PERMIAN BASIN (KMID/KPEJ)- Knowing that your pet probably doesn’t have much longer is not easy. Especially, when you know it could happen at any moment. 

ABC Big 2 met the families who got one last chance to say goodbye through the lens of a Midland photographer.

“She was my first big animal, and she will always be my first big animal [and] everybody will know,” said Ballinger native Maddie Oliver. 

You truly never know love from an animal until you experience it yourself. That’s what Oliver said about her beloved horse named Snickers.

“For an animal that can’t talk she’ll tell you in every single way [and] I mean you can walk out the door and she will snicker at you, ” said Oliver. “You will never find that love anywhere else.”

Holding back the tears and only having pictures to look back on, Oliver knows she will soon have to say goodbye to her 32-year-old horse. 

“At the end of the day we do know the time will come and we know it’s okay because we tried our hardest and she outlived a lot of animals and horses, that’s all we can ask for,” she said. “Keeping her happy and healthy.” 

Snickers came into Oliver’s life when she was just 10 years old and together, they embarked on a journey in rodeo. 

The pair competed in barrel racing, but little did the family know that Snickers had another trek ahead. 

“She was given to me by a family, and she was their champion horse also and she went to state with them in barrel racing, tie down roping and stuff,” said Oliver. 

She said when Snickers came into their lives, they didn’t know she had an autoimmune issue until a few months ago. One day, Oliver said Snickers got stuck by a fence and that’s when the family realized that her wounds weren’t healing as fast. 

Oliver said because of Snickers’ old age and her recent autoimmune disease diagnosis, she had to come to terms with the fact that her horse could die at any moment. Without hesitation she contacted the person she knew could capture Snickers’ possible last moments.

“When she saw my end-of-life photos, she said I have to do these of Snickers,” said Midland photographer Tasha Sport. 

Sport said she met Oliver after she adopted a Blue Heeler from Sport. She said ever since she was a kid, she always had a passion rescuing animals and that eventually led to her now hobby pet photography. 

“Any rescues I photograph for free, marketing the adoptable pets for free and the Midland Animal Shelter I visit on a weekly basis and also photograph them for free,” said Sport. 

So, in other words, Sport does it all for free.

Her end-of-life pet photography, which she refers to as ‘I’ll love you forever’ is also free but said she’s not the only photographer doing this. 

“I stumbled upon the Tilly Project, and I am now an affiliate for that group and it’s a group of photographers in the United States,” Sport shared. “We’ve added France, Italy, and I guess worldwide you would say we are now over 1,000 affiliate photographers that capture these end-of-life sessions for pet owners.”

Sport said that the Tilly Project does encourage its photographers to offer end-of-life pet photography for free, but it’s not required. 

“Many of these pet owners, they’re facing high medical bills, and this is kind of a service to give to them to continue the memory of their pet once they’re actually gone,” she said. 

There’s something calming about black and white photos, and this is why Sport said most of her ‘I’ll love you forever’ are done that way .

“There’s something about black and white that is just kind of timeless and a lot more sentimental [and] there are some that I do photograph in color, but those are typically just the animal,“ clarified Sport. 

During the time of this interview, Sport invited us to an ‘I’ll love you forever’ session at Centennial Park in Midland for a 19-year-old dog named Fancy. 

“She’s going to go when she’s supposed to go, but at least we have these pictures now,” said Fancy’s mom and Midland native Kelsie Taylor. 

Taylor said taking these pictures with her dog wasn’t an easy choice.

“It really did take me a while to do the pictures because I was almost afraid that once I do them …then it’s like going to make it happen,” she said. 

She said Fancy is pretty healthy for as old as she is. 

“She’s lived a lot longer than anybody ever thought she would [and] we always joke that she’s going to outlive us, but she will go when she wants,” said Taylor. 

After meeting Sport at a Midland rescue, Taylor said she hopes more people will follow in Sport’s footsteps.

“I really think there should be more photographers that could do this and I’m hoping that word gets out about Tasha, and it could start a trend,” she said. 

Sport said she truly just wants to help pet owners. 

“Now with Snickers, even though she’s still alive and she’s still fine she may only be here for one more year or she may be here just for two more months,” said Oliver. “I have those pictures I can look back on and say yeah, she was fighting her autoimmune disease in this time, but also I have these pictures I am forever thankful for, and I will always have those to remember her by.”

Last time ABC Big 2 spoke to the pet owners, they said Fancy and Snickers are still doing well. 

As for Sport, she said to her knowledge, she’s the only photographer in Midland who does end-of-life or ‘I’ll love you forever’ pet photography for free. 

To learn more about Sport, click here

To learn more about the Tilly Project, click here