Duke, a three-legged black labrador retriever from Houston “traveled over the rainbow bridge” last week. As his beloved owner, Jordan Roberts, prepared to say goodbye to her beloved pet, she asked her friend, photographer Robyn Arouty, to take on a special project – documenting Dukey’s final day on earth before being put to sleep. Arouty, an animal lover, agreed, and their beautiful final product has gone viral thanks to features on Buzzfeed and The Daily Mail.
"Most people are so overcome with sadness when their pets get sick, so they don’t think about celebration, not to mention photographing it," Arouty tells Yahoo Shine about Roberts’s decision to document her pal’s last day. Dukey, who’s around 8, was suffering from a returning bout of cancer (he lost his leg the first time he battled the disease), and a vet had determined that the tumor was too big to remove. So Roberts prepared to say goodbye to the dog she adopted in 2011.
The two women had met and become friends through Houston’s animal rescue community. And the project was extra meaningful for Arouty, who has lost three dogs of her own in the past two years, including 16-year-old Maya, whom Arouty calls her “soul mate.” She adds, “I have learned a lot through the process of grief,” something she kept in mind while photographing Roberts and Dukey.
Above: Dukey, just before he eats a bunch of his favorite burgers. (Photo courtesy Robyn Arouty Photography)
Dukey’s big day included a roundup of some of his favorite things, including eating hamburgers, frolicking at a water playground, and spending time with his Roberts; her children; and Dukey’s groomer, a family friend. He was later peacefully put down on a blanket outside. “I died today,” “a blog post written from dukey’s perspective appeared on Arouty’s website, which is currently offline due to the influx of traffic. “And I ate a lot of hamburgers.”
The story of Roberts saying goodbye to her pet has touched hearts all over the world. “Dukey’s story has created this beautiful forum for people to share stories of their beloved pets who have passed away. We read so many comments over the first 48 hours after the story was posted, but with all the sharing and feature stories, it’s been beyond anything we ever could have imagined,” says Arouty. Both she and Roberts have been contacted by people who say Dukey’s story has helped them remember their own deceased pet and cope with the loss.
Although taking pictures of a dog who is about to die might have been too overwhelming for some photographers, Arouty couldn’t think of a better way to support her friend and say goodbye to a beloved family member. “It was beautiful, really,” she says. “I felt honored.”
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