“The focus of Last Moments, in part, is to help those going through this process to know they’re not alone, and that their grief should not be overlooked, nor minimized by others.”
Ross Taylor is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder who has worked as a photojournalist for more than 20 years.
During this time, his pictures have captured the stark realities of life in some of the world’s most adverse living conditions and often focus on social issues related to, or as a direct result of, traumatic events. “It’s my hope that such documentary work in this realm can help build empathy toward others, by lending more insight to conditions we share,”
For his new series, Last Moments, Taylor focuses his camera on a certain trauma that many of us have had or will experience in our lives — the loss of a beloved family pet. With the guidance of licensed veterinarians, Taylor was allowed access to capture the emotional final moments between owners and their pets. The resulting images are a sincere and respectful representation of the undeniable bonds between humans and their animal companions.
Marquita Leibe cries near her dog, Daisy, minutes after she is put to sleep. With her is her husband, Donald (left). Shortly after, he stepped outside to compose himself, overwhelmed with grief.
Producing this body of work has been one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had. It’s fundamentally shifted how I react when someone tells me they lost a pet, or that a pet is dying. My heart is more open toward those going through this process, and I have a profoundly deep respect for veterinarians who do this daily. They’re impressive people.
I was moved by my time witnessing the emotions with each experience. In almost every case, everyone was moved to tears, sometimes sobbing profusely. But all of these families are so grateful to the veterinarians for their compassion. This blend of heartbreak and compassion is striking. The work they do is important.
There’s one particular image of a woman who is anguishing out loud over her dog, just moments after she realized that her dog had died. She’s cradling her pet’s face tenderly in her right hand, while her husband and the veterinarian, Dr. Dani McVety, reach out to comfort her. It was one of the early cases I witnessed, and it had a profound impact on me. It was in that moment that I realized the importance of documenting the intensity of the bond.
My heart broke for her in that moment.