How do I deal with losing a pet?

Twinks - Winnie The Pooh Quote, If ever there is tomorrow... one era of my Mom's cats, those furry bodies that comforted me with non-judging purrs and warm laps through high school and college, passes into memory... I count myself lucky for having had the opportunity to meet, capture, and fall in love with some of my clients' pets who have since then passed... I worry and fret over my each strand of grey fur on Katze, who is oblivious, curled up between my arms and the keyboard, purring away, sometimes resting her chin on top of my hand, riding the tip-tapping of my typing.

I try to savor every moment I have with her, and I believe we all do the same with our furry best friends. Knowing that some day Katze and Jayla will be gone, like their predecessors makes my eyes hot and my heart fill with emotions.

Losing a pet hurts, it hurts bad, and it hurts deep

The heart doesn't know the difference between the loss of a human and the loss of an animal. The loss is the same, yet everyone grieves differently.

So here's my advice on what to say or not to say to your loved one whose pet just passed on, coming fresh from losing my last childhood pet.

Please don't say-

'There's a lot of other cats out there.'/ 'There's a lot of other dogs out there.'

Yes, believe me, as most animal lovers are, I'm well aware. However, pets are as unique as snowflakes, there's only one, and there will never be another like that one. You will most likely make the grieving person feel worse by throwing this phrase their way.

It goes without saying that yes, likely another cat or dog will steal our heart again and a new book of memories will start writing itself which will be its own legacy and epic in every way, unique and different to its predecessor. No better or worse than its predecessor, just different.

Instead of asking, "But, hey, don't you have (other pet’s name) still?" 

Try asking, "How is (other pet) handling the loss?” By asking this, you recognize that pets are not interchangeable, and you understand the other pet is grieving a loss as well. 

What should you say?

Do say what a great cat/dog, he or she was, and how they also left little paw prints all over your own heart. That's comforting to a pet owner, knowing that their pet's greatness was not only recognized by themselves as their owner, but by others. We're proud of our pets.

If you can think of a funny story of something their pet did, remind them of it now, and make sure they know how you'll never forget that memory.

And if none of this feels right, one last piece of advice. I'm old fashioned, I love giving and receiving a good greeting card. It will always feel momentous to receive one, knowing that someone else took the time to stop and pick one out just for me. I've been known to spend a good 15-20 minutes stewing over the options before I find the perfect one to give, depending on the occasion. When you're wordless, or at a loss, wander over to the card aisle and let someone else help you say the right thing.

Do you have any other suggestions on what to say or not to say to someone grieving a pet? Leave me a note in the comments. 

Duncan and family - Winnie the Pooh Quote - How Lucky I am...


This is What Happily Ever After Looks Like

Natalie and I have been friends since we met on the school bus in first grade. I haven't seen her and her husband Ben for two years! A lot has changed in those two years! They've moved back to their home state of Indiana with their baby girl Nora and their two rescues Costello, on the right, and Lexi on the left. This is the first time I've met their daughter and their dogs! They've created a very easy-going, furry family of five. 

Natalie wanted 'down to earth' grassy family shots, which my Aunt and Uncle's backyard delivered. It was perfect, we could let the dogs off-leash without any worries, and the only distractions were an occasional bird or squirrel. 

Here are two similar shots, but different focal lengths. I couldn't make up my mind if I liked the naturalistic shot with the large depth of field (more detail in the background), or the more artistic looking small depth of field (very blurry background).

This is what happily ever after looks like. 

