HOUSTON — When a pet dies, it can feel like a member of the family has passed. Duke Roberts, a black labrador in Houston, was no exception.
Duke was diagnosed a few years ago with osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor, in his leg. Veterinarians removed his front right leg in hopes of stopping the cancer, but the tumor only grew bigger.
“His tumor was growing rapidly and we were out of options,” wrote Jordan Roberts of her dog. “He would rally during the day, but his nights were increasingly uncomfortable as his tumor started to separate his ribs. We struggled with the decision to let Dukey go, but ultimately did everything in our power to protect him from further pain.”
She made an appointment for Monday, July 7, with the vet for euthanization.
Then she called Robyn Arouty, a friend and a professional photographer who had shot for Roberts before. She told her about Duke’s last day of life and asked her to come capture it.
Arouty’s photos show Duke and friends eating hamburgers in the morning. Laying on the floor, surrounded by hands eager to share a hamburger or two, Duke ate a meal typically forbidden for dogs. Narrated from Duke’s point of view, the blog shares a story of a dog who was loved and who loved back.
“Jordan let me know she had scheduled the appointment with the vet and the words just came,” Arouty said. “See, I have lost three of my own dogs in the past year and a half. One of them was my Maya, my soulmate, she was almost 17 years old. I'm not a very religious person, but God was guiding everything that day and now it's God and Dukey.”
The response to the photo essay has been overwhelming. The photos quickly went viral, making their way around the Internet and into the hearts of animal lovers and those who have experienced a similar loss.
Arouty reminds people to stay open to pets until the last minute of their lives. For Duke, that included a hamburger feast, trip to the waterpark and snuggles from friends. Arouty tells people to focus on the love you have for the dog, instead of the worry.
“Experiencing death with your heart makes you stronger. You can overcome your fears. I’m living proof,” she said.
See more photos of Duke’s last day on Arouty’s blog.