Chauncey (middle), 12 years old, daughter Sailor Girl (left) and Ready girl (right), 6 years old, Juneau, Alaska
Meg ,16 years old, Java, 14.5 years old, Juneau, Alaska
In 2006, New York City-based photographer Nancy LeVine said goodbye to her two best friends, dogs Lulu and Maxie. She has devoted more than a decade to honoring their legacy, traveling the United States in search of souls like theirs, elderly canines who are living out their golden years with a dignity and warmth that far exceed the aches and pains of old age.
Senior Dogs Across America is her stirring tribute to dogs large and small and their bond to the human beings who care for them. She visited private homes and sanctuaries and rescues for homeless animals. She met dogs who lived with one family their whole lives and others who were still searching for a home of their own.
Throughout her journeys, LeVine saw animals who had indeed slowed down; some were unable to frolic as they once had as puppies. When she could, she brought them to their favorite places, beaches and fields wherein the memories of days gone by still lingered.
It’s impossible not to get misty-eyed turning the pages of Senior Dogs Across America—for every reader, there will almost certainly be one particular dog who hits home for one reason or another— but this is most decidedly not a book about sadness. It’s a joyful tale, told by countless woofs and tail wags. As with Robert Frank’s The Americans, which served as inspiration for LeVine, there is loss here, but there’s also redemption, humor, and infinite delight.
It’s a common assumption that dogs don’t understand their own mortality. But LeVine’s exquisite book suggests something a bit more complicated. Perhaps it’s not naiveté at all that causes dogs to approach their deaths without fear; perhaps it’s a wisdom of which us human beings are incapable.
There is much to be learned from LeVine’s protagonists. When the second of her dogs passed away in 2006, the artist wept, and the dog kissed away her tears. Senior dogs love hard, without reservations, and that’s the abiding message of Senior Dogs Across America. When we’re hurting, our dogs are our comfort; they teach us compassion, and paradoxically, they’re very often the ones who remind us of our humanity.
Many senior dogs are currently living without homes. Please consider making donation to The Grey Muzzle Organization, which helps homeless senior dogs get the care they deserve. You can also contribute to Muttville senior dog rescue, Best Friends Animal Society, or Fospice at Foster Dog NYC.
Amy, 18 years old, Charlotte, North Carolina
Wally, 14 years old, Ferrida, Louisiana
Susie, 12 years old, Fargo, Oklahoma
Ratzoe, 21 years old, Vashon Island, Washington
Bear Dog, 17 years old, Heppner, Oregon
Kiki, 15 years old, Sedona, Arizona
Brick, 19.5 years old, Lake Bluff, Illinois
Phyllis 12 years old, Englebert, 9 years old, Loretta, 12 years old, Eeyore, 14 years old, Enoch, 5 years old, Denver, Colorado
Curley, 14 years old, Kanab, Utah, Best Friends Animal Society
All images © Nancy LeVine