Celebrating Senior Dog Eleanor with a Rainbow Session at South Park

Losing a beloved companion is one of the most painful experiences a pet guardian can go through. Reaching out for a Rainbow Session as a way to say goodbye can be a very healing and cathartic experience that allows you to honor your pet and celebrate her life and also find peace in the realization that the journey to the Rainbow Bridge may not be far off.

Such was the reason Lauren and her husband Travis contacted me after receiving a devastating diagnosis for their ten-year-old Pomchi named Eleanor Rigby.

“[She] has cancer…mast cell disease. Our vet told us not to expect to have her through the holidays, but we are lucky that she is still with us and doing well, all things considered,” said Lauren upon first reaching out to inquire about a Rainbow Session. Hearing from her a month out from this initial timeframe meant time was of the essence in getting this sweet senior scheduled to ensure her family would have portraits of her while she was still looking and feeling good.

Welcoming Home Eleanor Rigby

Lauren and Travis adopted Eleanor from their local shelter when they lived in Kansas while looking for a friend for their other pup, Peanut. At the time, Ellie (as she was known at the shelter) was three-years-old and fresh from an animal hoarder’s home that held 19 dogs and 10 cats.

“We were initially interested in another dog, but the shelter told us that dog was not good with other dogs, and they suggested Ellie,” explained Lauren. “We are both big music people and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have an Eleanor Rigby. Peanut got along well with her, and I picked her up the next day from the shelter. She’s been glued to me ever since then.”

With a Little Help from My Friends

Also glued to Eleanor is Peanut, the family attention hog who loves people and remains very protective of his sister, but not in an aggressive way. Lauren prepared me that we’d likely have to work around him to get portraits of Ellie, but given that she is more comfortable around him, it would be best if Peanut was nearby.

senior Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix near the Maple Springs Gazebo at South Park during a January Rainbow Session

“[Ellie is] very nervous around new people and tries to run away from other animals,” cautioned Lauren. “She warms up best when you ignore her for a bit so she can feel you out. Ellie has a very expressive face when she is relaxed, and we’d love to try and capture that side of her.”

She added, “Ellie has a beautiful smile and a cute little play snarl that she does when she is really happy. Her tail also spins instead of wagging. She is super loving and loyal, and I would love to be able to break through her nervousness to capture some of these traits.”

Related: 5 Things I’ve Learned as a Pet Loss Grief Certified Photographer

A Rainbow Session at South Park

During her pre-session consultation, Lauren also revealed that Eleanor loves water and being outdoors and asked about using South Park as their session location. It’s a place close to their home where the couple felt Ellie would really open up as she played in the shallow creeks that meander along the trails where Ellie and Peanut love to run.

senior dogs run the trails at South Park during a January Rainbow Session

Having spent many years exploring South Park, Lauren and Travis led me to a few of their favorite, more secluded spots, which included a wooded trail lined with beautiful moss-covered fallen trees. It was there where Peanut exhausted himself running through the crispy brown leaves while Eleanor enjoyed some special one-on-one time with her mom and dad.

senior Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix runs the trails and enjoys cuddles with her mom at South Park in Bethel Park near Pittsburgh

Kisses and scritches from Lauren led to a handful of Ellie’s more intimate portraits, including a had-to-have photo of her smiling ear-to-ear as Lauren laid on the pets. She looks so content here and I adore the way she closed her eyes and leaned into this peaceful moment.

Related: 3 Gifts an End-of-Life Session Offers As Your Pet Prepares to Cross the Rainbow Bridge

Fine Art Albums: a Rainbow Session Favorite

“I would love to get some nice pictures of Ellie to remember her, but doing this shoot is not something we really planned for in advance because we didn’t expect Ellie to be passing away soon,” shared Lauren. “We’d like to focus on a few products that will be really meaningful when she is gone.”

At their ordering appointment, with 25 irresistible portraits that Lauren simply couldn’t cut, it became apparent quickly that a fine art album was the best choice. She opted for a luxurious sandy-brown velvet cover material that complemented both Ellie and Peanut’s coloring and included images that ranged from more traditional posed portraits of the whole family to action shots in which Ellie forgot all about the camera and really let loose.

For her complimentary 5×7 matted gift print included with her session fee, Lauren chose one of her and Ellie in which I’m not sure who is smiling bigger.

The Value in Rainbow Sessions

All of my clients who have booked a Rainbow Session tell me that our time together provided closure and helped them process their grief in ways they never expected by giving them an opportunity to process their feelings and capture lasting memories full of joy, gratitude, and the love they have for their pet. There is no greater honor than being asked to document these irreplaceable connections. To celebrate that deep bond and the incredible impact that little four-legger had on your life. To tell your story your way.

Priority scheduling is available for aged/ailing pets whose session is needed urgently. Book a Rainbow Session and jump the line. Choose your adventure below to begin.

Did you enjoy this post? Great, there’s more coming your way because it’s part of a photography blog circle featuring pet photographers from all over the world! This week, each of us is turning our focus toward end-of-life (EOL) sessions. Next up is Angela Schneider of Big White Dog Photography in Spokane, Washington, putting her grief training into action. Continue to click the link at the end of each post in the blog circle until you eventually find your way back here. If you get lost along the way, just look for the trail of dog hair. I won’t be far off…

2 thoughts on “Celebrating Senior Dog Eleanor with a Rainbow Session at South Park

  1. Angela Schneider says:

    That image of Peanut standing by to protect Eleanor Rigby is everything to me today. Peanut’s desire to protect his sister is what I feel when Bella is guarding me. She is my Peanut. It’s such a perfect representation of the bond two creatures form with each other. The whole session is gorgeous but that one image jumped out at me and I’m going to see it in my eyelids for the rest of the day.

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