rather than asking them to do poses.
Poignant pet portrait: An image of Indy on his own will no doubt bring some comfort to his owners after he is gone
Smith-Kennedy said: ‘It really is a truly heartbreaking time for any family on their own journey of grief’ pictured: Staffy the cat being croomed by her owner Denyse
The photographer says she contains her own emotions during a shoot but can be in tears when looking back at the images. Pictured: owners Nina and Robert with Baxter
‘So I’ll say something like, why don’t you sit down and give your pet some love, instead of saying to cuddle or pat them or whatever.
‘That way they can do whatever that feels like to them.’
Since she began, Lauren has launched the Tilly Project, named after her beloved cat, which is a network of photographers all over the world who can offer free end of life pet photography.
She said: ‘I started the Tilly Project to help connect people with photographers local to them who would do these shoots as well.
‘I was getting people offering to fly me across the country to do a shoot, and I wasn’t able to do that.
‘It’s so amazing to have been able to start something like this.’