Furry family of five family portrait, grassy wooded area, Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

Furry family of five family portrait, bokeh background Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

Seeing Nora feels like traveling back in time and seeing Natalie as a baby. Those eyes. Those cheeks! Oh my goodness! The drawer that Nora is sitting in was refinished by Natalie, and the blue knitted blanket in the background is the first knitted blanket Natalie ever made. I was there when she knitted it, probably ten years ago, because I learned to knit alongside Natalie. One of the many things I adore about Natalie is how she's so thoughtful and puts so much sentiment and meaning into everything she does.

chubby cheeks baby photo, distressed drawer, bokeh background Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

chubby cheeks baby photo, distressed drawer, bokeh background | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

nuzzling dad, bokeh background family photo | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

bokeh background, baby and parents | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

Here are some shots of Costello. He was the first furbaby Natalie and Ben adopted after moving to Colorado! He was a little timid at first, but I gave him plenty of space and used my zoom until he trusted me more. What a handsome, fluffy guy! 

Pet photography, rescued, Australian shepherd mix, bokeh background | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

Pet photography, rescued, Australian shepherd mix, bokeh background | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

Pet photography, rescued, Australian shepherd mix | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

Whenever a camera is around, Lexi does her best Audrey Hepburn, doe-eyed wistful look. She is the ultimate people lover, and lives to greet people. She's always by Natalie's side in the house, helping put Nora to sleep for naps, and hanging out during changing time. She loves protecting her family and nanny-ing baby Nora. Nana from Peter Pan would approve!

Bokeh, back-lit, pet photography, wooded area | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

Pet portraits, sniffing | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

Love, Love, Love. Just in case you didn't notice, those lilac colored flowers match Lexi's collar! Seriously!

Pet portraits, bokeh, wooded area | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

I worked with Costello and Lexi while Nora had an outfit change, but like the good watchdogs they are they kept checking on Momma and baby periodically. 

Dogs checking up on Momma and baby | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

This was a touching end to our session! Natalie's husband had the sweet idea to go back to Main Street, Zionsville and recreate some of their wedding shots from 2008! Those were taken in a snowy November, so the contrast and change is really fantastic. I hope they keep doing updates as their family grows and changes over the years. Can you imagine a wall gallery in their home of the changes over time? 

Furry family photos in downtown Zionsville, Indiana | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

Furry family photos in downtown Zionsville, Indiana | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

Momma hand and baby hand | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015

What a joy! It was so rewarding to shoot this session for my best friend. One of our favorite things to do in High School was photo shoots in Arbuckle park in Brownsburg and neighboring corn fields. Some things never change!

And because I just can't resist, here's a picture of Natalie and I in first or second grade, at the Indianapolis Zoo, visiting the polar bears of course! That's my big brother Shawn on the left. Fanny packs! Oh boy!

90s kids wearing fanny backs at the Indianapolis Zoo polar bear exhibit | Photo by Polar Bear Studio, Copyright 2015


McKenzie Maltese, Indiana cousin

Let's Play! Maltese running. Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Every time the plane lands in Indianapolis, the song 'Back Home Again, in Indiana' plays in my mind. I haven't been back to visit my birth state of Indiana in two years! Most of my small family followed me down to Florida, but my Aunt and Uncle, who I'm really close to, still live in Indiana and I stay with them when I'm in town. The house I grew up in is long gone, but over 16 years we've had a lot of memories in my Aunt and Uncle's home, and I love, love love, staying with them. Its the next best thing to home. 

My Mom and I flew in for Memorial Day weekend, and it was nonstop weekend for me. Two photo shoots, this one and a session for one of my childhood friends (her session will be my next post), and wedding dress shopping with a different childhood friend. Today I'm going to share the pics from one specific day I spent with my Aunt and Uncle and their comical maltese, McKenzie, Kenzie for short.

Pet Portraits, Furry Family Photos, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

This is the first time I've been back since I've fallen in love with pet photography. I've been looking forward to being able to capture all those little details of Kenzie, the funny games he loves, his priceless expressions, and also some furry family portraits too. 

One of Kenzie's favorite things to do is hide in the cushions of the couch.  

Pet Portraits, Furry Family Photos, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Maltese Lounging on the back of the couch, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Hiding in the pillow cushions, Maltese with his owner, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Hiding in the pillow cushions, Maltese with his owner, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

This is Kenzie's impression of a couch pillow..

