Love Stories

I have had the honor of photographing and telling hundreds of love stories as a wedding photographer in Chattanooga.  Please take a look around for ideas and inspiration for telling yours.

Max’s Last Day

For 12 years, every single decision I made I considered how it effected my baby Max. Everything from “Should I date this man?”(my now husband) to “Ill get a 4 count chicken strip so Max can have one”. Yes, I am that level of crazy.

Max was high maintenance, expressive, bossy and sweet.

You could be sure Max would let you know what he wanted and when. He had his way of communicating with me. Max was full of sass and silly. He loved to be bossy, but he was so, so sweet. When we went to the dog park he would always try to fight the dog that picked on the smaller dogs. He protected Shooter and saved his life twice from neighborhood dogs.

His favorite person to boss around was my Mom. He knew her as “Nana”. Nana could never just relax around Max, he was always telling her what he needed to be doing. We were always convinced he thought my Mom was easily confused and needed him desperately. Which wasn’t always entirely untrue, haha.

He loved to chase cats. Every time he caught up with one he just wanted to play, in fact he looked like he didn’t know what to do. He would look at them like “Why did you stop playing chase? It was fun!”. When we were on a walk if you just uttered the word “Cat” he was on high alert.

Max knew a few tricks. I taught him to “kiss” me without his tongue using treats. When I had a treat for him sometimes I would ask for a kiss first. If I asked for more than two he would start to get mad and bark AS he was kissing me. He was so expressive.

Max loved and protected his pack.

He had to be the center of attention. When Shooter came into my life, he started greeting me at the door with a toy so that I would chase him first. My baby only liked playing with toys if you were playing with him. He loved his brother. He loved his sister too, but the brothers had a special bond. Max would lay down in the floor so that Shooter could bite his arm pits and play with him.

Max loved Josh. When Josh came into my life Max was 5 years old. They developed such a bond Max preferred Josh over me half the time. This was especially true when Max was scared or didn’t feel good. He knew Josh would protect him. Josh likes to say he came to him when he needed something and he came to me when he wanted something.

This was the hardest decision, and the easiest one, of my life.

This global pandemic had a silver lining. I’m eternally grateful Josh was working from home the last 6 months. Max had separation anxiety and the fact that the last 6 months of his life he didn’t have to experience that hardly at all makes me so happy.

His last day on earth was a good one. He was getting sicker and sicker and I knew the only days he had ahead would be worse and worse as his belly filled with fluid and his liver shut down. Josh and I wanted to make sure he suffered as little as possible. We wanted him to still be able to enjoy his last day a little bit and not wait until he couldn’t walk or stand. No one wants their last day to be painful and I’ve always wanted the best for my baby.

He spent his last day doing his favorite things.

We went to the park and he got in the creek. Max didn’t like to swim, but he loved to get his belly wet. We got a pup cup from brusters, which he refused to eat out of the cup so I had to spoon feed it with my fingers. Why did he refuse? Max was always weird about things, he had to do things his way. Then he napped on the couch where he could watch the window for a few hours before Josh made him 2 steaks. Josh insisted on seasoning it just like he would for himself. It was a very sweet gesture I’ll never forget. Then his 2 favorite people came over, Nana (my Mom) and Daddy-Pop (my Dad). We went on one last ride in Nana’s car, just around the neighborhood. It was a great day.

This post is my expression of grief.

Generally speaking, dogs don’t have funerals. They don’t have obituaries. They don’t even have memorial services. These creatures, that devote themselves to our happiness, don’t have any of that. It’s crazy to me that we put so much pomp and circumstance into human death and rarely any into the deaths of our furry companions. People often say the funeral is about honoring the dead. I say it’s about helping the living.

Just because dogs aren’t human doesn’t mean the humans left behind don’t need help in grieving.

I had a fear for a long time that Max would be forgotten. That we was insignificant to the rest of the world. That no one would know he what he meant to me. That he changed my life. That he, a dog, effected more people positively than a lot of humans on this earth.

I am insanely lucky to have the best vet in the world, who also happens to be my Sister-In-Law. Her expertise, compassion, listening ear, and patience got me through the last 2 years. I will never be able to thank her enough, but I will spend the rest of my life trying. If you need an excellent veterinarian please go visit her at Lee Parkway Veterinary Clinic.

I’ve dreaded this day for 12 years. I’ve had nightmares about it.

The moment he passed was the hardest thing that I’ve ever experienced. It was the moment I had dreaded for 12 years. When he passed I felt this primal cry of my heart. It felt like an out of body experience. I clutched his lifeless body. When I imagined this moment I thought it would feel like he was gone. I thought I would be able to tell when his was gone, but I couldn’t. My heart was still with his body. My family had to plead with me to let go.

I let go and I ran. I ran outside, shaking my hands like I could shake the grief out of. me. Then I fell to the ground and just screamed. Josh chased after me, trying to help me get control of myself. I was out of control. My heart took over and my body was just a funnel for grief. Josh tried to reason with me again, but I screamed to leave me alone. I wanted to be alone and just fall into blackness. My baby was gone. Everything felt meaningless. I felt so heavy it felt like I was sinking into the grass and dirt. Finally, Josh grabbed the only tether I had linking me back to my brain and held me. He pulled me out of the blackness and held me as I sobbed.

I’m not ok, but that’s ok.

I’ve worried about him for 12 years. I’m not sure what I’m going to do now. I don’t know how to live without him really. The house feels empty. My heart feels empty. I don’t know when I’ll be ok again. So many habits I have at home were centered around him. He slept between my legs every night. I was so uncomfortable last night without him there to make me uncomfortable.

Life will go on, but it will never be the same.

A lot of people have asked me what they can do for me during this hard time. I’ve struggled with what to say. However, my now official answer is please donate to Pet Placement Center in Max’s honor. I didn’t get Max from them, but every dog deserves to have a great life like Max did. I know he would agree.

When making the donation HERE please use this info:

In memory of Max Gilliam

Designated Contact Name: Sarah Gilliam 24 West Marlboro Ave Chattanooga, TN 37411 423-605-2511

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