A stunning photo project shows how dogs age through the years.

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.



Oh my dog! That is precious. GIF via Canal de MASQUENADAmx/YouTube.

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:

All images from "Dog Years: Faithful Friends, Then & Now" by Amanda Jones, published by Chronicle Books, used with permission.

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:

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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