Maltese trying to blend in with the couch, photo by Polar Bear Studio

Loving all the love in these family photos!

Pet Portraits, Furry Family Photos, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Pet Portraits, Furry Family Photos, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Pet Portraits, Furry Family Photos, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Pet Portraits, Furry Family Photos, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Pet Portraits, Furry Family Photos, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

McKenzie really has a range of expressions, and he shows his heart and thoughts in his eyes. He can go from silly to serious in seconds!

Dapper, bow-tie, smiling Maltese, photo by Polar Bear Studio

Serious Maltese, bokeh background, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Serious Maltese, nose close-up, bokeh background, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Let's Play! Maltese running. Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Smiling, happy maltese, photo by Polar Bear Studio

Maltese being held by his owner, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

McKenzie's best friend Riley came over for a romp and some BFF portraits.

Maltese Best Furry Friends, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Maltese Best Furry Friends, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Riley posed pretty next to Aunt Kim's flowers, and I was able to get some beautiful bokeh, or out-of-focus spots of light, in the background. It just feels impressionistic and dreamy to me, I love it! McKenzie thought posing in front of flowers was too girly for him, but Riley humored me.

Smiling maltese, bokeh flowers, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Puppy dog eyes, maltese, bokeh flowers, Photo by Polar Bear Studio

Love this? This is a sample of a Legacy Session, the best session I offer, where you receive 40 images. Reserve the perfect time for you and your family today.


Guest Post: Socks the Cat

I'm turning the blog over to the newest furry family member in my extended family, Socks the cat! My Mom adopted her from Cat Depot a little over a month ago. We wanted to give Cat Depot an update on how she's doing, and thought this would be a really fun way to do it! 

Here she is!

Socks looking out the door at the birds

Dear Cat Depot Staff & Volunteers,

This is Birdie! But now my name is Socks! My new Mom finds it amusing that while I'm dressed up everyday in a furry tuxedo, I still keep things a bit casual with my white socks. Also, I love my Mom's socks, they're probably my favorite toys of all time! 

I've had a lot of new experiences! I've seen REAL-LIFE squirrels, woodpeckers, and other birds, just like in the TVS at the shelter. There's a bunch of windows and even a catio I can see them from. 

Also figured out what a window is...apparently there's something deceptively solid about it, even though it LOOKS like you can jump outside, you can't. First thing I did after getting out of the cat carrier was jump at a window and bonk my head. It was pretty embarrassing, but my Mom and my Aunt Denise (who is a pet photographer, and this is her blog) found it kinda funny. 

Socks checking out a window for the first time

I'm getting along with my new step-sisters, the other two cats in the house. They've kindly shared all of their beds, food bowls, sleeping spots, and climbing trees with me. But, now that I think about it, I don't think I really asked for permission first. Oops! Oh well. I think one step-sister is a bit nuts, but we get along fine. Apparently she's the one everyone was so worried about that I wouldn't get along with, which I find pretty amusing. Truthfully, I've yet to meet a cat or person I didn't like. I'm a very, very happy cat. I purr all the time!

Socks looking pretty by the door

My new Mom took me to the vet to get my sniffles checked out. I always have a runny nose, and sound a bit congested. The first thing I did to my new Grandpa, who lives with us, was sneeze on him. The vet gave me a shot, which was not fun, but it did alleviate some of my congestion. I'll probably always have a bit of runny nose, but my new Mom said that's ok and she loves me, boogers and all. Moms are awesome like that.

I want to let everyone at Cat Depot know how happy I am, and also how grateful I am for taking care of me, and rescuing me from the cruel conditions at Napier's. I waited longer than most to find my perfect family, a little over a year, but it was so worth the wait. I keep Grandpa company during the day while Mom is at work, and I'm never bored or lonely. 

