The artist statement Nancy LeVine sent us for her series Senior Dogs Across America begins with a paragraph that left this writer in tears—a tribute to the two dogs she had to let go of. “I loved them passionately,” she writes. “To the quiet, exquisite presence of each aged dog, I honor them with this work.”
More often than not, dog portraits feature healthy, vibrant pups in their prime; better yet, puppies. But LeVine’s photo project and book strays from the well-worn “adorable dog photos” path to cut its own through the heartbreaking thicket of old age and mortality… LeVine’s and her pets’ both.
Senior Dogs Across America is the result of this exploration, which started 12 years ago this year.
“My interest in the world of the senior dog began as my own two dogs began to approach the end of their days,” writes LeVine. “This was at a time when I had lived enough years to start imagining my own mortality. I entered a world of grace where bodies that had once expressed their vibrancy were now on a more fragile path.”
She was inspired by the dignity and absence of fear that dogs bring to the process of aging, to the process of dying:
I saw how the dog does it; how, without the human’s painful ability to project ahead and fear the inevitable, the dog simply wakes to each day as a new step in the journey. Though their steps might be more stiff and arduous, these dogs still moved through each day as themselves—themselves of that day and all the days before.
The book features 86 of the portraits she captured all across America—from Hawaii to Mississipi, from Massachusetts to Wyoming. Here’s just a small selection
The artist statement on LeVine’s website doesn’t include the intro mentioned at the top. We’re including it below for those of you who don’t mind getting misty-eyed at work:
11-24-06 My dog, my muse, died today… on my birthday. She died only 5 months after her sister, my other muse. She licked my face – my tears – in the last moments of her life. My nine months of caring for two failing bodies is over now. The vet visits, acupuncturist, swim therapist, cardiologist, medications, supplements, diapers, stroller, my vigilance to their silent needs… hoping not to miss any. I loved them passionately.
To the quiet, exquisite presence of each aged dog, I honor them with this work. To the tight cord of love between them and their person(s), so profoundly palpable, I dedicate this work.
(via Huffington Post)
Image credits: All photographs by Nancy LeVine and used with permission.