11 year old American Staffordshire Terrier, Dyuki (Mr. Dukes) was diagnosed with mast cell cancer and his owners decided they would take him on one last holiday to introduce him to the ocean. He did one month after these photos were taken in Assateague, Maryland.
This is a photo series I shot back in August in Assateague, Maryland. My boyfriend Christian, and I took our three pups on an overnight stay at the beach. We dedicated the trip to our 11 year old American Staffordshire Terrier, Dyuki (Mr. Dukes). He was in his final stages of Grade III mast cell cancer at the time. His most favorite activity was swimming in our family pool, but until then, he had never seen the ocean. It was a very special trip for us, and I’m so grateful we were able to make it happen. He passed away a month later, but he put up one hell of a fight—almost two years.
The drive to Assateague is about 3 hours, and we were being blasted with sunlight pretty much the entire time. But the moment we pulled up to the ocean, the clouds quickly rolled in, and it started to drizzle. Who cares though? We love the rain!
We were the only ones around, so Ruby was the first to be let off her leash. She entered the water all on her own–proud mama moment. Except she bolted off, heading for shore upon hearing the sounds of the first crashing wave. It’s okay… she got back in.
I prepared all of our food ahead of time. Since this trip was planned at the last minute, we weren’t too sure of any dog-friendly restaurants in the area. With three of them, eating out would’ve been quite the challenge anyway. Here’s Christian sharing his yummy roast beef sandwich with Dukes—onions removed of course.
Wouldn’t you know it–the sun came back out after we left. It wasn’t a completely clear sky, but just enough for us to witness the most magical sunset from our hotel balcony. Although we did have a few interruptions from the Bichon Frisé staying down the hall. We spent the night in Ocean City, which is only 15 minutes from Assateague. It was a great hotel, with wonderful service, and they love pit bulls!
Time for a walk!
The sand was so nice and cool now.
The glow of hotel lights continued on forever…
Back in time to catch some “funnies” on t.v. before calling it a night.
Ruby… always the first to fall asleep.
Violet… always the first one awake.
Back on the beach again, and it was a sunny day. I’m wearing my most favorite piece of jewelry that I own—a birthday gift from Christian. He had this bracelet custom-made for me. If you look closely, you can probably make out which one is Ruby, and which is Dukes. Too bad we couldn’t get a third head on there somewhere. Poor Violet.
“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life, gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.” -Unknown
Dukes was my best friend. He was also my muse, as his passion for life served as a constant source of inspiration to me. I could never tire of photographing him. Since his passing, I’ve been told numerous times “how lucky Dukes was to have me.” But in fact, it was me who was so lucky to have him. He was the smartest, funniest, most loyal, incredibly strong, yet equally sensitive dog—all wrapped into one perfect pittie package. He changed my life and I will miss him forever.