Socks in her favorite new spot, the top of the couch

If it wasn't for the extra time and effort that you took writing such a detailed description about me and what I'm like, my new family would have never found me. You see, my Mom was worried about her other two cats not accepting a new cat, and although she really wanted another one, she wasn't sure it was a good idea. But the volunteers made sure to write about how I love other cats and haven't met a cat I didn't like, and that gave her the encouragement to come meet me, and fall in love with me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

Socks with her gifts from her sponsors

I also want to send a special purr out to my sponsors. It can be kind of uncomfortable going to your new family with empty-paws. I was surprised and delighted to find out I had sponsors that had a care package for the family who would adopt me. It was a big bag full of all sorts of goodies for me to take to my new home, including this awesome bed that I love to knead. It was so thoughtful! My Mom and I really appreciate it, and we were touched by this additional generosity. 


Ok! Well it's about time for my 2:30 cat nap. The sun has just started to shine through the back door, and there will be a sun-beam on my favorite new sleeping spot on top of the couch! It's purr-fection!

I send you all lots of kisses! Thank you for everything! Rest assured your Birdie is living a furry fairy tale!

With lots of love!

Socks the Cat

Socks, getting ready for a nap


WE LOVE THIS CAT. She's fantastic. My Mom and my Grandpa can't stop raving about how wonderful she is. Socks was originally rescued from the animal cruelty case at Napiers back in February of last year. If you're unfamiliar with the story, here's a link. But bottom line, this cat has been through a lot, and we're ready to fill the rest of her life with love, sunbeams, and food! Cat Depot was there for her, as well as so many other cats in need. Thank you! 

Please, always opt to adopt! There are wonderful cats waiting for a forever home at your local animal shelter. 



Classic Catnap

I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks about pets who are long gone. Marmalade is the ‘one who started it all’ for me. His memory certainly lives on in my home through my girls Katze and Jayla. What better way to honor a pet who has passed by opening up your heart and home to a new pet who needs love?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the keeper of my family’s photos. This photo of us together means more to me than I could ever express in words.

Photo of a baby and orange tabby cat sleeping together, Copyright Polar Bear Studio, LLC

One of the creative projects I’m currently working on is a visual exploration of my family’s long history of pet ownership and how it’s landed me where I am now. This is the first image for that project that has the working title: Forever Felines.

This photo inspired me to create a self-portrait photo shoot with Katze and Jayla that would honor Marmalade’s legacy.

Some things change, some things will never change. There’s just something timelessly wonderful about a catnap with your cat. In order to tell that story I resurrected my old passion for digital collage, which was my medium of choice for my senior thesis at Ringling College of Art & Design.

With cats, you can’t predict things. You have to assemble the image beforehand and hope they’ll react as you expect them to. However, cats love nothing more than to ‘help’ when you’re sorting through papers or photos, especially smelly old photos. 

The odds were certainly in my favor with this concept. Sorting through papers and photos is mentally exhausting work which also led to the story I wanted to tell of how my habit of cat naps with cats continues to this day. 

First, a close-up, and below it the whole composition.

Digital Collage Classic Catnap by Polar Bear Studio

I really enjoy the visual juxtaposition of the floral bed sheet in the 80’s to the modern floral sheets of today. I have the baby blankets in the shot three ways, in the original photo, underneath the photo, and in the modern interpretation, a constant visual element. A big fan of the daydreamy-movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks, I ensured a golden knob on my victorian-style trundle bed from my office shined through.

I used a tripod, remote, timer, and digitally painted the two images together with Photoshop. I’d work on the collage, let it sit for a day, and play with it more. I was content with the final image after 3 evenings of tinkering.

The Forever Felines project will be a personal project that I’ll continue to play with while also working on another project that I haven’t announced yet. It will require volunteer models again! I’m so excited about it, something totally unique and as far as I’ve googl-ed, it hasn’t been done before! I just need to update all the signup forms and finish the details before the announcement.

Show me more!