As anyone who has ever had the privilege of loving a dog can tell you, an old dog is a treasure in your life. We laugh at their silliness as puppies and enjoy their companionship as adult dogs. But when a dog earns the badge of "old," there is wisdom in his eyes and a depth to his soul that takes the relationship to a whole new level.
A few months ago, I lost my 14-year-old lab, Otis. It was a heart rending time for the whole family, and as we poured over pictures of our sweet departed friend, we couldn't help but marvel at how we had rolls upon rolls (because yes, film once came on a roll!) of pictures of Otis as a young pup, but almost none of him in his senior years. Not because he was less loved, but more because he was less likely to strike those silly photographic poses that so often had us reaching for our cameras.
Fortunately, we do have a few great shots of our boy in his golden years — images that I will treasure forever. But none are nearly as stunning and soul-searching as those captured by photographer Pauline Zonneveld for her latest work, the Good Old Dog Project.
Zonneveld launched the Good Old Dog Project roughly three years ago. In that time she has photographed more than 188 dogs, all of whom have reached or surpassed their expected life spans. The project began in the winter of 2010 when Zonneveld recalls she noticed her neighbor's elderly Australian shepherd, Kali, "walking gingerly, with such a gentle expression."
She decided then and there to photograph the dog and surprise the neighbor with a portrait, but sadly Kali died before she got the chance. Zonneveld says she realized then that the clock is always ticking for these pups, and she set out to capture as many dogs as she could in their golden years.
"Almost weekly I receive e-mails from my customers telling me how much the portraits I made of their dogs mean to them and help them after their beloved dog has passed on," Zonneveld told me in an email.
She charges pet owners only for the cost of the portrait prints, and displays the images in her studio and in galleries and coffee shops around her hometown of Portland, Ore. You can also check out her work at Zonneveld's site for The Good Old Dog Project.
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