•••You may have noticed that I’ve been really quiet for a while: not updating my blog or Facebook or anything about The Animal Tales. I really wanted to say something, to tell you what was going on and that I’d be back—I just needed a minute (or a handful of months) to regroup and get my shit together. But, at the same time, I also didn’t want to admit that I need to take some time away, it felt weak and stupid. And then at some point, it just became easier to avoid giving an explanation.
But since my plan isn’t to stay gone for good, I figured that I needed to say something to you. If you are reading this you’re one of the people who have supported me and my quirky little niche in the world: thank you. The post below is a bit more personal than I generally get, but you’ll probably understand that sometimes saying goodbye means taking a break.•••
For a long time, I’ve wanted to let you know why myself and the Animal Tales kind of dropped off the face of the earth for the last 6 months or so, but there is something about actually putting the words down which makes me feel a bit silly and a bit sad. And then I felt sad about feeling silly. Emotions can be vicious.
Last June my dog, Izzy, died…it was terrible, and the world seemed like it needed to stop.
The world didn’t actually stop, that would have been silly, but I did.
I just stopped writing and photographing. Instead, I picked up a lot more freelance work. Life went on, but not creatively. I was grieving, and I just didn’t want to do grief again.
This wasn’t the first time this had happened: my mother died two weeks after I graduated from college. It was breast cancer, (that is what I say when I’m in public, in my head I’m still raging mad and confused and curse a lot about that time in my life). I documented the last few weeks of my mom’s life…me, my camera and mortality got to know each other really well. Even though I had my mom’s permission to photograph her final weeks, I put my camera away right after she passed. I didn’t shoot again for a few years. I got on with life, got a job in design and marketing and I got a dog, Dexter…he is very old now but still keeps me company.
When my dad died, the same thing happened: I had just gotten my masters degree in photography. Dad died, I put my camera away again and went back into design and marketing. And again, I also got a dog, Izzy.
I’m obviously an animal person, but there is something more here. I don’t know if I put an unfair weight on my dogs of being “family” given the times they entered my life.
When it comes to Izzy, I don’t know what I could say to make you understand how special she was. She was nuts (as Jack Russells charmingly tend to be), and loving, and lived every moment like it was the best moment of her life.
Everyone says that about dogs that they “live in the moment”…but Izzy was different, she celebrated, savored and covered each moment in a frantic type of love that made you think every moment was happening to her for the first and last time. The first 3 years we had her, she’d literally wake bursting with excitement because we were still there (she was a rescue).
Do you know how awesome that feels?
To know that you made somebody’s day just by managing to not die in your sleep.
When it came to the Animal Tales, Izzy was like having an adoring yet inept assistant. She’d following me around, steal my little animals and remove their legs, sneak bites of the cakes that I made and listen to the stories I’d spin about each animal as I was shooting.
To Izzy, I wasn’t crazy; I was fascinating.
She was in charge of team morale. When you work for yourself, it can be very lonely, and frustrating. She and Dexter helped keep everything in perspective until I built up the confidence to do what I do.
Izzy is gone now; cancer came and we had to say goodbye. Again I put my camera away.
I cried every day for months-not all day every day…that was reserved for the first few days. But every time I would pick up my camera or a little animal I would fall to bits. So I put everything away. That didn’t help. Grief isn’t something you can manhandle into a trunk (trust me I’ve tried). So I rode it out. I still think of Izzy often; in fact, I am crying right now as I proofread this. But I’ve had some time and distance to reflect.
Finally, I can tell that things are coming full circle again. I’ve begun making new stories for the Animal Tales. First on the tissues I hadn’t cried into, then on post-it notes and when I finally upgraded to a notebook I knew it was time to plan new shoots. I’ve dug out my camera and dusted off my little animals.
Somewhere along the way, I decided that I can make Izzy absence tolerable
by making it count for something.
In Izzy’s memory, a portion of all the Animal Tales cards that I sell will be going to a rescue organization to help other dogs find their people. It isn’t going to bring Izzy back, but I think that knowing the work is going to help other fuzzy souls will be a salve for mine.
Right now the rescue I’ve chosen is Every Dog’s Dream out of Johnson City, NY. I’ve worked with the rescue personally, and their dedication goes above and beyond. They are one of the few 100% volunteer rescues around. This means that every bit donated goes to caring for the animals: whether it be food or medical expenses.
2015 turned out to be a rough year, but I’ve got big plans for 2016 and the Animal Tales (and I have a feeling Izzy will somehow be with me every step of the way).