nikki + taylor

Filed in personal, portraits shot by on at

A couple Saturdays ago, my stepmother called me just to check in, say hello, and update me on family happenings…she does that from time to time because I am so bad about remembering to call. I can’t even remember what day it is most of the time, so I often lose track of how many pass by. It was a conversation similar to those we typically have (not too much changes on the farm, you see)…until the conversation shifted to my stepsister, Nicole. I knew that Nikki’s dog, Taylor, had been having a rough time of it lately, but I had no idea how rough. It was during that conversation that I learned that the time had come for Nikki to say goodbye to Taylor – her best friend. For the past 14 years, they had been inseparable. Now, poor Taylor’s body was filled with tumors, she was unable to walk. She was suffering, the time had come, an appointment was made. I was at a complete loss for words.

“Oh my god, that’s so horrible,” I kept saying over and over, “it’s so sad.” I asked for her new mailing address so I could send her a card – my stepmother said she’d email it to me. As I hung up the phone, my eyes filled up. I looked down at my own baby, my beautiful golden girl, asleep at my feet, and thought about the fact that I, too, will someday have to say goodbye. I started to sob at the mere thought of having to part with her; she is my heart, she is love incarnate. I knew in that moment, that sending a card was nowhere near enough…it was an almost laughable gesture considering the situation at hand. I knew I had to do something to let my sister know that I could feel her broken heart, and that mine was breaking for her. I picked up the phone, and called my stepmother back almost immediately…I didn’t even say hello when she picked up. “I thought of something I can do for Nikki,” I said, “Can you ask her if she has any free time tomorrow or Monday for me to come in and take some portraits of her and Taylor?” I hung up the phone again, and pulled out my travel bag to pack for the unexpected trip home. I knew that there was nothing I or anyone else could do to ease the pain of her loss.  There is no substitution on this Earth for the unconditional love we receive from our animals…they come into our lives for the sole purpose of loving us, and teaching us about love; and, when it’s time for them to leave this plane, they leave a massive, gaping hole in our hearts.  All I could do was show my support and offer my love in the best way I know how…through pictures.

This is my stepsister, Nikki, and her beloved dog, Taylor, during their last days together. I’m so unbelievably grateful that I had the opportunity to capture the love between them.

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Nikki’s puppy, Oliver, came along, too, so we squeezed him in for a few shots.  He’s a wonderful boy, but he definitely has some very big Taylor-sized shoes to fill.  :)
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I took a few video clips during the shoot, as well, and put them together with the still photos into this slide show.  Most of my family have already seen this show (including Nikki), but I love it, and really wanted to share, so feel free to watch. The soundtrack is “A Beautiful World,” by Tim Myers.  :)


Love you, Nik! You’re such a wonderful, amazingly strong, beautiful woman, and I feel lucky to have you in my life. :)

  • Patty SAYS...

    So much tenderness and beauty! I love looking at your photography!

  • Marni Rodman SAYS...

    So beautiful and sweet! I love this story — and your work is completely amazing, as always :)

  • Frank Giardina SAYS...

    That was really special Jenn. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Miquel SAYS...

    I write this with tears in my eyes :( … I’m sooo sorry for Nikki’s loss (if & when the time comes). the pics are amazinggg! Nikki is beautiful. I can only imagine the heartache I’ll go through when we lose Scarlett or Sadie.. & I loveeeee ur dog too!! :)

  • Jane SAYS...

    So beautiful! A tribute to the unconditional love that our non human kids bring to our lives. What an amazing person you are to be so sensitive to this.

  • Tom Brindisi SAYS...

    Beautiful photos. I know that nikki appreciates what you did for her.I’m very proud of you for what you did.

  • Meghan & Travis SAYS...

    What a beautiful dog and a beautiful friendship you can see between them. Nikki, you don’t know me, but I am so sorry for your loss. Your memories will help you through this; keep them in your heart! Jenn, you and Ben captured this moment beautifully. And that video! Ah! It was hard to watch.. I’m still crying right now!

  • Kim Kouzan SAYS...

    I’m crying too. Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • Chris S SAYS...

    What beautiful photos…I know the feeling all too well…we lost our beloved lab almost 5 years ago. Although we have a new funny boy to bring us love and laughs, we still remember good times with Beau.
    Great memories you captured for your stepsister!

  • Nicole Abelli SAYS...

    I love this Jenn…thank you so much for being there and doing this for me!! These pictures just make me smile :) Can’t thank you enough and I am very lucky to have you in my life as well xoxo

  • Stephanie F SAYS...

    That was so beautiful. My thoughts are with your sister. I can’t imagine losing my dog. This is something that she will cherish forever.

  • Ayres Photography SAYS...

    Thank you so much, Katie and Meg! I’m so happy that you guys took the time to read it! :)

  • Katie SAYS...

    You made me cry…again. I can’t put into words how beautiful your heart is for doing this for your sister. She will treasure those photos forever. And you expressed, better than I ever could, how amazing the love of an animal is. I am thankful to call you a friend.

  • Megan Canavan SAYS...

    This is beautiful.

  • Ayres Photography SAYS...

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read it, Wendy…it means a lot to me. :)

  • Wendy SAYS...

    Wow, I didn’t expect to cry, but I did.