Heartbreaking photos of the last moments between pets and their owners show how deeply people care for their animals

A family says goodbye to their beloved dog, Mimosa.   Ross Taylor

By Micaela Garber, INSIDER

Throughout his career, Denver-based photographer Ross Taylor has explored trauma-related events in his photo and documentary work. But it's through his series "Last Moments," that Taylor takes an intimate look at a deep pain many people will come to experience at some point in their life — the death of a pet.

With the help of veterinary organizations, Taylor was able to capture the painful final moments between pets and their owners, a pain that he says "should never be minimized."

Keep scrolling to see Taylor's emotional photos and to understand just how strong the bonds between animals and humans really are. 

Ross Taylor, a photographer and assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, spent years documenting one of the most heartbreaking moments of a person's life — the loss of a family pet.

Ross Taylor

Vanessa Gangadyal leans into her husband, Michael Gangadyal, around their dog, Ally, shortly before its passing. On the right is Erica Unz, a veterinarian with deep compassion, who comforts the family in this difficult moment.

The photo series, which is titled "Last Moments," captures the intense grief humans feel when it comes time to say goodbye to their animal companion.

Ross Taylor

"When I was sick, she knew something was wrong," said Bob Lutz about their dog, Heidi. His wife, Cindy, added, "She helped take away our pain." Watching on the right is their other dog, Winnie.

"I've seen it firsthand, the love and the bond that people have with their animals, and that shouldn't be minimized," Taylor told Insider.

Ross Taylor

"What am I going to do? What am I going to do?" David Thompson cries over and over again shortly before his dog, Spartan, was euthanized. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," he repeats. On the right is his wife, Marie.

He first became interested in the project after his good friend chose to have her pet euthanized at home.

Ross Taylor

As dusk settled, Dr. Dani McVety, Rob Peterson, Erin Vaccaro, and Carrie Peterson gather around Asia for some tender rubs moments before she was put to sleep. The care Dr. McVety provided for them in this fragile moment was impressive and helped a painful moment pass a little easier.

"I had never heard of at-home euthanasia until she had to go through it," he explained.

Ross Taylor

Rich Lehr lays beside his dog, Mimosa, 9, in the final moments before Mimosa is euthanized.

Struck by the idea that saying goodbye to your pet from the comfort of your own home could help ease even the slightest bit of pain, Taylor began researching the topic and reaching out to organizations that specialize in these home veterinary services.

Ross Taylor

Wendy Lehr cries near her dog Mimosa, moments before Mimosa was euthanized. "You don't have to hurt anymore, my sweet girl. I love you so much," Lehr says.

That's when he came across Lap of Love, which is based in Tampa, Florida.

Ross Taylor

Later, she cuddles with her dog and nuzzles up against her face. The muffled sound of her cries fills the empty room. On the right is her husband, Rich.

The organization was willing to relay to pet owners that Taylor was available to photograph their last moments, only if they were comfortable.

Ross Taylor

Darcy Jones, left, speaks with Dr. Loren Gassler about her dog, Alli, 15, who had some balancing issues and was struggling with a diagnosis of cancer. Dr. Gassler was performing a hospice visit for Jones, to offer some suggestions on how best to handle the remaining time they would have together.

"Because they deal with this every day, I think they understood the purpose of the project right away," Taylor said about Lap of Love.

Ross Taylor

"I've loved you for so long," said Juliet Rubio as she laid by her dog, Dingo. "I hate this, I hate this," she said over and over again before the final injection. "He's given me so much comfort." As he started to die, she cried over him saying over and over, "I love you, I love you. Soon, you're going to be free again."

He also worked with an organization called Caring Pathways in Denver, Colorado.

Ross Taylor

"She's always been my companion. Coco was there for me when he was on deployment," said Rebecca Cassity, as she fights back tears. Her husband, Drew (at right), was in the military and also struggled in the final moments.

"I can't thank them, the families, and others in the veterinary community who have helped enough. It's changed my life and how I perceive the human-animal bond," he explained.

Ross Taylor

During the procedure, Dr. McVety reassures Cassity with a hug and consoling words: "This is a better treatment than any one of us would get."

When photographing an owner's last moments with their pets, Taylor said he tried to be "as small of a presence as possible."

Ross Taylor

"There's never enough time," said Donnie Leibe shortly before his dog, Daisy, at left, is put to sleep.

But he also explained to Insider that these were some of the most intense moments he has ever witnessed as a photographer.

Ross Taylor

Marquita Leibe paced back and forth shortly before she walked into hug her husband, Donald, and to be near her dog, Daisy, minutes before she is put to sleep.

"It's hard to see people in so much pain. The pain is real, and it shouldn't be minimized by others," Taylor said.

Ross Taylor

Marquita Leibe cries out after her dog, Daisy, is put to sleep. On the left is her husband, Donald. Shortly after, he stepped outside to compose himself, overwhelmed with grief.

In addition to capturing these final moments, the photographer also was there for the raw grief immediately after a pet has died.

Ross Taylor

"She's my angel," said Jennifer Hoch, as she kisses her cat, Shadow, goodbye shortly before it is euthanized in 2018. On the left is her friend, Ruby Nelms.

The most intense moment for Taylor was when Olesya Lykovi, who is pictured below, cried out after her dog passed away. "Her pain was visceral," he said. "I can still remember this as if it happened yesterday. My heart broke for her, and I'll always carry that with me."

Ross Taylor

Olesya Lykovi cries out in anguish, moments after the death of her dog, Sam. Moments before, she looked at Dr. Dani McVety, at right and asked, "Is he gone?" Dani nodded and said, "He has his wings now." Her husband, Vitalii, on the left, tries to comfort her.

She later leans down to rub him and whispers into his ear, then massages it gently. She sobs out loud, "I feel like a part of me is gone."

At its core, Taylor says this project is about learning to be nice to each other and recognizing that the loss of a loved one is painful, regardless of if it's a human or a pet.

Ross Taylor

Kiara Manrique cries just moments after her dog, Sparky, is euthanized. "I tried to do more, I tried to do all I can. But they said there's nothing more I can do," she said while weeping at the loss of her dog.

But it's also about recognizing "the invaluable care that veterinarians and veterinary organizations provide."

Ross Taylor

Dr. Erica Unz helps prepare the paw print of Dingo, the pet of Juliet Rubio. "He's given me so much comfort," said Juliet.

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Pets Magazine: Heartbreaking photos of the last moments between pets and their owners show how deeply people care for their animals
Heartbreaking photos of the last moments between pets and their owners show how deeply people care for their animals
With the help of veterinary organizations, photographer Ross Taylor captured emotional photos of the final moments between pets and their owners.
Pets Magazine
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