Saying goodbye to Morgan.

Oh 2013, I’m over you and you’re just barely 1/3 completed. So much loss this year and it hurts my heart. Last week my parents had to say goodbye to their 15 year old Weimaraner, Morgan. She found her way into my home as a high schooler to keep our other Weim, Gus, company. They bonded immediately and were like best buds until the end. I knew the time was coming for Gus or Morgan … and I asked my parents sensitively if they would mind if I came along with my camera. The question of my being there was never an issue, of course my parents would call me. But my dad’s response was something along the lines of “Sure, even though it’s kinda weird.” Oh parents, I love you. Thank you for letting me be there with her until the end.

Sandra Gerstner - That is BEAUTIUL thank you for shareing

mary - beautiful image. I am so very sorry for your loss. I can see how much you all loved eachother…..R.I.P. sweet Morgan.

Thetis Pressley - OMG, I am in tears…such a beautiful tribute.

Reena - I am so sorry for your loss…it is so hard to say goodbye..this is a beautiful tribute to the love they all shared with each other.

Chris - What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful dog. I’m so sorry for your loss.

Christina Evans - Even if it may have been wierd in theory, these images prove how perfect it was in reality. I am so glad you and your parents have them. So sorry for your losses.

Back to top|Contact me|

A beautiful young woman in Nicaragua could use your thoughts.

This beautiful young lady is Anielka – one of the Empowerment International students I’ve had the chance to work with in Nicaragua. She is 18 years old and was the first in her family to graduate high school. She has a bright future ahead of her, but right now she’s in the hospital right now with a ruptured appendix. I am positive that thoughts & prayers would be appreciated – and if you’d like to book a session now is a wonderful time. Donate the session fee to EI for her medical expenses and I will apply it towards your session fee if you email me the receipt.:)

Back to top|Contact me|

Jake & Kody, Los Angeles Pet Photographer

I met Jake & Kody at the end of 2012 … Kody (on the left) had been diagnosed with cancer.:(She was such a sweet and kind soul, and I found out she crossed the Rainbow Bridge the same week that my Slava Bean did. I have no doubt they are having fun and enjoying freedom and comfort together on the other side. xoxo

Thank you for letting me capture these beautiful images of your babies – I am so honored to have given you this gift.

Back to top|Contact me|

The story of my Slava Bean

I am a photographer. I am not a writer. I am not good with my words. But I can tell a story through photos, and I hope that is what I’ve been able to do for Slava over the last 4.5 years she’s been in my care.

She came to FBRN in the summer of 2008. She had severe diarrhea – not only was she pooping, but essentially her entire bowel movement consisted of blood. She originally went to another foster home, but after she was diagnosed with IBD I volunteered to take her. We’d had Gabriel, my heart dog, and surely if we managed his IBD we could manage Slava’s, right? My naive barely 23 year old self had no doubt we’d cure her in no time.

In a few days we found out she was battling with not only IBD, but cryptosporidium. Some of the treatment for each conflicted the treatment for the other. Eventually we knocked out the crypto and were left with only the IBD.

Despite our best efforts in all areas, Slava was never able to be a normal dog. She’d seen a half dozen vets – both traditional and holistic. She’d tried at least a dozen diets. Too many meds or supplements to name. Let’s just say that the last vet we saw reviewed her records and said frankly “I’m not exactly sure what you’re looking for ME to do here. It looks like you’ve tried it all.”

But in spite of her never quite being a normal dog, she found “her” normal. She was happy. And healthy for HER. And loved her toys and food and snuggling. She just continued to poop. A lot. And there was no way I’d put a dog down for poo. No matter how not fun it was for me to deal with!

She had her bad days. But for every bad day she had many more good.

The last few weeks I’d struggled. She’d gotten stressed. She’d lost weight. And I kept saying “If I can only get her to eat more and gain weight …” but this week she told me she’d had enough. Her frail body was tired of fighting. She was ready to be at peace.

I couldn’t help but document her last few hours. When I am emotional and unable to speak, I can still photograph. I am so thankful for these images, no matter how hard they are to look at.

We spent some time in my carpeted room that she’s not allowed in. We snuggled in the sunshine on the couch. I gave her treats that she was never allowed to have due to her restricted diet. I let her lick my bowl from lunch.:)And then I did the kindest thing I could do for her, and I let her go to sleep.

I made sure to hold her head while she went, and I let her see me – I wanted her to see how much I loved her.

Caitlin McColl - I am so sorry for your loss. Slava’s story was touching <3

Terri Jacobson - Melissa, I am so sorry. This is the hardest part of the journey that we grow to love so much.

You gave Slava the greatest gift of love and your last photos of her are beautiful.

Take care of yourself.


Lucy - She was so lucky to have a doggie mommy to love her like you did and always will. <3 Peace to her and you in her journey to the other side.

Emily - Oh mp, you did more than most would for her. She was so beautiful and so special and so loved, just like you are. Slava was lucky to have you as her mom. You’re a wonderful person and I’m so sorry for your terrible loss. Biggest hugs right now

Judy Coen - Melissa, I remember so well when she arrived and have followed her ever since, you and she have represented the best rescue, and particularly FBRN, have to offer. The spirit of these amazing little souls is so inspiring, and the families who let them try are a blessing. Love is a great salve, and I know you shared something special with her. Your photographic journey will help us all do what is right when our time comes. Thank you, and run free, little Slava.

