As more grey and white hairs overtake the dark coat of our nine-year-old Boston Terrier, my husband and I have started affectionately referring to him as George Clooney, still distinguished and dashingly handsome (and perhaps more so) because of his salt and pepper strands.
Though he shows no signs of slowing down (Bostons typically have a lifespan of 14 to 16 years), we realize he won’t be with us forever, and as we notice some cloudiness in his eyes and more fatty tissue lumps on his legs and sides, our hearts catch in our throats as we flash forward to the sad day that will surely come.
We are all aging though. We don’t usually stop and think about it. We notice more grey hairs, deeper wrinkles, earlier bed times, increasing forgetfulness. But in the course of a day as we race from one task to the next, we rarely think about our aging bodies slowing down and eventually wearing out. (Although the poet Dylan Thomas would never stand for going out that way: “Rage, rage, against the dying of the light!”)
Until we are face to face with the mortality of another, we don’t give much thought to our own.
Isa Leshko, a fine arts photographer, spent a year in New Jersey helping her sister care for their parents; their mother has Alzheimer’s. During this time of caring, Leshko made a “made a conscious decision to not photograph her [family].” Nonetheless, the experience changed her life – and as she shares in the short film below, she knew the profound emotions of those days with her family would somehow come out in her work.
And so, Elderly Animals was born.
I stumbled upon this gifted artist’s moving story and richly complex series of photographs via a New York Times Well blog article profiling her work (definitely worth a read). I was immediately intrigued and inspired to share it with others.
I hope you take a few moments to watch this short film about Isa and the exquisite animals she lovingly photographed, each of which tell a story about survival, about dignity, about the sadness and bittersweetness and joy that is old age:
To learn more about Leshko’s project and view more photographs (prints are available for purchase as well), visit IsaLeshko.com.
Also, check out our post about Navigating Your Pet’s Golden Years.