Our Border Collie “JJ” passed away January 27th,2011. Our family was crushed! But i was honored and thankful that I was into photography most of his life. I documented him, and now i can look at all those photos to remind me of him. I miss you buddy boy!
Below is a story of his life that I wrote for a scholarship in February. Enjoy. It might make you tear up.!
It’s a Dog’s Life…Documented
Picture eight Border Collies, falling over each other as they rushed into the living room to see who the visitors are. One puppy stood out that day in 2004. He was bigger than the others; he mowed over his siblings to reach us. Our family watched with delight when the big puppy made a sharp right turn, ran straight up to my mother and plopped down by her feet. That was the day he chose us. We named him JJ.
It is a shame that the only pictures I have of him from that time are the ones I hold in my mind’s eye. When JJ was two I got my first camera and ever since then taking pictures of him became important to me. In fact, taking pictures of people and animals has become central to my life. Some call it a light bulb moment, that special thing that ignites a passion. For me, getting the camera was a new way to capture moments both big and small. My family survived a house fire and lost all of our photos. I am determined that no life goes undocumented, that through the images I make they will never be forgotten.
From the time he was two months old JJ went to work with us, quickly becoming the mascot at the family business, a mailing and shipping store. As he got older he would alternate between time at the store and at my grandparents’ ranch. JJ didn’t just visit; he was a ranch hand, herding cows and sheep with equal energy. I have several thousand photos to chronicle our amazing dog. Like other Border Collies, herding was a skill that he knew with little training. He worked hard, always under grandpa’s watchful eye. He lived for the work, and when he took a break he did a little puddle jumping. Sitting in a mud puddle always made him smile.
JJ’s job at the family business was Official Greeter. He welcomed customers, herded staff to the biscuit jar, and brought smiles to the children and delivery drivers. I always have my camera with me, so whenever we took walks I got a chance to take pictures of JJ. One has become a customer favorite, it shows JJ looking like he’s enforcing the No Parking rule, sitting on the freshly-painted words in the parking lot.
JJ went everywhere with our family. He loved going to the ocean and visiting the lake, and he romped for hours whenever it snowed, never minding the cold and rolling snowballs with his nose. In early 2009 we weren’t sure whether he’d ever go on a trip again. He lost the use of his back legs, and even the veterinarian wasn’t sure what was going on. Fortunately, he regained 90-percent use of his legs. He adapted to his limitations and returned to his jobs at the store and the farm.
On January 27, 2011, my mother called home from a business trip to remind us to have the veterinarian check JJ because he hadn’t eaten for two days. We didn’t need the reminder, we were all worried. Later in the evening Mom went to her hotel room to rest and wait for our call. The lamp was flickering on and off, though she hadn’t touched it. The staff member who came to the room couldn’t find anything wrong. When he was there it worked well, when he left it began to flicker again.
What Mom did not know was that we learned that day that JJ had a heart paradigm and his chest was filling with blood; he had less than 24 hours to live. My dad, sister and I got JJ into the truck and drove to the ranch 30 miles away. We knew it was important that he be in the place he loved most. He was able to see his cows, quietly greet his grandpa, his grandma, and his son Smudge, a puppy from his final litter. He looked around the room at his family and quietly walked down the hallway and passed on.
The lights in my mom’s hotel room came on and stayed on. When we called her with the sad news, she said that had to be what happened, that the lights were his way of quietly saying goodbye to her. We are at peace.