Please describe the Doggies for Dementia program and how you do what you do within the dementia community.
Doggies for Dementia is a program whereby volunteer photographers capture images of families who have been impacted by dementia with their family dog. This program, as part of the Doggies for Dementia Foundation, increases awareness around dementia; the highly popular images that include dogs help to drive conversations about dementia by sharing images and stories.
How it works: Families are gifted the professional photography session, prints of their choice, and a video slideshow highlighting the day. We design unique sessions and get to know each family and their dementia journey and honor each family in special ways.
We have photographed in blue bonnet fields, at the family home, with ranch animals, in memory cares, and beyond.
What initially inspired you to grapple with dementia?
As a former nurse practitioner specializing in care of those with dementia, I began the Doggies for Dementia program as part of my portrait photography business in 2017. This idea came after noting the importance of documenting stories with photography and the value of including family dogs while writing my book, Just See Me-Sacred Stories from the Other Side of Dementia. Doggies for Dementia Foundation became a 501c3 in March 2020.
How has the work been received?
One might think that documentation of such a difficult time would not be wanted or valued. We questioned this in the beginning, too, until we experienced the photo sessions and saw the expressions on families’ faces as they reviewed their images.
The photo experience with their loved one is also an incredibly special time. Families are pleasantly surprised how easy the photo sessions are since our photographers are familiar with dementia. They are most amazed at what a touching experience it is and just how “priceless” the images are to them. They love highlighting and honoring their loved one and journey publicly knowing they help others.