This moment was especially meaningful to Shelley for two reasons. The first being that her regularly temperamental mare Fritzie became a more gentle, kinder horse with the help of supplements. While in the past Fritzie might have been a little hard to handle and had been difficult to fully trust, because of the change in her diet, the relationship between Shelley and Fritzie has started to mend. Since Shelley had yet to get pictures alone with her newest horse, now seemed like the perfect time to remember this period of reconciliation that they are going through.
The second reason this moment is meaningful is because of Charley.
Charley, her sweet, newest dog, spent all three years of his life in a puppy mill in Missouri. Because he was treated so terribly, his personality is nearly void of trust and full of fear. Living with him meant being incredibly careful of every action they made in order to gain trust. However, shortly after Shelley and her husband brought him home, he ran away. Desperate to find him, an entire team of people searched tirelessly for him. Because of the fresh rural community that farm-life surrounded her with, a kind person managed to locate him and return him to Shelley. He suffered a vehicle-related injury, as he was bleeding terribly and had minor brain damage. Even though finding him was a relief, it was clear that a new and difficult journey of healing was ahead of them.
Shelley, who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury herself years prior, was filled with compassion for her new family member. Even though Charley was slow to trust her, she loved him deeply and wanted him to be well. She knew from experience, however, that healing takes time. Through tears, fundraising, and entire re-training (even potty training), Charley managed to recuperate. While he still struggles with fear, he has a springy sort of joy about him and the most adorable ability to love deeply---much like his owner! Seeing him first hand after knowing what he had been through was like watching a miracle on four legs.
While Shelley might not have known how grateful she was for Charley, she had an emotional moment, an outpouring of gratitude, while she was taking a few one-on-one pictures with him. While it felt like Charley's photos were almost done, I asked her to lean in for one more snuggle with him to make sure I got enough shots. Then one of the most beautiful mid-session moments of my entire career happened. Something came over her, and she began to weep. "I'm so grateful," she said, as she hugged him closer and buried her face in his soft coat. Maybe it was the chance to have pictures with him for the first time. Maybe it was getting to hug him freely without him pulling away, but Shelley's heart was opened in a way she hadn't yet experienced. She was filled with an extreme thankfulness for being Charley's mom, rescuing him not once but twice, and seeing him happy.