December 1, 2019 Susan

My sweet Buddha died in my husband’s arms on October 24. He was about nine days shy of his 17th birthday. So 2019 was the year we lost our beloved pugs. Brahma died on May 25. They were a huge part of our lives. Nearly 17 years of responsibility, expenses + love. Buddha was always the more photogenic dog, with his amber marble eyes. He was much less wizened than Brahma.

They each had their distinct personalities. Brahma, always driven by food or treats. Buddha, always driven by a squeaky toy, always driven by play.

When they were younger I took both dogs to agility classes + I ended up doing AKC Agility trials with both of them. I have a wall of ribbons won by both dogs. When he was young, Brahma was actually the third top pug in the AKC agility world.

Here is where the differences between them were most apparent. Brahma knew there would be a whole piece of string cheese at the end, so he was my speed demon. I could barely keep up with him over the jumps and through the tunnels and weave poles. But he was a bit sloppy, knocking down at least one jump bar every time.

Buddha, well. Not so much. He would lose interest, wander off to sniff something, be very blase about it and we would run out of time. However, what he did, he did very accurately. No dropped bars. A good stay on the table.

I got them both to Excellent B, but gave up after that. All those trials were a lot of money and oh, I remember paying trainers to help me teach Brahma not to drop jump bars. Paying people to help me make them faster. People told me to take a few pounds off Brahma + though I doubted it, at 16 pounds, he did in fact get faster + more accurate.

The times when we succeeded, it was a rush, no dropped bars and speedy run around the course. So exhilarating. But as time wore on, it was an expense + ever diminishing return.

I walked them for 12 or 13 years. I remember starting when Buddha was very tiny. It was winter + I dressed him in his little sweater + walked him. After a time, if I put on my sneakers, Buddha would go berserk, wanting a walkie. Because, you know, that was play. Brahma, not so much. But still I took them both, often for three or four mile walks.

Eventually Brahma put on the brakes. I left him home + continued to walk Buddha, but eventually he too, put on the brakes.

For a decade I bathed them twice a month. After that decade we took them to a groomer every month. Elsewhere I’ve written about the difficulties of trimming Buddha’s nails. A month before each dog died, they were at the groomers. The last time Buddha was at the groomers, I held him + said, “Gee, uncle Rob, I sure hope I make it to next month’s appointment.” Buddha actually died on that appointment day. I had wanted to take him, but Don said he didn’t think Buddha would make it through a bath.

I took the last photo I ever took of Buddha about 6 hours before he passed.

Over the course of their lives I did not always have the best equipment or the greatest skills. The best photos of both dogs were taken in the last few years, as I upgraded gear + spent a lot of time on You Tube watching critiques that helped me improve on composition + post processing. I do have a long history of fast glass + a deep abiding love of f/1.4 but I have finally learned that it is often better to stop down a bit. I mean, I will not lose bokeh or anything.

In the last months of Buddha’s life, I sold my whole photographic kit. I made enough to get myself a sweet little high mp Sony camera and some prime G Master lenses. As I waited for my Nikon D5 to sell on eBay, I was acutely aware of Buddha’s age. I told my husband that I just wanted a 61mp image of my sweet Buddha before he died. Luckily the A7R4 came in time + I did get some decent photos of him, but he was fading, his eyes not as glowy, his face looking a little more haggard.

The pugs were my perennial photographic subjects. Now that they are gone, I’m kind of bereft. What to photograph now?