The Joy Sessions

by MSO
a woman hugs her dog during a Joy Session

A young woman says goodbye to her beloved companion during one of the Joy Sessions at Sarah Beth Photography.

The death of a beloved pet is one of the hardest things a person has to face. To many, a pet’s death is as traumatic as a human family member’s and for those people whose pets are their only family, their grief is also just as real. Sarah Beth Ernhart is a Minneapolis based pet photographer who has come up with a way to help families remember their beloved pets and help them through the grieving process.

It was just before Christmas in 2009 that a woman named Joan wanted some photos taken with her dog, a black Labrador named Joy. The photo session at Sarah Beth Photography was a gift from a friend as Joan was in hospice care and Joy, her service dog, had been with her all the way through her terminal illness, even saving her life at times. It was something to look forward to said Joan.

Sarah Ernhart brought her equipment to Joan’s apartment for the photo session. She and Joan talked for a long time and Sarah could see the bond between the woman and her dog Joy. The apartment was filled with “Joy” crafted on pillows and artwork and even the shirt Joan wore was emblazoned with the word “Joy”. Despite her illness Sarah felt that Joan had a zest for life that inspired Sarah. Pets are so important to many people and Sarah wanted to capture the love between the two with her lens.

Two young boys and their dog have their last photographs taken which will become memories when the dog passes.

Two young boys have a last photograph taken with their dog.

Inadvertently, this first session led to an idea that has blossomed into a photography service that has helped pet owners document their last moments with their pet on Earth. Sarah named the service the “Joy Sessions” after Joan and her dog and also as a way to describes different people’s joyful relationships with their pets. Pets, as anyone knows, are often hard to photograph, but Sarah, who has been around animals all her life, has a way with animals and has captured their energy, quirks and love on film.

A little over a month after photographing Joan and Joy Sarah held her first official Joy Session and since then, many people and their pets have taken advantage of her services. Owners realize that these are most probably the last photographs they will have with their pets and so inhibitions are put aside and you can see the true feelings, from grief to laughter, that pets and their owners have for each other.  Sarah, believes that often the pets she photographs know how important the photo session is to their owners. Many times, an old or ill pet has found a burst of energy to really perform for their owners on camera and Sarah says, sometimes pets have passed on soon after the session making the photos with their families a last  joyful experience.

Man hugging his terminally ill dog.

Sarah Ernhart’s photography offers beautiful memories to treasure of that last goodbye you share with your pet.

For Joy Session bookings, which she offers at a reduced rate, Sarah is very flexible and knowing that time is of the essence she doesn’t require much notice. Pets and their owners can come to her studio or Sarah will go to your home or another favorite place like a park.

To find out more and to see more of the Joy Session photos visit her websites here:



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