When a puppy enters your life, the chaos is pretty closely married up to the snuggles that compel us to add 4 legged friends to our families. Spartacus was a bundle of energy with soulful eyes and a wet nose that took no time at all to endear himself to the Dudash family. So when he was diagnosed with blood cancer recently, as a 9 year old pup, the whole family was devastated, including 6 year old furry Lincoln. Treatment began immediately, including draining the fluid that was building up around his heart multiple times. He was also on pain meds to help him be more comfortable as he battled his illness.
When they realized they didn’t have much longer with Spartacus, Hannah realized she wanted desperately to have this time recorded while their family was complete. “I know this may sound crazy, but this portrait time is more about Spartacus than us,” she told me. Nope, not to anyone who has had a dog they loved!
We fit the Dudash family in last minute to create for them during this tender time. However, Hannah called to ask if it was at all possible to move the portrait time up closer. My studio manager Sara worked some magic to get us into the Dudash home sooner, in what we learned later, was the perfect time. Poor Spartacus was unable to lay down after we left because he couldn’t breathe from the fluid building up around his heart. So he tried to sleep while standing and laying his head down on a chair to get some rest. Scott stayed up with him all night to help him. The whole family knew Scott was going to take Spartacus’s passing the hardest.
My time with the Dudash family was sweet and filled with laughter and everyone soaking in as much of Spartacus as humanly possible. Spartacus for his part, was a perfect gentleman, clearly trying to keep his chin up and hide how much discomfort he was in. He was being strong for his people and even tried to play towel tug of war with Lincoln like they’ve done their whole life together. He wasn’t able to do one of his favorite past times, walking down the driveway to look for the bus bringing home his girls Eliza and Harper.
The day after these portraits were created, Spartacus’s pain was almost palpable for the Dudashs and they knew the end was imminent. They called in Peaceful Passages, to help Spartacus cross the rainbow bridge. Hannah told Scott he needed to let Spartacus know it was ok to let go because she sensed Sparticus was holding on for Scott. When I created the portraits, I saw Spartacus try and hold himself up tall for his pack leader, then when the girls moved in for portraits, he let himself succumb to the weariness and lay down.
The whole family is in grieving and missing their Spartacus. He’s left a void that won’t be easily filled. Lincoln keeps looking for Spartacus and wondering when his buddy will come spoon with him for a nap or chase him down for a towel. Loving deeply opens us up to anguish in loss, but the memories will grow more precious with each passing year.
So Dudashs, as you grieve may you always remember the towel tug of war games, the snuggles and the wet nose that warmed your hearts for 9 years and fill in the gap for Lincoln with the towel tug of war games!