3 Reasons to Include Pets in your Sessions

Happy Tuesday, friend. Today, I’m serving up a real large helping of real talk and sharing my heart with you. I hope that’s okay.

This story started 14 years ago, when I was in 8th grade. My family lived in Northern California and our house on the hill, where we so falsely felt safe, was broken into and robbed. Things that meant so much were taken and never retrieved, including the security we felt living in the outskirts of our tiny town. Things began to change, we locked doors, built a gate at the bottom of our hill, and we got two dogs. This is where this story gets so crazy – crazy good that is. Isn’t it funny how so much good can come out of something so bad?

I remember the day that we went as a family to the animal shelter and met the little soul that would steal my heart for the next 14 years – and for so many years to come. He was in a kennel with another little dog and they were playing so well together. They had been nicknamed “Chewy” and “Lucky” and were awaiting their fur-ever homes. “Chewy” – later known as Max – was found wandering the streets and never claimed. “Lucky” – later known as Snickers – was dumped over a 6 foot fence at the animal shelter and left to fend for herself. We had gone to the shelter with a plan: come home with ONE guard dog. And instead we came home with two puppies.

Australian Shepherd getting a bath

Over the next couple years, these puppies ran the hills, getting into all the mischief. We lived on five acres and there was a hill that separated our property from a water reservoir. These two puppies were always getting into trouble. If you so much as opened the back door just an inch too wide, they would escape and run to the reservoir. They would be gone for hours and come back dirty as can be and smelling the worst. One day they didn’t return until the following morning, when my dad went out on the porch and watched Max and Snickers running from a coyote. Shenanigans, I’m telling you.

photo session pets

On hot days, we would turn the sprinklers on and Max would run from head to head, putting his mouth around each, gulping the water like it was a game. They slept with us in our beds, came with us on countless camping trips, and would herd the sheep where we needed them.

Max was an Australian Shepherd/Husky mix and Snickers was part Schnauzer and Terrier. We had originally thought that Max would be our guard dog… but Snickers took the cake with protecting the family. We always used to joke around that as long as you brought treats, Max would let you take whatever you wanted. These two little souls became a part of our family, which meant that when we moved to Southern California, they moved too.

It was a change for them, being in a neighborhood and all. But they adjusted well. It was a slower paced life but they both just loved to be around their humans. If you went outside, they wanted to go out too. Walk back inside, and they’d be begging at the door to follow you. In 2011, Snickers passed at home surrounded by all of her family. And then it was just Max. Throughout college and my move to Hawaii, I always used to check in with home and ask, “How’s Max?” I missed him like crazy.

And so when we found out that we’d be moving to Virginia, Ben and I planned to move him with us. At that point, Max was 12 and our goal was that we were going to spoil him like crazy for however much longer we’d be blessed by his presence. And let me tell you, the whole thing about teaching and old dog new tricks… it can absolutely be done! We so enjoyed watching Max’s curious personality come out. Ben spent countless hours teaching him new things. Max became a master at hide and seek – well the seeking part at least. And he really developed that sniffer when we’d send him on treat treasure hunts around the house.

He was our baby. As a newish married couple, we’re constantly asked if we have kids. Our answer was always, “No, but we have Max.” He was so very much the center of our lives. Over the last two years, his health was beginning to decline and so we treasured every moment that we had with him.

dog sleeping in bathroom

On July 3rd, Max passed peacefully at home in our arms. And while, it’s been exceptionally hard to accept, I’m so comforted by the massive amount of photos and videos that I have of him. These photos, my friends, they mean more now than they ever have in his 14 years of life. And that’s what this post is about… I want to share with you 3 reasons why you should include your pets in your sessions. So here goes:

1. They’re a part of your story.

Photo session with pets

The moment our pets walk into our lives, our lives change forever. They teach us so many life lessons in such a short period of time and they stand loyal by our sides through all of our life seasons. From 8th grade until my adult years, Max has been a part of my story. From chasing him around those 5 acres in Northern California, to taking my senior pictures with him when I graduated high school, through my socially awkward phases and seasons of growth, he was there. And he continues to bring us joy when we relive sweet memories by looking at photos of him.

2. They’re family, too.

in-home photos with dog

Whether they were your first baby or an addition later on, the moment you bring them home, they become your family fur-ever. Like I mentioned above, Max was like our child, and treated as such. We devoted all of our time and attention to making sure that his senior years were full of love and happiness.

3. They’re creating their legacy.

why you should include your pets in your photo session

The sad and unfortunate truth is this: we only get a short time to love on them. Photograph their personalities, document how much they loved you, how loyal they were to you and your kids. Take photos and videos of the funny things they do. Show the world how they were a part of this life season. Because someday, these photos will mean so much to you and your family.

These pets of ours, they steal our hearts the moment that we bring them home and then they break your heart the moment they leave you. But there’s one thing that you can always count on: the happy memories documented for life. So friend, I encourage you. If you’re thinking of doing a lifestyle session or an in-home documentary session, consider including your fur-babies. You’ll be so happy that you did. I can promise you that.

Recent sessions with fur-babies:

The Garcia Family | Fort Lee Family Photographer

Kelsey + Corey | Santa Barbara Lifestyle Photographer

Joyful Summer Evenings in Richmond, VA