I was planning on editing a similar photo with my old dog (14), who is still able to take a short walk.

Unfortunately, I had to let go my youngest companion, female bullmastiff Nez, on January 8th, 2019. 

For a reason that remains a mystery, she broke her left knee severely at the end of August 2018. I was told that this trauma had been caused by a hard impact. My dogs are two couch potatoes. Apart from two walks and meals a day, they sleep most of the time. I cannot remember any accident that could have caused this serious injury.

The vet worked on Nez in surgery for seven hours. The surgeon put three screws in her knee to hold everything together. The following weeks, her rehabilitation didn’t go as expected. Her knee would still not support her weight.

A new inspection showed that one of the screws had got loose, which could be the cause of her arduous progress.

She underwent a second operation to have that loose screw removed. The procedure went well, but although she was lying in her bench with her recovery collar on all the time, the wound got infected with a nasty and dangerous bacterium.

It took me 24/7 of care to disinfect the wound constantly. No regular antibiotics were of any help against this enemy, constant care was our only chance. The wound healed slowly, but I got it under control. And after two weeks, it was finally closed. At last, I could release her from this horrible collar, and she could slowly resume her rehabilitation.

I tried to walk her for a few minutes every day. Hoping she would restrengthen her bad leg, now weakened after months of inactivity. She seemed to make some progress, started to use her bad leg again, and was especially eager to go outside. But soon she stopped using it again, lumping on three feet. 

We had struggled for many difficult months to get her on her feet again. My family supported me, neighbours came by daily. Friends organised a crowdfunding to help me support a part of all the expenses I could impossibly handle on my own. Many people were there for us to make this all possible. Everything was supposed to turn out well with Nez walking again soon. We were all convinced that in the end, after all the efforts we had put into her, this story would get its deserved happy ending.

But her leg’s condition deterioratedonce again. And the next check-up, six weeks after the last surgery, did not bring good news. A CT scan revealed an horrific image. The nasty bacterium, I thought we had overcome after the wound was healed, had still got into her knee, infecting it severely. It was a bone eating bacterium, that had been destroying all of her bone and cartilage for weeks, without me being aware of it. There were big holes in her bones, exposing the marrow, and the screws were all loose. There was no cartilage left, and the ligaments were about to come off the affected bone.

Her knee could no longer be saved. The chances of getting the infection under control with special intravenous antibiotics, were slim. If we tried to apply this procedure, it would take at least six months. And even if we did overcome this infection, she would never be able to use her leg properly again. Amputation is not an option for a 100 pound dog. Her other leg wouldn’t have held long under such a weight. It was already damaged too, being overcharged all those months.

There was only one thing left I could do for her: to make a last appointment with the vet, to take a day off, and spend it together. It was the most devastating day of my life. But we spent it well. I treated her with pork sausage, cheese, even some French fries. All tasty things she never had in life, because they are bad for a dog’s health. She didn’t like chocolate, though.

I am a photographer. Capturing and expressing my own and other’s emotions with my camera is what I do. I have always loved photographing dogs. Since she was eight weeks old, I have been capturing Nez continuously. Throughout her life, she has been my best friend and favourite subject. From a young age, I dreamed of having a Bullmastiff at my side, some time in life. Nez made this dream come true. Just before our final departure to the vet, I gathered her, all my strength and my tripod, and took the time for a last portrait together. Emotionally the most challenging picture I ever took. A photo that ended our wonderful time together. Our final goodbye captured, in her honour and memory. An image to hold on to, for the rest of my life.