Dukey, a three-legged black Labrador retriever from Houston “crossed over the rainbow bridge” last week. As his owner, Jordan Roberts, prepared to say goodbye to her beloved pet, she asked her friend, photographer Robyn Arouty, to take on a very special project – documenting Dukey’s final day on Earth before being put to sleep. Arouty, an animal lover herself, agreed wholeheartedly and snapped pictures of Dukey eating hamburgers, running happily at a water playground, and spending time with Roberts and their family friends, including Dukey’s groomer. The story has gone viral, touching hearts all over the world.
“Most people are so overcome with sadness when their pets get sick, so they don’t think about celebration, not to mention photographing it,” Arouty tells Yahoo Shine about Roberts’s decision to document her pal’s last day. Dukey, who was around 8, was suffering from a returning bout of cancer. He lost his leg the first time he battled the disease about a year ago, and a vet had determined that the tumor was too big to remove. So Roberts prepared to say goodbye to the dog she adopted in 2011.
The two women had met and become friends through Houston’s animal rescue community. And the project was extra meaningful for Arouty, who has lost three dogs of her own in the past two years, including 16-year-old Maya, whom Arouty calls her “soul mate.” She adds, “I have learned a lot through the process of grief,” something she kept in mind while photographing Roberts and Dukey.
The dog was later peacefully put down on a blanket outside. “I died today,” a blog post written from Dukey’s perspective noted on Arouty’s website, which is currently offline due to the influx of traffic “And I ate a lot of hamburgers.”
The story of Roberts saying goodbye to her pet has prompted plenty of emotional reaction from many who have gone through the heartbreaking situation of saying goodbye to a four-legged companion. “Dukey’s story has created this beautiful forum for people to share stories of their beloved pets who have passed away. We read so many comments over the first 48 hours after the story was posted, but with all the sharing and feature stories, it’s been beyond anything we ever could have imagined,” says Arouty. Both she and Roberts have been contacted by people who say Dukey’s story has helped them remember their own deceased pet and cope with the loss.
Although taking pictures of a dog who is about to die might have been too overwhelming for some photographers, Arouty couldn’t think of a better way to support her friend and say goodbye to a beloved family member. “It was beautiful, really,” she says. “I felt honored.”
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