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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The power of photography

My friend is dying.

Bonnie was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer 30 months ago, and she has put up an incredible fight. But treatments stopped working several months ago, and Bonnie is losing her battle. I learned a lot in the last 30 months as I had never had experience with terminal illness before. Bonnie has handled her cancer with grace, dignity and courage; she has never complained or sounded angry. She has truly been an inspiration, and I know that she is at peace with the world. But her illness also showed me the power of photography, and this is what I would like to write about in this personal post.

We moved to Berne, NY in 1999, and when John joined the New Scotland Beagle Club, we got to know several beaglers from the area. Archie and Bonnie Munro became our friends.

August 2006: Archie and Bonnie at the Italian Dinner that followed the New Scotland Beagle Club trial.
On June 11, 2007 Archie suffered a heart attack, and while he was in the hospital, his beagle Dommy went into labor. I offered to help with the whelping, and Bonnie and I spent a good part of the night assisting Dommy. She delivered eight healthy puppies, and this was the fastest and easiest delivery I have ever seen.

Since Archie was going to spend some time in the hospital, I took a picture of Dommy and her newborn puppies, framed it and brought it to him. This was the only way for him to see his puppies. I know that it meant a lot to him, and all the people visiting Archie were showed the picture and heard about the memorable night.

June 11, 2007 - Dommy with her puppies

When I visited Bonnie three days ago at the hospice, the same picture was placed by her bed. At this very moment I understood for the first time how powerful photography is. Telling the truth I have not been able to stop thinking about it since then.

A powerful picture does not even have to be a very good picture in a technical sense. But it has to have a meaning, connection and evoke strong emotions. I asked myself a question – if I could have only one picture of my dog (s), which one would it be? Do I have a picture like this? I think I do – it is a picture of Kuba when he was already very sick, and I knew that the end was near. When I look at the picture his eyes connect me to his soul. Do you have a picture of your dog, past or present, that is THE PICTURE? If you don’t, I think you know what you need to do.

When Archie and I were with Bonnie on Friday (now three days later she is very weak, and most of the time she appears to be in a deep sleep), a man walked into her room accompanied by his golden retriever Scotch. I have never seen a hospice dog in action though I read about this kind of service dogs in Jon Katz’s book. It was heartwarming to see how much pleasure and comfort Bonnie got from Scotch’s presence. He was very quiet, very low key, just laid down next to Bonnie. Bonnie’s hands were stroking his thick coat, and you could see through her gentle smile how good it felt. Her eyes were bright, and she was animated. She rallied for the last time. I did not have my camera with me so I snapped a picture with my cell phone. This is going to be the picture that I am going to remember Bonnie by. The power of photography....

Bonnie with Scotch. The picture I will always remember.


MTWaggin said...

Ahhh brings a tear to my eye and joy to my heart. Thank you for sharing such a personal post!

Jolanta Jeanneney said...

Thank you MTWaggin. With great sadness I have to report that Bonnie passed last night.

Samantha Allen said...

May she rest in peace and all her precious memories bring you joy. I'm sure she will always be with you. Atleast she had the comfort of mans best friend before her journey home, her picture says a thousand words!

Stan said...

I'm glad she's not sufferning any longer. As time passes, you will only remember the good times you had with her.

Great observations on the power of photography--I feel the same way, but never had words for it.
"meaning, connection and evoke strong emotions"

Brian said...

I think Bonnie was lucky to have a friend like you. I believe dying is just another chapter in living and I think Bonnie is at peace now. Thanks for sharing the picture. Brian

Anonymous said...


I'm very sorry about your friend. I lost my mother to cancer in 2004. I have found what Stan said to be true, in time the pain will fade, and the fondest of memories will shine through.

You and Bonnie's family are in my prayers.

Chris and Gerti...and Oscar

Jolanta Jeanneney said...

Many thanks for all your warm thoughts and kind comments.