Anna@DirectionsNotIncluded - I’m so very sorry. I can’t even put it in words. Big hugs.

Eden - This is beautiful….so touching to see true devotion and love. Thank you for the emotional investment you made for this sweet girl.

Janice Straight - Melissa, your words were beautiful and your photos amazing. Thank you for the courage to share the beautiful story of Slava. Terri is so right–the most difficult part of this amazing journey is the point where we have to say good bye.
Slava was so incredibly lucky to have you. She had someone love her for her and in return she gave you her all and she fought until she could fight no more. I know that for time it will feel like the hurt will never go away, and for me, still there are times I so miss my Hunter boy. But I have my wonderful retired racer, Persephone, and my wonderful little Italian Greyhound, Tanto and they are the strength that I get from the memories of Hunter. Hold her memories close but know that there will be another. Slava will bring the next one to you, even when you do not expect it.
Thank you for the heart wrenching yet raw and beautiful photos. That took incredible vulnerability and courage. Hugs to you during this painful time.

Alexis - You are a writer and that was simply beautiful – in photos and in words. Thank you…for giving Slava the life she deserved. A life filled with love and compassion. She is at rest now – at peace after a wonderful journey made possible by you. Rest well, sweet Slava.

Rachel - I am so sorry. You were a great mama to your pup. Thank you for sharing your love for her!

Robert Price - Melissa, Tessa Garrett is a mutual friend. Just wanted to give you ((((HUGGS))))
from Tennessee. :(

Anise - I just went through the same thing with my sweetheart Rowdy. Giving them a dignified end is the right thing to do. Allow yourself to feel all the emotions. It has been a month a half now, and although it is still weird not having his body, I feel his memory and spirit more and more. Email me with any questions if you have any. (Hellodeer on Flickr – his set of pics from his life is called ROWDY) not promoting here, just sharing.

Melissa Zihlman - You are so amazing. To take in sweet loves with such issues, to love them unconditionally, to treat them so well. Slavs was as lucky to have you are you were to have her. Many hugs and prayers! xx

Mary-Kathleen - I’m truly sorry for your loss MP. You were such a wonderful mother to her and your story had me in tears. She was so lucky to have you take are of her and be loved so much. Big hugs!

Becky - I am so extremely sorry for your loss. I am glad you were able to care and love for her like you did.

Charlene - Slava was lucky to have you. My Dane has IBD and I feel awful when he grunts and cries while pooping and I’m so helpless. We’ve got it under control now, finally, with an amazing raw diet and Olewo carrots, which I ADORE. Your girl was beautiful and your images are incredible. My thoughts are with you during this heartbreaking time.

Melody Hood - Big hugs to you. You’re an amazing person and she was so lucky to have you as her Mommy. I can’t fathom how difficult this must have been for you or how difficult it is right now or will be tomorrow. Know you did the right thing for her.

Kelly Mendoza - I know this feeling all too well and it’s not ever one I wish on a pet owner. Slava was much loved and taken care of by you and that is a blessing. I am so sorry :(

Tami Chrostowski - Oh my. You’ve got me sitting here in tears. God bless you, I’ve seen you post on ILP for a long time and followed your work. This is so touching and so raw and emotional. I’m so sorry for your loss, but that little dog got the very best mommy, ever.

Katie Duda - What a beautiful story and photos. I’m so sorry for your loss Melissa. My heart aches for you. You’re a good dog mom. Xo

Erica - I am hugging you through the computer. Hugging is all I will be able to do since I am currently choked up and fighting back tears. I love you dear friend and despite only having met Bean a few times, loved her too. I know this will break Rory’s little heart since she was her favorite, but I know she will understand that she isn’t sick anymore and that you did what was for the best. I am so glad I got to meet her. You’re a great momma, friend. One of the best. You didn’t have her suffer because you wanted more time. Instead you did this for her and have always sacrificed you for her. Again, I am hugging you. You gave Slava more than anyone else ever could and I know she passed having lived a wonderful life because of the time spent with you.

Holli - My heart goes out to you. You are the kindest, sweetest person to care and take in a little doggy with such issues. She found her angel. Sending out many many hugs and condolences for your loss… I know she’s in a better place now. HUGS

Reena - I am in tears….my heart is breaking for you. She was so lucky to have found you and you, her. You gave her the best 4.5 years and she knows that. Thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

Randi - beautiful story, beautiful dog. so very sorry. I KNOW how this hurts…! I love you!

Karen Jaworowski - What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful fur baby she will be missed. My thoughts are with you.

Betty Hopper - Tears are flowing because of the unconditional love you gave to Slava. There are not many people who would have taken on a dog with the problems Slava had. Thanks for sharing the last part of Slava’s life. This was truly touching. You and Slava will meet again someday at Rainbow Bridge. God Bless.

Denise - Oh, what an amazing tribute. She was loved…

Barbara Rangus - I am so sorry for your terrible loss of such a beautiful girl.

Mandy Broden - Sweet Melissa, that was lovely. And poignant. Hugs to you.

christina evans - mp, i am just seeing this now. what a beautiful testimony in words and pics. i know it was so hard and hugs are with you. you were blessed to have each other. <3

Kelly G - Your pictures have me in tears. The transition from her silly lobster self to the dramatic weight loss at the end, and you holding her paw and her head, to the needle and the collar…just beautiful. So much love there. I am so sorry for your loss.

Back to top|Contact me|