During a photo shoot, I always find myself drawn to my subjects by something that is uniquely them. Each one is special in their own way but every now and then, I meet an animal that touches me on a retrospective level; one that makes me examine my own life. Todo is one of those animals.
Todo is a Yorkshire Terrier, adopted through Buddy Dog Humane Society 15 years ago. At the time, he was only a year old. That makes this little one 16 years old.
When his mom first got in touch with me, she mentioned that Todo no longer looks quite like his former, young self and that he has some cognitive dysfunction, is slow moving and has cataracts. I wasn’t sure what to expect and honestly, I was a little bit nervous for the first time in the history of my shooting career. After hearing their story, I sincerely wanted to do right by both of them and hoped I was talented enough to pull it off because I assured her I would be able to capture what she was looking for.
When I arrived I saw them making their way towards me from across the street. Carmel patiently waiting while Todo sniffed here, then there, then stood, paused to take a breather for a moment before moving a step or two further where he paused again before taking a few more steps. I hadn’t even officially met him, yet he had endeared himself to me immediately.
I crossed the street and approached them. Because of Todo’s cataracts, I knew he may not see me so I crouched a few feet in front of him and extended my hand slowly to his nose. He sniffed, approved, and allowed me to scratch under his chin. It’s hard to say why, but I found myself holding back tears throughout our entire session.
Maybe it is because he is so matter of fact about his inability to run like he did when he was a mere pup. Maybe it is because he is the picture of perseverance, unwavering in his attempts to get to where he wants to go with a slow and steady pace. Maybe it is because Todo is so stoic as an elder, something I truly admire about him. Maybe it’s because I know that Carmel is struggling with the decision none of us wants to make.
As we ambled our way along the boardwalk of Marina Bay, Todo’s mom and I got to talking and I learned that he has his bad days and his good days. I learned that he has a bit of arthritis and tends to jump at certain noises (which he did a few times at the sound of my shutter clicking). I learned that at night, he gets restless right around 8pm and it causes him to cry and whimper before he falls asleep only to wake a few hours later.
I learned that aside from a bit of sagging of his ears and tail (don’t worry Todo, everything sags with age for all of us) and the few other things I mentioned, that Todo is as strong as the summer day is long and has no debilitating illnesses. Weird for me to be so relieved by this as I’d only known him for a mere two hours but I was….immensely.
The more Todo’s mom and I chatted, the more I found we had in common and the more I admired them both for their strength, their courage and perhaps most of all, their devotion to each other.
Carmel, you have one special little dog there. Thank you for choosing me to photograph him. He touched my heart. Todo, you forced me to slow down and I can’t thank you enough for that. You showed me that when we rush along, our eyes on the ground or in our smart phones oblivious of our surroundings that we miss out on so much. Thank you little one for showing me what it’s like to age with grace and dignity no matter the aches or pains. You are truly an inspiration.