How Loss Made Me A Pet Photographer

Written by Courtney Bryson

No One Wants to Talk About the Loss of a Pet

Today my Google calendar reminded me that 10 years ago today Renee drove into downtown Atlanta to meet a family surrendering Sissy the Siberian Husky. Sissy’s first family dad was in the military and when he was deployed his young wife was alone with their two kids under 3 and young husky all living in a small apartment. Renee and I had just begun our adventures in fostering dogs and Sissy was only our second husky foster dog.

From the minute Sissy arrived we knew she was ours. She was immediately my first husky Bella’s best friend. Even now, more than 7 years since her death, losing Sissy changed Bella. 

Sissy was our “momma” dog. She had the innate ability to help our foster dogs come out of their shells, to referee and lead games of chase, and to keep everyone safe.

Sissy was special. One of my favorite stories to tell about Sissy was when she saved all the dogs from a copperhead snake. Sissy never barked or woo’d or howled like the other huskies so when Renee and I heard her howling in the yard we knew something was off. At the time, the house we were in had the dog’s crates in the finished basement and we would leave the backdoor open when we were home so the dogs could go in and out as they choose. We were shocked when we ran down the stairs and saw EVERY dog (3 fosters plus 3 of our own) sitting in their crate with the doors open while Sissy was in the yard. Sissy was still wooing outside. We found her on the patio where she had cornered the snake. She had somehow made all the dogs go get in their crates and then called us to help her. 


Sissy had a major heart attack in November of 2012 and died instantly. The shock of losing her broke me. We should have had more time. She was only 7 or so years old. Renee was in the yard with her, and one moment she was leading a game of chase and the next she was gone.

I have only two regrets when it comes to Sissy. One is that she never got to live at the farm. She would have loved playing in the huge yard. She would have loved everything about farm life. 

My second regret is that the photos I have shared her, are all that I have of her and I had to pull them from my Facebook page because even the phone I took them on is long gone. I’m sitting in my office now and the walls around me are filled with the faces I love. Some of them are still here with me, but others have already gone on. But I have no photos of Sissy on my walls or in my albums. 

No one wants to talk about the loss of a pet, but we want to talk about their life. We want to share their stories and remember. Remember how plush her fur was, like a rabbit. Remember how happy she was when you shared a bite of dinner. Remember how joyful she was when she got to run in the yard. And honestly, having my memories only on a screen isn’t enough. 

I am a pet photographer because I have lost. I am a pet photographer because I know what it is to have that hole inside. I am a pet photographer because I want people to have something tangible to hold on to because I know how it feels to not have that.

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