A few weeks ago, my best friend, office mate, and all-around life partner, Biz, passed away. Biz was my kitty, and I had experienced the joy of being his caretaker for about three and a half years. Before him, I had owned pets and generally loved animals, but I had never developed a connection with one as I had seen with so many of my friends and even family members over the years. Once Biz fell ill, I began to understand where that connection comes from on a much deeper level, and just how powerful it is for both humans and animals alike.
About two weeks after Biz passed, my friend Amy texted me, asking to call her. Once I did, and we spoke, I wish I hadn't.
Let me back up.
Two years ago, I photographed Amy and her dog, Tugboat, as a Christmas gift from Amy's mom. I've known Amy for a long time, and, like most people who know Amy, or who have met her within the last eight years, know Tugboat. They are a pair. The Amy "before" Tugboat is no longer the same person.
In our chats over the last few years, I've come to understand just how deep the relationship Amy has had with Tugboat. He's been with her through some of her darkest days, and has brought light to many; even Amy's "kids" in Brooklyn, where she is in a principal program.
Poor Tugboat experienced lots of health issues since puppyhood, including cancer. One thing which came up during this session with Amy is how Bernese Mountain Dogs have a greater susceptibility to certain cancers and other health conditions than many other dog breeds. The average life span for one of the gorgeous creatures is, sadly, only between 5-8 years. Tug seemed to have beat the odds by becoming a survivor of cancer once before, and reaching his 8th birthday, which in itself was a feat that can only be accredited to Amy's extreme love, attention, and devotion to her man.
Unfortunately, cancer came back to Tugboat, and this time it was aggressive. Too aggressive for Tug.
That phone call? It was for another photo session. This time, it would be the last.
As I said earlier this week, I've photographed a lot of love stories, but this one may be the greatest.
Every night before Amy went to sleep, she would say to Tugboat, "MTML", which stands for "More than my Life". That type of love transcends boundaries, and, I believe, Earth. I have no doubt that he is still with her, and will be, for the rest of her life.