For many people, dogs are so much more than just a pet.
Dogs can be an integral part of life. They're loyal companions who, just like everyone else in the family, are there for the big moments and the little ones — like the birth of a baby or moving to a new home, or the first time you got grounded or binge-watched the last season of "Breaking Bad." They bring joy and support to our lives every day. It's easy to see why they've held the title of "man's (and woman's!) best friend" for ... pretty much ever.
That's the experience Massachusetts-based photographer Amanda Jones had with her long-haired Dachshund, Lily. Jones was inspired to adopt Lily after a photoshoot she did with the breed.
Lily brought 16 wonderful years of energy and love to her family, and Jones was there to capture it all. When Lily passed away, Jones made a memorial card to honor how much she had grown and changed over her lifetime, from a spunky little puppy to a well-loved, experienced senior.
Lily at 8 months, 2 years, 7 years, and 15 years old:
The visual look at Lily's life gave Jones a bigger idea.
"If I have these photos of Lily, I could probably go back and find some other dogs I've taken photos of in the past and do the same," she recounted to Upworthy over the phone.
As a photographer for 20 years, she knew she had a huge database to work with. So she started following up with some clients from previous dog photoshoots, and turned her idea into a book called "Dog Years."
In "Dog Years," Jones shares photographs of 30 dogs in black-and-white at different points in their lives.
"The visual impact of comparing the young and the old varies greatly from dog to dog, just as it does from person to person," Jones says in the book.
She's so right.
Abigaile at 4 months and at 8 years old:
Fred at 3 years and 10 years old:
Audrey at 3 years and 12 years old:
You won't find any props or cutesy backdrops in her photos. Jones focuses on pulling out the dog's personality instead.
"A dog’s life starts off small and then grows to include many different humans, other dogs, new tricks, and new experiences," she said.
Cooper at 3 years and 10 years old:
Some dogs don’t seem to age, yet others show the signs quite openly.
Maddy at 5 years and 10 years old:
"Maddy actually turned completely gray and wasn't even that old. She had been treated for cancer, and the drugs turned her coat completely gray."
On that same note, Jones said, she photographed a Yorkie that didn't make it into the book "because she looked the same at 12 years old as she looked at 1."
"The easiest part of working with dogs is they don’t look at their photos and say, 'Oh my God, I look awful! Do I really have that many wrinkles?'"
It may be hard to get dogs to sit still and take a picture, but there is one distinct advantage of taking photos of dogs instead of people: They don't hold themselves to unrealistic standards the way humans do. Which means they're never self-conscious subjects, and don't know Photoshop even exists. (And even if they did... they probably wouldn't care).
"The easiest part of working with dogs is they don’t look at their photos and say, 'Oh my God, I look awful! Do I really have that many wrinkles?'" Jones said.
Visualizing the timeline of a dog's life is as beautiful as it is bittersweet.
Looking at these photos can bring out strong feelings and personal reflection on the dogs we've encountered in our lives, whether or not they were part of our families. There's a really profound connection between humans and our dogs, and Jones captures it in a very real and touching way.
For a behind-the-scenes look at how she created "Dog Years," watch this video: