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A Story of Love & Loss-Guest Post by Nicole Mlakar

July 31, 2011

It’s never easy going to a session of a sick or ailing pet. I can definitely say it’s the absolute hardest part of an otherwise pretty awesome job. I selfishly think of my Ella and how at age eleven I’m often reminded that she will leave me one day too. I wonder how I will ever survive that and if I’ll have the strength to celebrate her life instead of mourn her passing. It’s just an all around really sad moment for me. Regardless, I put on my happy face and come to each of these sessions with positivity, love and sheer determination to capture some truly meaningful last moments. Something that the parents can cherish long after their loved one is gone.

The thing about this session though was there was a whole other story to tell. When Taryn first contacted me she asked if I’d be ok with photographing her pups, Charlie and Maximus, with some of her late husband’s military items. I of course had no objection to this and I couldn’t help but notice that her email domain was the American Widow Project. I had heard about this somewhere before so I went to the site and found out that Taryn was the Founder and Executive Director of this non-profit organization for military widows. I read about the loss of her husband, Michael, at the young age of 23 and how she took all of that pain and anguish and turned it into a positive place of empowerment and celebration for other widows of war. It was an awe inspiring story and yet all I could think about was how it just wasn’t fair. She’d already been through enough and now she’s going to lose Charlie… her and Michael’s special pup.

After Michael had been killed Charlie stepped in to watch over Taryn. He never left her bedside and he gave her a reason to get up each day. When Charlie got sick late last year, Taryn did everything she could for Charlie but the cancer and the chemo was just too much for him to bear any longer. A few weeks after our session Charlie told his mom it was time to go and once again Taryn was faced with the loss of a beloved. Taryn wrote about Charlie on her blog and it is a beautiful and touching remembrance of him.

I share all of this with you for a few reasons. First, I am so totally inspired by Taryn and her strength and accomplishments and I honestly just want everyone to know what this amazing woman is doing. Second, I want to honor and celebrate Charlie by sharing his story of love and devotion for his momma. His spirit lives on!

Brother Maximus is holding down the home front now and keeping Taryn on her toes. He’s an amazing little pup and they are crazy for each other. Thank you so very much Taryn for allowing me to capture these memories for you.

We would like to thank Nicole Mlakar-Livingston for sharing this beautiful story and her work with us. To see more of her work and to schedule a session with your dogs, click here.











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About Austin Dog Zone

Austin Dog Zone formed in 2011. We offer dog training for all breeds and temperaments. We are committed to staying up-to-date on the most current scientific research available for dogs regarding both behavior and wellness. Our methods are effective, dog-friendly and family friendly.

1 Comments to “A Story of Love & Loss-Guest Post by Nicole Mlakar”

  1. April says:

    Oh, this is a beautiful post, a beautiful story, beautiful animals & humans. Thank you for sharing.
    This takes me right back to my Winston’s cancer journey too. His “sister,” Sam died 10 months earlier of the same cancer, their (human) father & I were divorcing too. I was an emotional mess but desperately wanted something happy from that time even if so much of didn’t feel happy. I too opted for photos. I cherish them. They are a reminder to me that even during the heartache, our dogs are there to walk with us as long as they can. They are an amazing gift and reminder to just enjoy that moment. My favorite moments were often the walks with Winston. When his nose was to the ground, I couldn’t help but smile, and I always knew in those moments he was pain-free (or at least too distracted to feel the pain)….and happy.
    My heart goes out to you….

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